Breaking from the past

Is there really a Palestinian partner for peace?

Abbas AP 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas AP 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Annapolis this winter, attempting to succeed where others have failed: to achieve a lasting peace agreement between the two sides of the conflict. Unfortunately, Secretary Rice appears ready to follow the same path as her predecessors - of broad, unfulfilled promises; painful sacrifices on the part of Israel; and a Palestinian leadership unwilling or incapable of meeting their commitments to combat terror, incitement and corruption - with equally disappointing results. A failed process will provide no benefits to the Palestinians, while leaving Israel and America less secure. And peace will be nowhere in sight. At this critical juncture, we must learn from history and devise a new policy that emphasizes accountability and results. First and foremost, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly pledged to stop terrorism without making good on his word. Abbas has not cracked down on the repeated launching of hundreds of rockets by terrorists into Israeli towns and cities. His own Fatah party's militia, the Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, is on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist groups and has murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians in terror attacks during the last six years. Just this past Thursday, the Brigades publicly threatened to fire hundreds of rockets at Israel. Fatah's constitution, too, supports terrorism and advocates Israel's destruction. Meanwhile, foreign aid to Abbas has entered Hamas's coffers. Abbas himself has: called Hamas an "integral part of the Palestinian people;" met with Hamas officials this week; and promised to engage in further talks if Hamas cedes control of Gaza, without first requiring Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist and cease practicing terror. The US has spent, and continues to spend, millions of dollars on programs to assist the PA in providing humanitarian aid, including food, sanitation services and medicine to meet the needs of the Palestinian people. Millions of US tax dollars were also spent to help Abu Mazen implement educational reforms aimed at eradicating incitement of violence, providing security assistance to Palestinian entities, and promoting accountability and transparency of government institutions. DESPITE THESE efforts, Abu Mazen and his corrupt Fatah party failed miserably at curbing terrorism and implementing government reforms. Yet, the US has done little to change their behavior, instead, counseling patience and offering further aid. This only encourages a culture of victimhood and unaccountability among the Palestinians, a culture feeding terror and perpetuating and deepening the present conflict. Therefore, given the history of the PA and Fatah, the Administration's recent proposal to hand Abu Mazen hundreds of millions in additional funding is simply wrong. We cannot continue to substitute hope for reality by continuing to assume the existence of a viable Palestinian partner for peace while placing the onus on Israel to make greater and greater unilateral sacrifices. In doing so, we only undermine a vital ally, endangering our own security. It is time for a new approach. We must pursue a policy that sets and enforces higher standards for Palestinian behavior, and provides consequences if they fail to perform. The first step is to link our support to results. Instead of disbursing millions to Palestinian leaders in the hope they will change their ways, we must link each disbursement of funds to tangible progress, consistent with the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, in purging from its security services individuals with ties to terrorism; dismantling all terrorist infrastructure within its jurisdiction and fully cooperating with Israel's security services; halting all anti-American and anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled media; adopting reforms aimed at ensuring transparent and accountable governance; and ensuring the financial transparency and accountability of all government ministries and operations. If the Palestinians do not achieve the intended results, they must not receive US assistance or the legitimacy of political support from US officials. Simultaneously, the United States must end our support for entities that only serve to perpetuate the Palestinian conflict. We must not blindly hold out false hope that the corrupt Fatah leadership will be able to bring peace without the US holding them accountable. We must support abolishing the UN's biased Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and other duplicative and incendiary institutions within the United Nations framework. The United States must settle for nothing less than a genuine partner for peace with Israel that leads, and sets the tone in achieving results. Only then, will there be a glimmer of hope for lasting peace and security in the region. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida serves as the Ranking Republican on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is a Democrat from the State of Nevada.