Hamas soldiers in Gaza.
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
A group that calls itself “Commanders for Israel’s Security,” headed by Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amnon Reshef, recently issued a statement calling on the Israeli government to ask the US Congress to refrain from adopting the Taylor Force Act. This legislation, that is currently in the process of becoming US law, calls on the American government to cut US economic aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it pays salaries to terrorists and provides financial support to their families.
Commanders for Israel’s Security argue that imposing legislated US financial penalties may weaken the PA and harm its ability to maintain security cooperation with Israel. Clearly, these former IDF officers oppose PA terrorist payments but believe that the US government should avoid placing economic pressures on the PA.
As former senior IDF commanders, we reject the recent statements of Commanders for Israel’s Security. They are fundamentally mistaken. It is indeed difficult to comprehend how a group that calls itself “Commanders for Israel’s Security” opposes taking steps against a policy that directly and acutely endangers the security of Israel. The Palestinian Authority’s official legislated policy of providing monthly payments to terrorists and their families supports terrorism that murders Israelis. In no uncertain terms, Commanders for Israel’s Security’s opposition to US efforts to penalize the PA for its terror payments policy makes a mockery of Israel’s security.
We would like to point out some of their errors. First, the “commanders’ declaration” refers to the PA as an entity whose sole purpose is to provide Israeli security. This is ridiculous. The PA is an entity dedicated to promoting Palestinian interests as it perceives them. The PA considers legitimate all forms of “struggle” to achieve their goals and therefore pays salaries both to incarcerated and released terrorists from every terrorist organization, including Hamas, according to PA law that refers to the terrorists as the “fighting sector of Palestinian society.”
Providing funds to the PA to enable it to keep paying those salaries, which are soliciting terrorism, is illogical, illegal and immoral. Most of all it’s inhuman. Are American taxpayers expected to pay for those who call for and carry out terrorist murders of Israelis?
Second, there is no chance that the PA will stop paying those salaries unless it is pressured politically, legally, and most of all economically. The US, Europe and Israel have approached the Palestinians on this matter many times and beyond cosmetic adjustments nothing has changed. Even confronted with direct demands from the new US administration the PA makes it clear that it is not going to make a real change in its terrorist payments policy. Only real, tangible pressure will make the PA leadership seriously consider the need to change. It may decide not to do it even under pressure, and we shall have to reassess our policy then.
Third, there is no reason to believe that if the Taylor Force Act is passed the security cooperation is going to stop. The security cooperation serves the interests of the PA. It is focused on thwarting terrorist attacks planned by Hamas, the PA’s nemesis, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Islamic State. These attacks may kill Israelis, but are also intended to embarrass the PA and weaken it in the power struggle against Hamas.
Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation doesn’t stop the PA from investing in hate indoctrination and incitement against Israelis. It also does not prevent Fatah’s terrorist activities. In fact, a few of the terrorist attacks during the past two years were carried out by members of PA security forces who were later glorified by having public squares named after them by the PA government, as well as other tributes, as the PA honors every Palestinian terrorist.
Fourth, not approving the Taylor Force Act would be tantamount to being defeated by terrorism and would legitimize the PA’s rogue policy.
Finally, in contrast to the main claim of the Commanders for Israel’s Security, the PA is not going to collapse because of the Taylor Force Act. PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas made it clear that the establishment of the PA is the most important achievement of the Palestinian national movement. It would be illogical for the Palestinians to dismantle it. They will try to manage or in the best case, change their policy and by that create a chance for progress to peace, which is the real interest of commanders who truly care about the security of Israel.
The real threats to the PA are its commitment to unattainable political goals and to a long-lasting struggle against Israel instead of a genuine peace process, its low level of functioning, the corruption and the lack of a system that guarantees popular trust in the leadership. There is little we can do about these, and we should worry about the aftermath of Abbas’s term, but supporting the just demand to stop paying terrorists with real pressure is very much in accord with Israel’s security interests.
It is worth noting that the Knesset is considering passage of a law calling for deducting the amount the PA pays terrorists from the money Israel transfers to the PA. It is legislation sponsored by members of all parties, except the far-left Meretz and the Joint Arab List.
This legislation was proposed by two retired IDF major-generals, two former directors of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), a former police major-general and a former IDF colonel who was the commander of an elite special unit. These individuals are profoundly committed to Israel’s security.Retired Lt.-Gen. Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon served as defense minister and IDF chief of general staff.
Retired Maj. -Gen. Amos Yadlin is director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies and former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate.
MK Yaakov Peri is the former head of the Israel Security Agency and former minister of science and technology.
Maj.-Gen. MK Eyal Ben-Reuven is a former commander of the IDF military colleges and former deputy commander, IDF Northern command.
Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser is senior project director of Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate’s research and assessment division.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan is head of the Israel Security Council. He served as former national security adviser and deputy chief of staff.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern is a former commander of the IDF Educational Corps and former commander of the Manpower Directorate.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Yaakov “Jackie” Even is a former division commander and former commander of the National Defense College.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen is a former corps commander and commander of IDF military colleges.
Retired Brig.-Gen. Oded Tira is a former commander of the IDF Artillery Corps.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Lapidot, is former division commander and former commander of the National Defense College.
Retired Maj.-Gen. Ephraim Laor is former brigade commander and former head of the planning division of the IDF Operations Directorate.
Prof. Uzi Arad is former national security adviser and head of National Security Council, former head, research division of the Mossad.