'Pay-for-slay' Abbas takes his cue from 'Iran-Deal' Blinken - opinion

PA President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the last week's terror attacks in a rare move that shouldn't be cause for optimism.

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: ALEX BRANDON/POOL/REUTERS, REUTERS)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Following Tuesday night’s terrorist attack in Bnei Brak, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued what the media reported as a “rare condemnation.” While it’s true that Abbas doesn’t usually come out against the murder of Israelis (though, in this case, three of the five people killed were not Jewish), his statement should not be viewed as cause for optimism.

On the contrary, the PA chief hasn’t changed his colors one iota. Nor has he ceased the stipends for “martyrs for Allah” through his proud “pay-for-slay” program. No, the message he conveyed, allegedly due to pressure by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, was carefully worded in a way that would satisfy the powers-that-be in Washington.

“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians will only lead to further deterioration of the situation, especially as we are approaching the holy month of Ramadan and the Christian and Jewish holidays,” he declared, going on to warn “Israeli settlers” and others not to use the “incident” as an excuse to carry out assaults on “our Palestinian people.”

He then referred to the “cycle of violence,” asserting that a “permanent, comprehensive and just peace is the shortest way to provide security and stability for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and the peoples of the entire region.”

As a consistent rejectionist of peace with the Jewish state, whose very existence he opposes, Abbas was simply parroting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured) in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured) in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

At a joint press conference on Monday in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Blinken reported that he and the Israeli premier had “discussed ways to foster a peaceful Passover, Ramadan and Easter across Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, particularly in Jerusalem, a city of such profound importance to Jews, to Christians, to Muslims.”

These, he said, included “working to prevent actions on all sides that could raise tensions, including settlement expansion, settler violence, incitement to violence, demolitions, payments to individuals convicted of terrorism [and] evictions of families from homes they’ve lived in for decades. It’s a message that I’ll be underscoring in all of my meetings on this trip.”

And he meant it. That evening, when he attended the first ostensibly annual Negev Summit at Kibbutz Sde Boker, he inserted the Palestinian issue precisely where it did not belong. The gathering, initiated by Israel and attended by the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt, was held to strengthen the historic Abraham Accords. Central to the normalization between Israel and formerly hostile Arab states was and remains the shared aim of preventing the Islamic Republic of Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

WHILE PAYING lip service to this goal, Blinken and his bosses back home were as busy as ever begging Tehran to sign an even worse deal with the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) than the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action from which former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

Blinken’s presence, then, was not merely counterproductive; it was disruptive. Indeed, it was likely his participation that kept his counterparts mostly mum on the most urgent topic on their minds. Only Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani specifically spoke of Iran, in the context of its nuclear program, its proxy Hezbollah and Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE that it sponsors.

The rest of the crowd was careful not to highlight their anger at America for abetting the regime in Tehran.

Their discomfort provided Blinken with the perfect opportunity to add a caveat to his glowing review of the Abraham Accords in general and of the Negev summit in particular. “The regional peace agreements are not a substitute for peace with the Palestinians,” he announced.

He was wrong, of course. If anything demonstrated the irrelevance of the Palestinians to Mideast peace, it was the Trump-brokered Israeli normalization treaties with the UAE and Bahrain in September 2020 and those that subsequently ensued.

In a tragic twist, before Blinken had a chance to spew the usual tired narratives based on proven false premises — that appeasing Iran will enable enhanced monitoring of its nuclear facilities, and that all Abbas wants is an independent and flourishing state alongside Israel — news of a deadly attack in Hadera put a damper on the event’s opening night.

TWO ARAB citizens of Israel, armed with knives, guns and loads of ammunition, fired on passersby, killing two and wounding 12. Prior to their spree, which was nipped in the bud by the swift action of Border Police officers dining at a nearby restaurant, the murderers posted a video on Facebook in which they swore allegiance to ISIS.

Condemning the attack, Blinken tweeted that “such senseless acts of violence and murder have no place in society. We stand with our Israeli partners and send our condolences to the families of the victims.”

This post was one among many examples of its author’s cluelessness about Islamic radicalism, whether Sunni (ISIS) or Shi’ite (Iranian ayatollahs), wherever it emerges and strikes. Terrorists and those who incite them consider their religious-political ideology and methods of realizing it to make perfect sense.

Take the ISIS-affiliated Arab Israeli who slaughtered four innocent people in Beersheba five days earlier, for instance. There was purpose to his deed, and if two courageous civilians hadn’t ended his life, he would have continued to stab to death anyone whose path he crossed.

Palestinians in Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem celebrated the “martyrdom” of the terrorists in both attacks. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in particular, were thrilled that their efforts to rile up Arab Israelis — whose freedom of movement inside the Jewish state gives them an advantage — were so successful.

Their glee was compounded on the day after the Negev Summit, when Dia Hamarsheh from the Palestinian village of Ya’bad near Jenin gunned down five innocent people in Bnei Brak with an assault rifle. Hamarsheh — killed by a Christian-Arab-Israeli police officer who tragically lost his life from the shootout — hailed from Abbas’s Fatah faction.

He was promptly lauded on social media as a “heroic martyr” by various branches of Fatah, while Palestinians of different stripes danced and cheered outside his family home. Treating all killers of Israelis with deference, Hamas activists in Gaza and elsewhere distributed sweets in his honor, as they had done in the aftermath of the Beersheba and Hadera massacres.

It’s not surprising, then, that Abbas was denounced as a traitor by an already disgruntled Palestinian public for daring to suggest that the killing of Israeli civilians is detrimental. His critics in the PA don’t care about his glorification and financial backing of terrorists – as long as he continues to collaborate in some fashion with Israel and suck up to the US.

BLINKEN HAD nothing to say about any of that. Instead, he took to Twitter to “condemn the horrific terrorist attack… in Bnei Brak, the third… in Israel in a week,” and extended “condolences to the families of the victims… May their memories be a blessing.”

His sympathies were as pointless as Abbas’s contorted statement. Far more significant was his equating of Arab terrorism with “settler violence,” emphasizing the latter over the former.

If rhetoric were the only problem with Blinken’s behavior, the situation would be less dire. But, as he himself boasted, with Bennett at his side: “Our administration is… rebuilding America’s relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, something I’ll continue to do… in Ramallah with President Abbas, and in east Jerusalem with leaders of that community’s vibrant and diverse civil society.”

Any Israeli who managed not to laugh at this description was weeping by the time the secretary of state got to the part about the US “increasing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, totaling half a billion dollars since April 2021.” After all, as Bennett well knows, the only “Palestinian people” who benefit from such an influx of cash are Abbas, his henchmen and the terrorists they fund.

The money in question is chump change, however, compared to the billions that Team Biden is anxious to hand over to the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, whose threats to annihilate Israel are no emptier than its arsenals. Just ask the Arab signatories to and supporters of the Abraham Accords.