The troubles of the Gaza Strip came roaring back into our lives this week, through a wide variety of events ranging from terrorism to diplomacy, leading to the usual recriminations and remonstrations.
The upshot of it all was to remind Israelis, yet again, just how far away Palestinian society is from any semblance of stability and maturity, never mind the ability or willingness to make peace with Israel; and how the global community continues to unhelpfully suckle the intransigent Palestinian national movement – making peace a distant dream.
It began with the bombing by Palestinians of Palestinians: an assassination attempt on Tuesday against Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Services chief Majid Faraj, as their motorcade was entering Gaza. So much for internal Palestinian reconciliation efforts.
But of course last year’s much-ballyhooed Hamas-Fatah “reconciliation deal” was fake news from the start. Hamas never intended to lay down its arms or to give PA leader Mahmoud Abbas control over the Iranian-backed Hamas armies and militias; and Fatah never intended to let Hamas contend seriously for leadership of PLO institutions in the coming post-Abbas era.
Yesterday, two roadside bombs were detonated against Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Gaza border. Last month, a device was exploded near troops at the fence, seriously wounding several IDF soldiers. The bomb was planted under cover of the big Hamas demonstrations adjacent to the border that are held every Friday.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Israeli and American troops trained together in the Negev this week as part of the biennial air defense exercise known as Juniper Cobra. Among other, US Marine Corps teams studied the finer points of bitter tunnel combat from the Israeli military – whose infantry troops have had to tackle Hamas’s many terror attack tunnels.
This was an acrid reminder of the three mini-wars that Israel has fought against the Hamas over the past decade, and likelihood of additional skirmishes in the future, if for no other reason that one has to “mow the grass” every so often to degrade enemy capabilities.
ALSO THIS WEEK, on Wednesday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira let loose with criticism of the IDF’s targeting practices and self-investigations in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war. He alleged “notable gaps” in army war protocols, especially with regard to the “Black Friday” incident when commanders initiated the so-called Hannibal Protocol (after Hamas abducted Lt. Hadar Goldin in Rafah).
His criticism aside, the Comptroller’s Report was an ugly reminder of the price that Israel has paid and will yet likely have to pay for confronting the still-strengthening Hamas war machine in Gaza. It was also a reminder that, until now, Israel has been left alone to deal with Islamo- Fascist regime in Gaza, with the world knowing only how to criticize Israel when it has to defend itself.
To his credit and that of the Trump administration, US special negotiations envoy Jason Greenblatt convened a rare White House meeting on Tuesday to address the political and humanitarian situation in Gaza, with Israeli representatives seated alongside ambassadors from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Canada and several European nations.
Greenblatt refreshingly said that “everything we do must be done in a way that ensures we do not put the security of Israelis and Egyptians at risk – and that we do not inadvertently empower Hamas, which bears responsibility for Gaza’s suffering.... I have... seen the terror attack tunnels built by Hamas, and the remnants of the rockets used to murder Israelis – all built using money belonging to the international community, the Palestinian Authority and the people of Gaza.”
Unfortunately, Palestinian Authority representatives refused Greenblatt’s invitation to participate in the consultation, even though the purpose was to address electricity, water, sewage and health projects for the benefit of Palestinians in Gaza. But hey, who really cares about the plight of Palestinian peasants and villagers, when the political confrontation with Israel and the US is paramount?! INSTEAD, PA envoys, such as Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, were off to European capitals and the headquarters of international institutions like the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court to press “war crimes” charges against Israel, and to beg for billions of dollars and euros in aid with no strings attached.
And sure enough, the regular Palestinian cheerleaders lined up to help out with the Palestinian appeal for cash, while demanding and expecting little in return in terms of Palestinian maturity, moderation and accountability.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick convened a press conference in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday to launch a $539 million humanitarian appeal to the international community.
That appeal was completely separate from an international donor conference held on Thursday in Rome that was convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to raise yet more money for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, a long-time shill for the Palestinians, wailed that the organization’s budget deficit for 2018 was already $446m. (He further yowled about America’s withholding of more than $65m. in funds for the organization).
Then the World Bank kicked in, also yesterday, with a report of its own, warning of a fragile Palestinian economy, with a PA budget deficit of $500m. expected in 2018, and a total accumulated deficit that tops $1.14 billion. At least the World Bank country director for the West Bank and Gaza, Marina Wes, had the honesty to admit that prime cause for the terrible situation is the failure of Fatah and Hamas to cooperate.
(But of course she also blamed Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions, and neither she nor any of her international colleagues have the temerity to talk about Palestinian corruption or militarization).
All this leads up to the grand meeting of something called the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee next Monday in Brussels, where 15 nations will seek to bolster and coordinate yet more donor assistance to the Palestinians! As I say, all this fund-raising for the Palestinians is under way as the Palestinians are busy attacking Israel in international forums, refusing to return to the negotiating table, and denying the Jewish people’s indigenous rights in Jerusalem; and as Hamas is buying missiles and digging attack tunnels. The PA is also arresting and brutalizing journalists who dare criticize it in the West Bank, and threatening Arab Jerusalemites who want to run for election to the Jerusalem City Council.
Yet few in the international community – except for some brave officials in the Trump administration, perhaps – are asking the question: To what end is all this political money directed? The humanitarian imperative is understood. But is the global effort to aid Palestinians with more and more and more money also helping them to mature, or it merely deepening their dependency and perpetuating their victim-refugee- martyrdom identity? At every donor conference of the type described above – and oh, there are so many of them! – every one swears loyalty to the goal of independent Palestinian statehood and criticizes Israel for being skeptical of, and slow to accommodate, this concept.
But are any of Israel’s critics daring to ask what type of Palestinian state they are seeking to create? Might some of the billions in aid be conditioned on, and directed toward, concrete liberal-democratic reforms in the two territories governed by dictatorial Palestinian authorities? Might the PA actually be pressed upon to return to the path of diplomacy with Israel, instead of intensifying its campaign to criminalize Israel – before it is coddled with more cash? The author is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, jiss.org.il. His personal site is davidmweinberg.com.