On incitement, lots of talk but little action

PM keeps asking other governments to do more to combat anti-Israel incitement, but his own does nothing.

Terror attack scene in Jerusalem  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Terror attack scene in Jerusalem
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Scarcely a day has gone by recently without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several other ministers decrying anti-Israel incitement. Netanyahu also routinely lambastes the “international community” for refusing to take action against such incitement. But while he’s clearly right about the importance of combating incitement, he’s on much shakier ground in blaming the world. After all, his own government has done nothing against leading purveyors of anti-Israel incitement. And how can he expect foreign governments to do what Israel won’t?
Granted, Israel has little leverage over some major inciters, like the Islamic State. But even when it does have leverage, it refuses to use it.
Take, for instance, the recent outrageous behavior of our ostensibly ally, Jordan. After Palestinian terrorists slaughtered four worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue last week, the Jordanian parliament held a moment of silence in the terrorists’ honor and read a prayer from the Koran to “glorify their pure souls.” Jordan’s prime minister then wrote the terrorists’ families a condolence letter beseeching God to grant the killers “abundant mercy and satisfaction.” Adding insult to injury, all this happened just a week after Netanyahu, at the Jordanian king’s special request, had fully reopened the Temple Mount to Muslim worshippers despite the ongoing anti-Israel riots in Jerusalem.
One can imagine Washington’s response had the German parliament held a moment of silence to honor the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack, or London’s response had the French premier sent a condolence letter to families of slain Islamic State fighters after the organization executed a British aid worker. But Israel’s government? It hasn’t done a thing.
Yet there are many things Israel could do to punish such behavior. For starters, it could tell Amman that Jordanian demands regarding arrangements at the Temple Mount, which Israel has slavishly obeyed for years, will be ignored as long as such incitement continues.
It could also curtail material aid to Jordan. Last year, for instance, Israel agreed to provide additional water, beyond the amount mandated in the peace treaty, to help its water-starved neighbor cope with an influx of Syrian refugees. Yet it hasn’t demanded even the most minimal quid pro quo in exchange – that Jordan’s executive and legislative branches cease openly lauding the murder of Jews.
Similarly, with Syria in flames, Israel has become Jordan’s key land bridge for trade with the West. Thousands of trucks that used to travel between Jordan and Turkey via Syria now go through Israel to Haifa port, then by boat to Turkey, or vice versa. Israel gains nothing from this except a minimal amount in transit fees, so its economy would suffer no great loss if it ceased. For Jordan, however, it’s a lifeline, and it also greatly benefits Turkey, another serial anti-Israel inciter. Yet again, Israel hasn’t demanded even the barest minimum in exchange – an end to governmental incitement.
Needless to say, Israel has even greater leverage over a far worse inciter, the Palestinian Authority. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, other senior PA officials, Abbas’ Fatah party and the official PA media all spew vile anti-Israel incitement on a daily basis. On Saturday, for instance, Abbas accused Israel of setting wild boars to destroy Palestinian crops. Last month, he accused Jews of “desecrating” the Temple Mount, said they must be prevented from ascending it “in any way” and praised the attempted assassin of Rabbi Yehuda Glick as a “martyr” who would “go to heaven.” And though he condemned the synagogue killings under heavy US pressure, a senior aide, the Fatah parliamentary faction and Fatah’s Facebook page all praised them.
Nevertheless, Israel continues massively subsidizing the PA – for instance, by giving it free electricity. Though the PA is technically supposed to pay, it rarely does; it currently owes the Israel Electric Corporation NIS 1.7 billion.
Israeli-Palestinian agreements allow Israel to deduct this debt from the taxes it collects on the PA’s behalf and transfers to Ramallah. Instead, Israel’s government has saddled its own citizens with the bill, contributing to the past few years’ soaring electricity rates. Yet in exchange for this generosity, it hasn’t even demanded the minimal quid pro quo of an end to anti-Israel incitement.
Additionally, about a fifth of all employed Palestinians work in Israel or the settlements. Israel has no treaty obligation to permit such employment; it could close its gates to Palestinian workers tomorrow if it wanted. That would devastate the Palestinian economy, and consequently the PA’s tax base. Yet Israel has never conditioned work permits for Palestinians on an end to incitement by the PA.
Another possibility is passing legislation that would make it easier for terror victims to sue the PA for incitement and/or material support for terror, while allowing any court-ordered damages to be deducted from Israel’s tax transfers to the PA. A particularly blatant example of such material support is the PA’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists serving sentences in Israel. Even the lowest of these salaries far exceeds the average Palestinian wage, and they increase with the heinousness of the crime: Mass murderers, for instance, receive a monthly paycheck almost 10 times higher than those convicted of minor offenses. And these payments clearly incentivize terror. Just last week, Haaretz’s Hebrew edition reported on a Palestinian convicted of shooting at civilian buses who openly admitted that his main goal was money: Having run out of funds while building his house, he decided the simplest solution was getting himself arrested for anti-Israel terror, thereby guaranteeing himself a fat PA paycheck.
Israeli tax transfers to the PA total about $115 million a month, constituting an estimated 36 to 44 percent of the PA’s annual budget. Suitable legislation targeting incitement and material support for terror could easily enable this entire sum to be devoured by damage payments, forcing the PA to choose between mending its ways and bankruptcy.
The above are just a sampling of the varied tactics Israel could use to pressure its neighbors to end incitement. But the government refuses to utilize any of them. Instead, it makes do with empty condemnations, coupled with demands that other countries take the kind of forceful action it refuses to take itself.