The goal of Secretary of State Kerry’s energetic diplomacy with the Israelis and Palestinians is the two-state solution, which means the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestine living at peace with its neighbor Israel.
Or is it? What’s missing in that sentence is the word “democratic.” Do we care? Once upon a time, the United States worked hard to give Yasser Arafat, a terrorist and thief, a state to rule. That policy was changed in the George W. Bush administration, when we began to care not only about the borders of the new Palestine but was within those borders. Bush said he would not support establishment of a Palestinian state if that state would just be another dictatorship, another kleptocracy, another home for terrorism.
Today we appear to be back in the Arafat period–without Arafat to be sure, but with the same lack of concern about events in the real Palestine.
Consider the new January, 2014 report of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. Some highlights:
Cases of torture and ill treatment during detention continued. Furthermore, it increased in the centers of the Preventive Security Agency in the West Bank. ICHR received 56 complaints of torture and ill treatment, 36 of which occurred in the Gaza Strip and 19 in the West Bank.
ICHR received complaints of violations of the right to appropriate legal procedures during detention in breach of guarantees to a fair trial, which are enshrined in the basic law.
Some official security and civil authorities still refrain from implementing courts’ decisions or procrastinate their implementation. ICHR received 8 complaints in this regard in addition to 16 other previous decisions. Furthermore, one of the inmates remained in prison despite completing his sentence.
ICHR received complaints concerning expropriation of citizens’ property by security agencies in the West Bank without judicial order.
ICHR received a number of complaints of violations concerning the right to freedom of expression, press, peaceful assembly and academic freedoms. It also received a number of complaints concerning assaults on persons, public and private properties.
There are plenty of other reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists noted that “Despite the immense differences between the Israeli government, Fatah, and Hamas, they shared a common trait in 2013: a consistent and troublesome record of silencing journalists who reported dissenting perspectives….Local human rights organizations reported that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank also obstructed coverage of protests, especially those in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”
Human Rights Watch, which is notably unsympathetic to Israel, reported that
In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority (PA) security services beat peaceful demonstrators, and arbitrarily detained and harassed scores of journalists. Credible allegations of torture committed by the PA’s security services persisted.
One could go on. For example, it is widely believed that corruption in the Palestinian Authority has exploded since the departure of former prime minister Salam Fayyad, who fought it. Reports on PA corruption are numerous: see this one, for example, or the Sunday Times of London story in October reporting that “billions of euros in European aid to the Palestinians may have been misspent, squandered or lost to corruption, according to a damning report by the European Court of Auditors, the Luxembourg-based watchdog.”
So, the question again arises: do we care, or are we indifferent to what goes on within the borders Secretary Kerry is trying to negotiate? Has the United States reverted to the position we had in the 1990s, when Yasser Arafat visited the White House 13 times and our policy goal was to hand him a state, no questions asked? How can it possibly contribute to the building of a decent, peaceful, democratic Palestine for the United States to appear–or worse yet, to be–indifferent to the actual conduct of the Palestinian Authority?
Secretary Kerry and other U.S. officials have spoken often about the negotiations and their goals, but I do not recall any honest discussion of the problem of growing corruption and lawlessness in the Palestinian Authority. State Department spokesmen issue statement after statement about Israeli settlement activity, seemingly whenever one brick is laid atop another, yet ignore these serious issues. What kind of Palestine is it that the United States is seeking to create?