The militarization of a population, the manner by which a regime systematically destines its people for a perpetual clash with an enemy, is a prime method for dangerously prolonging a conflict, sometimes for decades. Indeed, the past couple of weeks of unrestrained provocations have reminded us of the 60- year-old war footing maintained by the North Korean government against the West. But one need not look so far eastward to find another example of a regime using its resources for waging hostilities with both its external and internal enemies. Indeed, Israelis can find a more telling example of a government preparing for endless conflict much closer to home.
Recently, the Palestinian Authority publicly revealed its new budget. In approving the 2013 fiscal plan, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas signed off on a startling $3.9 billion spending spree. What is fascinating, however, is not just the amount of money being destined for expenditures but rather the manner in which the PA is planning on allocating it.
Almost $1b., about 28 percent of the budget, will be spent on defense, compared to 16% for education and 10% for medical services. In other words, a bulk of the PA’s funds will not be used for schooling, health or infrastructure, but for procuring weapons and maintaining a massive military structure. A government which is not officially at war with Israel, and has no formal army, has somehow decided to invest all of its financial resources in militarization – at a time the US is asking it to continue with final settlement negotiations.
Apart from paying the salaries of 95% of “defense employees” in Hamas-ruled Gaza, the PA also uses its budget to strengthen its oppressive grip on the local population. Money is used to torment minorities, gays, women, and to indoctrinate schoolchildren with hateful rhetoric as well as to glorify terrorist attacks against Jews.
Little has changed in the hostile atmosphere in the Gaza or the West Bank since the days of the second intifada.
A significant portion of the Palestinian budget is used to reward terrorism against Israel as well. Almost $60 million dollars a year, or 4% of the Palestinian budget, is spent on payments to the families of Palestinian Arab terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Parents of children with “blood on their hands,” or serving more than 30 years, earn over $3,000 a month, while the families of “smaller” security prisoners receive over $1,000 for their acts. In effect, these convicted criminals pass on a salary to their relatives which is higher than what their prison guards are making.
To maintain their military budget, and payments to prisoners, the PA will need over $1b. in foreign aid. But unlike similar autocratic regimes, which usually receive assistance from like-minded governments, most of the funds the PA will be raising will come from governments subscribing to a completely opposite worldview. In essence, the world’s most advanced democracies will be helping the Palestinian government advance their militancy and tyranny.
Historically, the United States has been one of the PA’s major donors. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, over $4b. dollars have been given by the US government to the Palestinians. In fact, during just the past four years, average aid has been roughly $600 per year.
Even though counter-terror laws in the United States require verification that aid is not used for terrorism, agencies such as the State Department have negligently continued to ignore these crucial safeguards, transparency obligations and reporting requirements.
In a motion recently filed in a Washington, DC, court the State Department is seeking to dismiss claims of 24 Americans living in Israel, who brought suit against the government over this failure to adequately monitor whether US funds were being diverted for terrorism by the Palestinians. Attorneys for the State Department contend that the plaintiffs’ fear of being injured by Palestinian terrorism is speculative and that the issue of funding the Palestinians is a foreign policy power reserved to the president and cannot be reviewed by the courts. Rather than litigate the case on its merits the State Department is trying to have the case dismissed on legal technicalities.
The civil action does not challenge the president’s right to conduct foreign policy. Instead, the plaintiffs object to the executive branch’s funding the PA without complying with the limitations put in place by Congress, designed to protect American citizens from Palestinian terrorism. The US citizens who brought the suit live in real fear of being wounded or killed by Palestinian terrorism.
With rockets being launched from Gaza on a daily basis, and the rioting in the West Bank escalating, it seems the Palestinians are trying to force Israel into another military operation against the terrorist groups.
Anyone who witnessed the elaborate security preparations made for President Barack Obama’s recent visit would be very hard pressed to argue that the fear of Palestinian terrorism is speculative.
In the end, if the Palestinians truly want to continue negotiations with Israel, Western states must make certain that the intentions of the Palestinian government similarly reflect peace. When we have a Palestinian budget which spends a bulk of its donated funds on armaments, there is impeccable evidence that ending the conflict with Israel is not an intention. Until that time comes the West must stop bankrolling Ramallah’s corrupt and terror-ridden bureaucrats.
The writer is an attorney and the director of Shurat HaDin- Israel Law Center, which represents terror victims in lawsuits against terror groups, their leaders and state backers.