The Obama Administration quickly turned its back on President Hosni Mubarak when it started talking about “an orderly transition to lasting democracy.” Yet as is the case inEgypt, Palestinian society is also struggling with a corrupt, undemocratic, authoritarian, and divisive PA leadership with a long record of human rights violations and an economy artificially resuscitated by handouts from foreign donors.
Hence, Israel’s government should not agree to negotiate for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the strategic hills of the West Bank until the Palestinian people first have a chance to cleanse its leadership and move towards lasting democracy, as Obama has demanded from Egypt. Israel needs to know who will be the ultimate true representative of the Palestinian people before giving away strategic assets.
It is quite dangerous for Israel – and hypocritical of Obama – to ask the Jewish State to agree to the establishment of a state that eventually through free elections or a military coup may be taken over by an Islamic, pro-Iranian terrorist organization. After all,Hamas’ stated goal is the destruction of the Jewish state and global Islamic rule.
Such possibility should not be a surprise to anyone looking at recent Palestinian history. In 2006, Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislature in free elections conducted in Gaza and the West Bank, by defeating the secular Fatah Party. In June 2007, Hamas forces took over Gaza establishing separate Islamic rule in the Strip. Since that time, Hamas has fired more than 6,000 rockets at Israeli towns and has become a safe haven for terrorists.
As in Egypt, Israel must demand that the PA conduct new, fair and free elections to choose its president and legislature. Mahmoud Abbas, who was the first leader Obama called after being elected, has stayed in power for the last two years without any elections. In 2005 he was elected for four years. In fact, the last elections to the Palestinian legislature occurred in 2006 for four-year terms, but since then there have been no new elections. The problem is that the Palestinians are divided between Gaza and the West Bank and until they are reconciled or reunite, any new election would not reflect the true preference of the people.
Who gets foreign aid?
Moreover, Israel must demand the PA establish an independent judiciary and the rule of law, including towards opposition parties, as Obama has demanded from the Egyptians. The recently published “Palestinian Papers” revealed that the CIA and British intelligence were aware that hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial in recent years, and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses and torture. The PLO’s chief spokesman, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as telling senior US official David Hale in 2009: “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority…We have invested time and effort and killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.”
Moreover, the PA‘s economy is not progressing. A recent study reinforces the claim that there is no Palestinian economy and that in reality it is almost exclusively supported by and dependent on foreign donations, without which it will collapse. More than 60% of the PA’s Gross National Product comes from donations by the US, European Union, United Nations, World Bank and others. The Palestinian people receive the largest amount of donations worldwide, which amounts to an average of about $560 per family, per month.
According to the study, the facts on the ground indicate that the donations are used to preserve the ruling party rather than to build an independent economy or business sector, in contradiction to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s claim of transparency, which is intended to please international donors. The funds are suspected of going into the pockets of bureaucratic echelons and to close associates of President Abbas and senior government officials who engage in embezzlement, land theft and fraud.
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that a transition to democracy in Egypt “must begin now” and should lead to opposition participation in free and fair elections, adding that Mubarak “recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that change must take place.” Now, Israel should demand no less from Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.