Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a tough-love lecture to the AIPAC faithful this week, reflecting both the Obama administration’s “rock solid” commitment to Israel’s security and its doubts about the Netanyahu government’s courage and commitment to peace.
Rarely has an American leader, especially one with her pro-Israel bona fides, been so blunt in public. It was a necessary message, but something was missing. She made only passing reference to a problem that in many ways is as serious as settlements, and possibly more so – Palestinian incitement.
If incitement were simply a matter of name calling, it wouldn’t be so important, but it goes much deeper, sending a clear message that Palestinian leaders do not consider Israel a legitimate state. Palestinians agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords to end the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement, but as events of the past week demonstrated, it persists. Most disturbing is that it comes not only from the extremists but also from the two leaders who the United States and Israel are banking on to chart the way to peace. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, exploited the current Washington-Jerusalem settlement dispute as an opportunity to harden their demands and fan the flames of hatred.
Fayyad told foreign ambassadors that the Palestinian violence was sparked by “an assault by extremist religious settlers on the Temple Mount.”
That was not just a lie; it was incitement. Settlements are indeed an obstacle to peace – often intentionally – but most will disappear with a peace agreement and the rest will be absorbed within Israel’s new borders. But the incitement can continue long afterward. Witness Egypt, where the media, mosques and government churn it out constantly, keeping the cold peace of more than 30 years from thawing.
Two incidents last week illustrate the problem. Near Ramallah, seat of the Abbas-Fayyad government, another memorial was dedicated in honor of the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terrorist incidents in Israeli history, the 1978 Coastal Road massacre that left 38 dead, including an American woman, and 72 wounded.
Making this terrorist a role model for Palestinian girls glorifies terrorism and murder, and teaches hatred.
MEANWHILE, THE rebuilt Hurva Synagogue, which had been destroyed by the Jordanian army in 1948 when Jordan drove all the Jews out of the Jewish Quarter, was rededicated last week in Jerusalem. Abbas exploited the occasion to stir up anger and violence against Israel. His government called on Palestinians to come to the Temple Mount to “save” the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aksa Mosque mosque from – fictitious – plans to tear them down and build a Third Temple.
Hamas called for a “Day of Rage.” Perhaps for emphasis, rockets were once again fired into the Negev from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Both Fatah and Hamas began speaking of the “Jerusalem intifada.” Clinton called the Day of Rage “purely and simply an act of incitement” in her AIPAC speech, and urged Abbas and Fayyad “to redouble their efforts to put an end to incitement and violence.”
But beyond that, the administration seems to pay scant attention to the problem. The White House spokesman said “inflammatory rhetoric” was “not helpful.”
But there was no strong denunciation from the president or secretary of state, no indication that they have emphatically told Palestinian leaders to cut it out. No sense of outrage, as there had been with the announcement of new Israeli construction in disputed east Jerusalem.
PALESTINIANS ARE not the only ones guilty of incitement, although on the Israeli side it is not as pervasive, nor is it government -sanctioned. Settler violence, housing demolitions, a double standard of justice and incendiary rhetoric by prominent political leaders tarnish Israel’s image and inflame its Arab citizens and neighbors.
The most pernicious form of incitement has been the Palestinian campaign to delegitimize Israel and deny any Jewish claim to the land. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the AIPAC audience, “The connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel... and Jerusalem cannot be denied.”
Yet that is exactly what the Palestinians have been trying to do for years.
Ironically, they accuse Israel of planning to build a Third Temple, while denying the first two ever existed. Most notorious was Yasser Arafat, who told president Bill Clinton there never was a temple on the Temple Mount. That infuriated Clinton and led then-prime minister Ehud Barak to sarcastically ask Arafat, “Where do you think Jesus drove the money lenders from? The mosque?”
Jesus, by the way, according to the Palestinian revisionists, was not Jewish but Palestinian. Wait till his mother hears that one.
Jerusalem dates back 3,000 years in Jewish history, and next week the Passover Seders around the world will conclude with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament but not once in the Koran. A key factor in President Barack Obama’s low standing among Israelis is the impression that he has been one-sided with his intense pressure on Israel to freeze settlements and almost indifferent to Palestinian provocations.
For the most part, administration calls to end incitement have been
brief, tepid and rare compared to the focus on settlements – and
Palestinians have ignored them with impunity.
A settlement freeze is an important confidence- building measure. So is
an end to incitement. It is the quickest and easiest thing Palestinians
can do to help create a more conducive environment for peace.