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Cash-Stuffed Envelopes for Peace By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 05, 2008

Israel is unhappy with Palestinian Authority prime minister Salaam Fayyad for sending letters to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) urging that it freeze the process of granting Israel membership. The OECD now comprises 30 countries and is weighing an expansion to include Israel, Chile, Estonia, Russia, and Slovenia.


But Fayyad told the OECD it should lock Israel out because of its military operations in the territories and its construction in the settlements. Since Israel’s military operations in Gaza and the West Bank are antiterror operations, Fayyad was taking a proterror position, telling the OECD a country that fights terror is not fit to be a member. Fayyad was also upholding the treasured international principle of Jew-free Jerusalem, since these days Israel’s “construction in the settlements” largely involves building apartments for Jews in its capital city.


The support for terror is nothing new for Fayyad, who late last year called on Israel to release 2,000 Palestinian security prisoners who are not in jail for traffic offenses.


You can’t go wrong if you’re Salaam Fayyad: enshrined as a moderate by both the U.S. and Israeli governments no matter what you do, you can serve as prime minister in a polity that systematically inculcates terroristic passions through its mosques, schools, and media while working to ostracize Israel internationally for fighting that same terror that you cultivate.


This could also be seen as a gesture of gratitude to Israel, which created the Palestinian Authority, arranged for it to be the world’s most heavily subsidized society per capita, and has repeatedly offered it statehood while throwing in sweeteners like the Temple Mount and the forced evacuation of tens of thousands of Israeli citizens.


The U.S. and Israel are indeed on the same page when it comes to dealing with a virtual Palestinian Authority—a figment of their imaginations—through systematic appeasement and bribery. WorldTribune.com reports that “the United States has been transferring millions of dollars in cash to Palestinian Authority commanders as the 2009 deadline for a Palestinian state looms. The transfers are part of an effort to rapidly take over security responsibility from Israel in the West Bank.”


So Palestinian commanders loyal to Fayyad have been getting training from the U.S. as well as “at least tens of thousands of dollars each…for high-profile operations meant to demonstrate the PA security commitment.”


Thus the two recent, hastily arranged deployments by PA troops in Nablus and Jenin—each of them a farce. In Nablus “discipline has declined as officers outnumber soldiers”—with 300 of the well-compensated officers deployed there since late 2007 to command a force of just 200 soldiers, not anybody’s idea of an effective military approach. In Jenin


The troops…were rushed from a training program in Jordan to battle suspected Palestinian insurgents, and in their first operations began shooting civilians.


“It was chaos,” a PA security officer recalled. “At one point, field officers called the commander and said one of the shot civilians was dying. The commander said ‘Let him die. I don’t care.’ Another officer with the commander learned that this man was his cousin and began shouting at the commander to take the injured man to the hospital.”


For their part, PA commanders—more realistic than their mentors—have “quietly acknowledged that their forces were unprepared to battle dissidents of the Fatah movement as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” So in both West Bank towns “the PA undertook one or two operations, attended by the Israeli and foreign media, to tout Palestinian security capabilities. When the cameras left, the security situation returned to what it had been before. But the PA commanders received envelopes full of U.S. dollars.”


So just as Fayyad—touted and dealt with by Israel (and the U.S.) as a benign, moderate figure seeking peace—disappointed Israel with his letters to the OECD, the PA troops—touted and dealt with by the U.S. (and Israel) as a benign, moderate force seeking peace—disappointed the U.S. by responding to bribery with incompetence and corruption. In both cases, wasn’t it the same fallacy of substituting a virtual Fayyad, a virtual PA, for the real ones and then—again, incorrigibly—expecting the results to conform to one’s fantasies?


Meanwhile, Israelis heard another story of cash-stuffed envelopes last week as U.S. businessman Morris Talansky testified to a Jerusalem court about a period of 14 years in which he gave Mayor and Minister Ehud Olmert a total of about $150,000 in that clandestine form. The brazen Olmert—instead of resigning and letting the Israeli political system start coming up with a new leadership that the country sorely needs amid mounting security threats topped by Iran’s march toward the bomb—is instead eking out a few more days of ego-gratifying pomp on a state visit to the U.S.


But while Israelis were repelled by the picture of Olmert’s personal corruption emerging from Talansky’s allegations, it is a picture that fits all too well into a bigger pattern. The Oslo era was largely launched, after all, by Shimon Peres’s notion of a New Middle East in which supposedly outmoded Arab religious and nationalist antagonisms toward Israel could essentially be bought off with economic development.


From that time Israel has seen all too many leaders who have mixed personal corruption with a belief in their ability to bribe hostile Arab parties into friendship—up to Olmert’s own recent claims that Syria can be induced to change its whole geopolitical orientation, and become a responsible member of the international community, with an Israeli offer of the Golan Heights.


Thus personal venality often comes allied with a larger corruption of thought, a belief that money (or land, or other favors) talks and not even the Arafats and Assads of this world would be silly enough to resist it if offered bountifully and persistently enough. It’s an approach to the Middle East conflict that both Israeli and U.S. policy need to overcome.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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