Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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What’s the Palestinian Contribution to Peace?

by Elliott Abrams
March 22, 2017


The Trump administration’s Middle East policy is developing, and most recently a key adviser to the President, Jason Greenblatt, visited Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The full content of his talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials is secret, as it should be. Still, it is clear that the President would like to move the parties forward toward a peace agreement. According to various press reports there was a good discussion of how Israeli settlement activities might be limited, and of steps that might be taken to improve the Palestinian economy.

These are important subjects to cover, but there is another one that simply must be on the table (and perhaps it was). The list of subjects must include with what the Palestinians will give, not just what they will receive.

Prof. Efraim Inbar, founding director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, put it this way in a critical commentary on Mr. Greenblatt’s visit:

He stressed how important it was to President Trump to stimulate the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life for Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured Greenblatt that he is fully committed to broadening prosperity for the Palestinians and sees it as a means of bolstering the prospects for peace. According to the press release, the two discussed concrete measures that could support and advance Palestinian economic development.

It is odd to offer carrots to the Palestinians before they have committed to returning to the negotiations table they left in March 2014. The impulse to give out carrots displays the conventional wisdom of the international community (including Jerusalem): that the Palestinians must be well fed to prevent their erupting into violence. This attitude has led to continuous financial support to the PA despite the growing awareness that a large proportion of that aid is channeled to terrorists and their families.

Short-term calculations of this kind only prolong the conflict. Indeed, the campaign of terror that started in September 2000, dubbed the Second Intifada, took place after several years of economic progress during which the Palestinian standard of living was the highest in history. The many carrots provided did not overcome the Palestinians’ appetite for political achievements; nor did it channel their energies from terror to the negotiating table.

The channeling of aid to terrorists and their families to which Prof. Inbar refers is the payment to convicted terrorists by the PLO. Congress is increasingly hostile to continuing American aid while that continues, and already the UK has stopped giving any cash to the Palestinians for this reason.

There is also the matter of “incitement,” meaning statements and actions by the Palestinian Authority (PA) that glorify terror and demonize Israel and Jews. In the last few decades, under presidents of both parties, the United States has said this must stop but has never penalized the PA when it did not.

To repeat, Trump policy is just taking shape and we do not know what forms of pressure were or will be put on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But what we do know for sure is that, as Prof. Inbar says, it would be a mistake to give the PA and PLO concessions in return for nothing and then hope for the best. It would be a mistake to reward Abbas merely for returning to negotiations he should never have left and that are not a favor to the United States or to Israel. As Trump policy develops, let’s hope it treats the Palestinians as political actors (not objects of charity) with the power to make consequential decisions. And wrong decisions should have consequences, as should correct ones.


Post a Comment 10 Comments

  • Posted by Joseph Rosen

    Mahmoud Abbas rejects Israel’s legitimacy in any borders:
    “All of Israel is a ‎‎“occupation” ‎

  • Posted by Joseph Rosen

    Today each one focuses on a specific international market to sell, namely: automobile, computer, food, technology, diamonds, high-tech, etc.

    Palestinian Authority leadership has specialized in something that can get billions of dollars: HATRED of Jews and the State of Israel.

    This proves to be a highly profitable business in which many, organizations and governments make massive investments…

  • Posted by hussein

    Response to Mr. Rosen and Mr. Abrams:

    I beg your pardon, the Israeli government has specialized in something that get billons of US taxpayers money, billions of donations as long as they continue with land confiscation, settlement building, home demolitions, killings and illegal detentions just to say only the few. No wonder they reject every peace initiative.

    Mr, Abrams, Palestinians have lost their homes, their lands, their country. Only thing they have left is their integrity and national identity. Is that what are you suggesting they should give up too?
    Please get a little merciful pen for once..

  • Posted by Okey

    Arab Palestinian society is suffused with the conviction that the Jews “robbed” them of “their land,” part of the Dar al-Harb, that is, territory that must be Islamified by means of war.
    Nothing short of a crushing defeat will disabuse them of the myths which they cultivate as a means of perpetuating their long war against the Jews.
    The spirit of the Palestinian Nazi collaborator, Haj Amin al-Husseini, still animates the Palestinians. That needs to be purged.

  • Posted by M. Davison

    I wasn’t aware that there was any “Palestinian contribution to peace”.

  • Posted by barry

    It seems both sides see little reason to compromise as they believe they have rational hopes of eventually defeating the other. However, I cannot see how either the Israelis or Palestinians can be made to give up or go away. So unless there is a shift to seeking compromise and reconciliation on BOTH sides, Israelis will continue to live under the threats of terror and boycotts, and increasingly well armed opponents on their border, while Palestinians will continue to live under some form of occupation, limited mobility, limited economic opportunity.
    And yet, if they can only get together, with the climate, Mediterranean seaside, its wealth of history, and the talents of all its peoples, the region could really boom.
    People who are sincerely pro-Israel and/or pro-Palestinian need to work for that vision and seek compromise, compromise, on all sides.

  • Posted by Jon

    Response to hussein:

    Yes, the Palestinians have lost some homes and some of their lands. To blame the Jewish state and only the Jewish state for this loss is ignorant of history. There are plenty of Israeli Arabs who did not loose their homes nor land, and even with all their troubles, their lives in Israel are better than if they were in Arab countries. They most definitely did not loose a country with its own identity, which they never had, unless you want to lump Palestinians in with Muslim rule.
    As for their integrity and national identity, you should be looking to the Palestinian leadership to find out why those are lacking.

  • Posted by Brian H. Davis

    Elliott’s point is exactly correct and well stated. To repeat a famous truth: ‘There will be peace between Israel and her neighbors when her neighbors love their children more than they hate Jews.’

  • Posted by Lurene Gisee

    The American government should have discontinued payments/aid to this section of the Middle East decades ago, i.e., Palestine. We should discontinue diplomacy with those purporting to lead Palestine, as Arafat once did, as well. They routinely violate laws and even negotiated agreements they signed. We owe them nothing. We shut cut ties now.

  • Posted by hussein

    Response to Jon:

    Thank you for acknowledging that Palestinians have lost their homes. The irony is that they continue to loose their homes with illegal settlements, land confiscation and home demolitions. All are illegal illegal and illegal.
    Yes only a few Palestinian live as second class citizens in Israel but millions under the brutal occupation or as refuges. No settlement housing has been built for an Israeli Arab.
    I would love to hear from you that occupation is wrong, it is immoral, and the apartheid is wrong. I am sure as a decent human being you know very well that above statement is right, is the truth but you don’t have the courage to admit.

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