VP Joe Biden departure from Israel. March 10, 2016.
(photo credit: MATTY STERN, US EMBASSY TEL AVIV)
US Vice President Joe Biden was being diplomatic when during a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he voiced thinly veiled criticism of the Palestinian political leadership.
“Let me say in no uncertain terms the US condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Biden said in Jerusalem Wednesday.
The “acts” were a rash of terrorist attacks that have targeted innocent civilians, including US tourist Taylor Force, 29, murdered by a Palestinian on a stabbing spree in Tel Aviv-Jaffa on Tuesday. And who failed “to condemn these acts” were, apparently, the Palestinian Authority.
Biden could have done better. He could have pointed out not only that Palestinian political leaders including President Mahmoud Abbas regularly fail to condemn these murders, but that they glorify the murderers and honor them as “holy martyrs.”
On its Facebook page, Fatah, the party Abbas heads, celebrated Force’s murder. A hand-drawn sketch of a hand gripping a knife over a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories was posted with text on the arm reading “The heroic martyr,” according to Palestinian Media Watch.
Written on the map is the name Bashar Masalha, the young man who murdered Force.
This incitement comes in many forms. It recently emerged, for instance, that Iran offered to compensate families of Palestinian “martyrs” including whose houses the IDF demolished. Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Muhammad Fathali, announced recently that Tehran would offer $7,000 to the families of each Palestinian killed in what he called the “Al-Quds Intifada.” Iran would also give $30,000 to Palestinian families whose homes have been destroyed to discourage terrorism.
PA officials objected, not because Iran was encouraging more attacks against Israelis but because Iran was usurping the PA’s role as chief inciter.
According to a PLO official (the PA is an organ of the PLO), the organization “rejects any attempt to bypass it and insists that the PLO is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians.” The official added that the PLO would not hesitate to provide aid and ease the suffering of the Palestinians, "despite its limited capabilities.”
In addition to the incessant incitement against Israel and Israelis in official PA media, Biden could have mentioned the PA’s trampling of basic human rights. For instance, he could have championed the cause of Najat Abu Bakr, a deputy in the Palestinian National Legislature who barricaded herself inside the parliament building in Ramallah to avoid being arrested by the PA’s security apparatus. Her crime: saying a PA cabinet minister, Hussein al-Araj, is corrupt. Araj, who is closely associated with Abbas, has, allegedly, illegally taken more than $200,000 from the Palestinian budget.
Her other “crime” is showing public support for the teachers strike in the West Bank. The teachers have accused the PA Education Ministry of embezzling millions of dollars donated by the US and other countries. The teachers claim that the PA has inflated the list of teachers on its payroll, adding many fictitious names, and that the PA is lying about the salaries it pays. The information provided by the PA to donor countries reports salaries higher than they actually are.
Biden could have voiced his dissatisfaction with the Palestinian teachers’ allegations that the PA is stealing US taxpayers’ money. But he did not.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh has pointed out, the PA Finance Ministry has yet to publish the general budget for the years 2015 and 2016. The last time the budget appeared on the ministry’s official website was in 2014. This lack of transparency raises suspicions that the PA has something to hide.
Vice President Biden is a true friend of Israel. But while attempting to behave “diplomatically” vis-a-vis the Palestinians, Biden has minimized the destructive role the PA’s incitement has played in preventing a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in fomenting violence on the streets of Israel. And by turning a blind eye to corruption in the PA in the name of maintaining the US’s position as a fair broker, Biden has failed to protect the interests of US taxpayers. It is time Biden drop the diplomacy and champion the cause of people such as Abu Bakr and the teachers who are the Palestinians’ best hope for a better future.