Sunday, March 6, 2011

Palestinian Authority: We Never Listen to What America Says, We Just Take the Money

By Barry Rubin

Palestinian Media Watch has a round-up of anti-Obama and anti-American material from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the wake of the U.S. veto of a one-sided anti-Israel UN resolution. The U.S. government had made clear that it would vote in favor of a resolution condemning Israel for building on existing settlements in the West Bank if it also included some language criticizing terrorism and the behavior of both sides.

Two quotes are particularly interesting. One is from Hafez Barghouti, editor of the official PA newspaper, al-Hayat al-Jadida:

"We understand very well that the protests and revolutions blazing in the Arab countries have economic and social roots, and that they are related to corruption and social injustice. However, this is a result of police states which enforced oppression, first and foremost for the sake of their ties with the Americans. Every corrupt Arab has a foreign or Israeli partner, and the most corrupt and the richest in Egypt have partners in Israel in the field of gas and the like. Therefore, the rebellion against oppression and corruption must be directed towards the godfathers of the thieves of natural resources and the oppressors of nations, not only against their agents."

There is, of course, a bit of remarkable humor in this statement, “Every corrupt Arab has a foreign or Israeli partner.” After all, the corrupt leaders of the PA have plenty of such partners. Of course, the PA never gives thanks for the partners who have provided it with billions of dollars of aid, despite its consistent failure to live up to its commitments. The Palestinians, you see, are eternal victims and so are entitled to unlimited support. And, of course, “corrupt” PA leaders have stolen a remarkable amount of that money.

What Barghouti is saying, though, is that the main fire of the Arab upheavals should be directed against America and Israel as—in language basically borrowed from historical antisemitism—“the oppressors of nations.”

Talk about biting, munching, and even wolfing down the hand that feeds you! Of course, the joke is on the PA since the Mubarak regime—though it had its differences with the PA—was basically sympathetic to it. Now Egypt is likely to be friendlier to Hamas, even without an Islamist government in Cairo.

The most important point is, however, what PA leader Mahmoud Abbas says in the January 24 edition of the newspaper:

"The US is assisting us in the amount of $460 million annually. This does not mean that they dictate to us whatever they want, because we do what we view as beneficial to our cause. I recall that they said, 'Don't go to the Arab Summit in Damascus,' but we went. They demanded that we should not sign the Egyptian reconciliation document [between Fatah and Hamas], but we…[signed] it."

Of course, the PA has a right to act in what it perceives to be in its own interests. And of course Israel also doesn’t do whatever the United States asks it to do.

But here are the differences: First, Israel tries to accommodate the U.S. government. For example, when the United States pressed for a freeze of construction on settlements, Israel did so. When President Obama demanded there be no construction in Jerusalem, Israel complied. When the White House pushed for Israel-PA negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately and repeatedly agreed.

Second, Israel knows that if the U.S. government is dissatisfied with its policy, this will be loudly stated by the White House and State Department. In other words, there is a price to pay for disagreement. Certainly not as high a price as other countries might face—given Israel’s support in Congress and in American public opinion polls—but a real cost nonetheless.

Now, compare this with the PA. On one occasion, not sponsoring the Goldstone report, defaming Israel’s war against Hamas while almost void of any critique of the actual aggressor, in the UN, Abbas quickly reversed himself under local political pressure. On every other point for more than two years the PA has not done a single thing requested by the United States.

In addition to the two examples Abbas gave in the quote above, he has refused to negotiate seriously with Israel—or even talk at all—despite persistent U.S. efforts during the last two years. The PA has also ignored U.S. requests to reduce incitement and to do a range of other things, including hunting down and punishing the murderers of several U.S. government employees.

But to show for sure who's boss and who is doing who a favor, 28 PA-ruled towns and villages on the West Bank have announced "a boycott of the American consulate, its diplomats, and the American institutions in Jerusalem." This is being sponsored by Fatah, the recipient of so much U.S. aid. I wonder. Hatem Abd Al-Qader, one of Fatah's more fiery grassroots-oriented guys, explains, that the Americans "cannot extort the Palestinian people and humiliate it with a bit of aid."

Does this mean they'll stop taking the money? Somehow I don't think so. In fact, the Palestinians and many others are humiliating the United States. And the U.S. government doesn't seem to mind at all.

Ignoring U.S. requests and even consistently and publicly attacking the United States, however, never brings any real criticism, much less material pressure, from the U.S. government. In short, not only cannot the United States “dictate to us,” as Abbas says, but it never even tries. For the PA, there is no cost whatsoever in making the president of the United States look foolish and sabotaging his policies. Even the U.S. media, with rare exceptions, doesn’t even recognize that this is happening.

No wonder, then, that the PA leadership sabotages U.S. government policies and opposes American interests. Given the circumstances, it would be foolish not to do so. Of course, to give the PA so much money and so little criticism is not a brilliant--or productive--strategy for the U.S. government either.

Now if you have any doubt that U.S. policy is still on another planet altogether and seems incapable of learning from facts, events, and experience, just read this:

After meeting with President Obama, several Jewish leaders recounted that he, "Implied that Israel bears primary responsibility for advancing the peace process. They interpreted the president’s comments either as hostile, naive or unsurprising. Obama said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is eager to secure his legacy by establishing a Palestinian state and would accept a decent offer if one were on the table....`The Palestinians don't feel confident that the Netanyahu government is serious about territorial concessions.'..."

That's the problem in a nutshell. The Palestinian leadership never listens to what America asks while the U.S. government believes everything these leaders tell them.

Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include Islamic Fundamentalists in Egyptian Politics and The Muslim Brotherhood (Palgrave-Macmillan); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, a study of Arab reform movements (Wiley). GLORIA Center site: His blog, Rubin Reports,

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