Published in Israel Hayom, February 9, 2012
Well, I wonder – on both accounts.
The Palestinian government(s) I see are far from being “ready” for statehood or peace with Israel, for reasons that range from impotency to insolvency and raw anti-Semitism.
Let’s start with impotency. Faced with riots and death threats, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad this week was forced to shelve his plan to actually tax PA businessmen. Why should Palestinian stock market profits, real estate deals and civil service salaries be taxed? Why should 26,000 of the over 150,000 redundant civil servants and security personnel currently on the PA payroll be eased into early retirement? Why? Because the PA has a budget deficit of over $1 billon and almost no self-generated income?
So what! The international community will continue to pay.
You call this a well-functioning, self-governing authority ready for statehood?
Of course, it is hard to blame the Palestinians for getting hooked on the international dole when the world seems to be so willing to continue to underwrite Palestinian malfeasance and paralysis. Over the past ten years, the Palestinians have received more than $25 billion in international assistance, and the PA itself pulled in over $4 billion a year in each of 2009 and 2010.
These are astronomical sums; the Palestinians are simply world champions in per capita aid, averaging donations of $1,000 per person per year. Yet very little of this money has been invested in projects that advance Palestinian infrastructure or create economic growth.
Which leads me to the second story of the week. Twenty of 21 Palestinian villages in southern Samaria refused Israel’s offer to connect them to a central sewage pipe. They simply reject cooperation with Israel. Instead, their sewage flows into the aquifer below, poisoning the water future of both Israel and a possible Palestinian state.
According to Hebrew University geographer and water expert Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, 95 percent of the 56 million cubic meters of sewage produced by the Palestinians each year flows untreated into the ground. In fact, only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the last 15 years, despite there being a $500 million international donor fund available for this purpose.
You call this a well-functioning national authority ready for statehood? It doesn’t even come close to being a decently-run local municipality!
Consider the parallel, critical issue of water. Palestinian farmers wildly overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. At least a third of the water being pumped out the ground by the Palestinians is wasted through leakage and mismanagement. Despite all the international NGOs advising and assisting the PA, no recycling of water takes place and no treated water is used for agriculture.
Over 250 unauthorized deep wells have been dug by Palestinians in the West Bank, and the PA has in many places surreptitiously connected its storage pools to the water lines of Israel’s water company. After all, why bother to develop your own efficient water regime when you can simply demand or steal more water from Israel?
Note that Israel currently provides the PA annually with 200 million cubic meters of water – which is more than Israel is supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final settlement arrangement.
Nevertheless, Israel is somehow supposed to consider the PA “ready for statehood” and ready to be a good neighbor!
In the meantime, Facebook has become a dangerous playground for Palestinians in the PA. Rami Samara, a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah, last week found himself under interrogation by two different security agencies in the West Bank, Military Intelligence and General Intelligence (both of which report to PA President Abbas and which have been trained by the US). Samara’s crime: a sarcastic comment he posted on his Facebook page about the PLO executive committee.
Last year, Mamdouh Hamarneh, a TV producer from Bethlehem, was detained for 50 days after comparing Abbas on Facebook to a Syrian actor who portrayed a “traitor” in a popular Syrian soap opera. (Note that it is okay to use social networking to glorify terrorism against Israel. Fatah’s official Facebook page this week displayed a poster with the pictures of eight terrorists who carried out a terror attack on the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv in 1975).
Over two dozen Palestinian journalists have been arrested, released and re-arrested by the PA over the past year for what the PA calls “unfriendly reporting.” Among the journalists that have been arrested are Sami al Asi, Maaz Mashaal, Mamdouh Hamamreh, Yazid Khader, Samer Rwaished, Amer abu Arafeh, Khaldoun Mazloum, Tareq abu Zeid, Tareq abu Shihab, Mohammed izat Halykeh, Mutasem Zayed, Mohammed Bisharat, Sami Khweira, Ahmad al-Beikawi, George Canawati, Mustafa Sabri, and Akram an-Natshah.
Ever heard of them? Of course not, because few have bothered to report this. The Palestinian Journalists Union has organized sit-in strikes to protest against the detention of its members in PA jails, and there were pictures and articles in some Arab world papers – but nothing in the PA or international press.
We wouldn’t want people to think that Abbas’ rule is anything less than benevolent, democratic and ready for peaceful statehood with Israel, right?
Which brings me this week’s Doha deal – a purported unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah. “Hamas is a terrorist organization that strives to destroy Israel, and that is supported by Iran,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu in response to news of the agreement. “It’s either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can’t have it both ways.”
But why not? The record shows that the Palestinians have managed to have it both ways, and the world seems content to let them continue in this path: to soak-in donor dollars meant to build peace, but waste them; to expect concessions from Israel, while rejecting cooperation with Israel; to demand justice and freedom, while oppressing its own people; to speak of coexistence, while preaching hate; to call for negotiations, while refusing to enter them; to profess fealty to peace, while cuddling with Hamas.
But don’t forget the mantra: The Palestinians are ready for statehood. Of course.