The government has begun implementing a variety of low-key sanctions against the Palestinian Authority after Ramallah brazenly scuttled the peace talks. The moves announced, however, are hardly likely to foster any reassessment by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. If anything, these piecemeal token measures are only liable to enhance the PA’s “occupied state” affectation.
The penalties include deductions from taxes and customs tariffs Israel collects on the PA’s behalf, to partially cover the PA’s longstanding unpaid debts. These are numerous and varied, among them the NIS 1.5 billion owed the Israel Electric Corporation. The Palestinians are content to allow Israeli taxpayers to pick up their tab. Nevertheless, the deductions under consideration are so small that they will neither eliminate the PA’s arrears nor deprive it of the ability to pay salaries or enforce law and order.
Moreover, the monthly transfers of $100 million that the PA expects to receive from the Arab League will more than make up for Israeli deductions.
Other sanctions include a freeze on Palestinian construction in Area C of Judea and Samaria, where Israel has full control under the Oslo Accords, and canceling the transfer of 1,400 hectares to Palestinian agricultural use.
Deepwater drilling in the Gaza Marine gas field is to be put on hold. The expansion of the Palestinian Wataniya Mobile cellphone network is to be disallowed and Israeli banks will make no money transfers to the PA.
VIP passes that PA headliners use to bypass security at checkpoints would not be honored and no top-level consultations would be conducted with the Palestinian upper echelon.
All of the above amounts to a slap on the wrist considering that most of the PA’s imports and exports go through Israel and that Israel is a major employer of Palestinians. Some 150,000 Judea and Samaria Arabs cross over daily to work in Israel proper. Many others earn their livelihood in Israeli communities across the Green Line.
The government could easily pull the rug out from under the PA, and the PA is fully cognizant of this, but it is also sure Israel will never do anything near its worst.
The government finds itself on the horns of a grave dilemma – it can severely punish the PA, but it dares not bring it to its knees.
Israel’s predicament yet again illustrates how detrimental decency can be in geopolitical jostling. The PA exploits Israeli forbearance and broadmindedness to demonize Israel and undermine its legitimacy. The PA’s Ramallah and Gaza City branches both know full well that Jerusalem can hurt them badly. At the same time, they feel free to chip away at Israel’s basic interests, because they are confident it will not employ the punitive powers available to it.
This breeds chutzpah in the PA, bolstered by the fact that Israel – while it suffers from the consequence of its decency – is being threatened by the American secretary of state with an apartheid-state stigma or with escalated BDS ostracism.
Thus Ramallah feels free to apply for state-status in a variety of UN-affiliated institutions and it can thumb its nose at Israel by cozying up to the Hamas terrorist fiefdom, despite the fact that Israel could instantly cripple the PA economy. Time after time, Ramallah and Gaza alike have been placing winning bets that Israel will not react in any serious way.
The PA is laughing all the way to the UN forums it recently joined, mocking Israel’s discomfiture. However, the PA scorn is short-sighted and betrays callous disregard for its population.
The PLO (of which the PA is an organ) turns 50 this year, yet in a half-century it has failed to produce a pragmatic leadership whose priority is the needs of its people.
A responsible leadership would teach and preach coexistence. Instead, the PA radicalizes its masses from kindergarten age onward, incites to violence and hate, glorifies terrorism and blames Israel for the Palestinians’ civic and economic failures.