Back to the basics: Israel, the Palestinians and the value of human life

While it will take generations to undo the damage that has already been done, these moves represent a handful of first steps that can be taken to end years of bloodshed.

Hamas members (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas members
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a week filled with more domestic scandals and a series of violent attacks in the Middle East, the international media scarcely covered a condolence visit by US special envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to the home of the Salomon family, the victims of a gruesome attack in Halamish last month. A 19-year-old Palestinian Arab terrorist entered the Salomon home as the family gathered for a traditional Shabbat dinner while celebrating the birth of a new grandson. The joy turned into horror when the terrorist stabbed Yosef Salomon (70) to death, and killed his two children, Chaya (46) and Elad (36). Yosef’s wife, Tova, sustained serious wounds in the attack.
As Greenblatt and Friedman visited the Salomon family, Palestinian Arabs took to the streets to celebrate the murders of these civilians, handing out candy to mark the desecration of the most important tenet of any civilized society: the preservation of human life. Before long, they continued to riot, throwing firebombs and stones at security forces and civilians; thousands in Jerusalem shouted slogans about their intention to repeat the Khaybar massacre of Jews, which occurred in the year 628 (as the Muslim story goes). Other terrorists attempted further stabbing attacks across the country, including an attack in Petah Tikva which left an Israeli Arab in serious condition.
These developments come at a time when the Trump administration has begun to invest resources to develop a more comprehensive approach to a conflict which predates the reestablishment of the Jewish state. US President Donald Trump has wisely stopped short of endorsing the over-emphasized two-state solution, breaking with his predecessors who worked throughout their terms to establish a Palestinian Arab state but fell well short of their goal.
Perhaps one of the greatest strategic challenges facing the Trump administration is that the policies of some of its predecessors put Israel and Palestinian Arabs on a level playing field. The two-state solution elevated the Palestinian Arab people, responsible for bringing hijackings, suicide bombings and car ramming attacks into popular extremist culture, to the same level as a sovereign nation, which has formed a free and democratic society, turned dry land into vibrant cities and created some of the world’s most advanced technological and agricultural innovations.
At best, the US and its international partners were historically willing to tread lightly around Palestinian terrorism for fear of risking the chances of achieving their utopian idea of a landmark two-state solution. At worst, top officials within previous administrations became desensitized to, and in some cases completely disinterested in, the murder of Jews. International actors have even gone as far as to justify the murder of Jews as a “natural response” to economic and social frustrations, showing a complete lack of understanding for the gravity of murder.
These policies have strengthened the Arabs’ public image and have given them the confidence to literally and figuratively get away with murder. They have maintained their position among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international aid while still forming terrorist organizations like Black September, Hamas, the Aksa Martyrs’ Brigades and Islamic Jihad.
Today, roughly 7% of the Palestinian Authority’s 2016 budget, or $315 million, is transferred to incarcerated and released prisoners and the families of “martyrs,” as their reward for attacking innocent civilians. Attackers receive far more than minimum wage for their detestable acts, which could explain why 91% of Palestinian Arabs object to a policy that would stop this system, according to a poll commissioned by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in May 2017. These rewards for murder and continued incitement to violence have poisoned Palestinian Arab society and have made it increasingly more difficult to envision a situation where a dedication to life would be the primary goal of a Palestinian Arab state.
Greenblatt and Friedman, by visiting the Salomon family and by paying other condolence visits to victims of terrorism since Trump came into office in January, have tapped in to the solution to this conflict; they have emphasized the importance of appreciating human life, a value which has unfortunately become a matter of debate in the region. The envoys have sent a clear message that life is sacrosanct and that government sanctioned terrorism and glorification of violence is not a starting point for a civil society.
IF THE goal of the international community is to afford people the right to prosper, it must reassess its commitment to preserving human life. In the past several months, the US has taken important steps to achieve this mission; US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has shown incomparable leadership at the United Nations, threatening to cut off aid to an international body which has an obsession with delegitimizing Israel while whitewashing Palestinian Arab terrorism. The US Congress is also expected to show leadership by passing the Taylor Force Act, which will condition continued aid to the Palestinians on a complete end to terrorism sponsorship and a commitment to stopping terrorist attacks emanating from their supporters.
As it moves forward, the administration needs to take this momentum and completely undercut the well-oiled Palestinian Arab terrorism machine. First and foremost, President Trump must overhaul the State Department, which just this month published a disturbing report excusing Palestinian terrorism and falsely accusing Israel of incitement. Without a unified voice, the country’s attempts at making a significant difference will be hindered.
Regarding Gaza, the US must work with its allies in the region to take advantage of Qatar’s weak position and of increased sanctions on Iran to completely cut off Hamas’ financial resources and, in turn, its credibility within Palestinian Arab society. Ambassador Haley must lead an effort to abolish UNWRA, whose schools have become a base for antisemitic education and storage houses for advanced weaponry.
In its dealings with the Palestinian Authority, the US must ensure an absolute end to incitement to violence and institute a proper education system in PA-controlled areas. It must also continue to promote economic development in these areas as it has done since January, to increase prospects of success and minimize the desires of many Palestinian Arabs to turn to terrorism.
On a more macro level, the US must use its leverage with Jordan to achieve a sustainable solution to the aspirations of more moderate Palestinian Arabs. According to some estimates, Palestinians Arabs in Jordan account for 50% of the country’s population, a number which the Hashemite Kingdom has continued to downplay. Jordan has increased the pace at which it revokes citizenship of its Palestinian Arab population for fear of a growing Palestinian Arab demographic.
While it will take generations to undo the damage that has already been done, these moves represent a handful of first steps that can be taken to end years of bloodshed. In an era where extremism must be combated, the United States has an opportunity to lead the world in taking decisive action.
The author, a former Florida board member of the Zionist Organization of America and campus liaison for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is the founder of The Israel Files, a bilingual Instagram platform which advocates for Israel. He has previously contributed to The Algemeiner and Elite Daily publications. He can be reached at