The visit by members of the extremist Neturei Karta group to a Palestinian Arab terrorist leader this week was harmful to Israel and offensive to the entire Jewish people. But it also inadvertently served a useful purpose by shining a light on a more important issue: Why is a terrorist leader allowed to operate openly under the Palestinian Authority (PA)?
The meeting took place in the PA-ruled city of Jenin, at the home of Bassam al-Saadi, the senior leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group in Judea-Samaria.
My daughter, Alisa, was murdered by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorists, in 1995. So yes, I take it personally when PIJ is embraced by anybody, even members of a lunatic fringe group, such as Neturei Karta. I hope the Israeli government will take appropriate action against anybody who gives aid or comfort to terrorists.
But this episode deserves closer scrutiny because it sheds light on a question that is rarely asked: How is it that, 29 years after Israel and the Palestinian leadership signed a peace agreement, the leader of a terrorist group is operating openly in a city governed by the PA?
How can a terror leader operate openly in PA territory?
Here’s what the Oslo II Agreement of 1995 says about the PA’s responsibility regarding terrorists in the 40% of Judea-Samaria that the PA controls:
- The PA must prevent acts of terrorism and take legal measures against offenders. (Article XV)
- The PA security forces must arrest and prosecute individuals who are suspected of perpetrating acts of violence and terror; and apprehend, investigate and prosecute perpetrators and all other persons directly or indirectly involved in acts of terrorism, violence and incitement. (Annex I, Article II, 1-b and 1-d)
- The PA also shall effect the arrest and transfer requested to Israel of any individual suspected of, charged with, or conceited of, an offense that falls within Israeli criminal jurisdiction. (Annex IV, Article 2 [7-b] and [7-f-1])
HOW DO we know that the PA security forces have the ability to arrest terrorist leaders, such as Bassam al-Saadi?
The Oslo II Agreement permitted the PA to have a 12,000-man security force in Judea-Samaria. That force now has more than 30,000 men. A 2018 report from the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, which leans Left with regard to Israel, found that by late 1998, the PA security services, as they were then known, had in almost every regard violated the letter of the agreements reached with Israel. The PA became one of the most heavily policed territories in the world.”
According to the Washington Institute report, the PA was supposed to show Israel lists of those whom it was hiring for the forces so Israel could veto known terrorists. Instead, “the PA was not submitting complete lists of these security personnel, to obfuscate the total number under arms and to bypass Israeli background checks for those with terrorist backgrounds.”
The report continued: “Similarly, a proliferation of weapons was occurring, both in quantity and quality, well beyond that stipulated in the Oslo II Agreement. By one estimate, there were at least 40,000 more weapons than allowed in the agreement, including RPGs, mortars, mines, grenade launchers and sniper rifles; also being developed was a small-scale indigenous manufacturing capacity for hand grenades and other ammunition.”
So, while we are all naturally outraged that the Neturei Karta representatives would embrace a terrorist leader, the much more important issue is the fact the terrorist leader is operating openly, right under the nose of the PA and the PA refuses to arrest him.
Whether you sympathize with the Israeli government or the Israeli opposition, whether you support the Republicans or the Democrats, whether you consider yourself a conservative or a liberal, the problem of the PA and Bassam al-Saadi should concern you deeply because there will never be any hope for achieving real peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs so long as the PA refuses to fulfill its obligations in the Oslo Accords.
Why should any Israeli government ever sign another agreement with the PA, if the PA so blatantly violates the first agreement that it signed?
How can Israelis ever be persuaded that the Palestinian Arabs sincerely want peace, if the PA allows terrorist leaders to operate in the cities that it rules?
Of what value is any proposal for creating a Palestinian state, when that state will be ruled by a regime that collaborates with terrorists?
The writer is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack, in 1995. He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice against Iranian Terror.