President Biden’s administration has announced plans to resume the United States’ association with the Palestinian Authority, including the restoration of humanitarian funding. The new president believes this is a necessary step on a path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
While Former President Trump’s administration did not realize peace between Israel and the PA, it did make significant advancements in the greater region with the signing of the Abraham Accords, a normalization agreement between Israel and several Arab countries: the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. The main reason this peace was accomplished is because these countries have leaders who were finally convinced that peace with Israel was better for their own countries and the region, something the Palestinian Authority has been unwilling or unable to consider.
Israel has consistently proven that it desires peace as it has offered numerous concessions which were routinely rejected.
Unfortunately, leaders of the PA and Hamas don’t share the same yearning for peace and they have never aspired to improve the lives of their people.
These leaders have siphoned billions in humanitarian aid monies from the US, Europe and their Arab neighbors, and funneled these funds into manufacturing weapons to attack Israeli citizens, stipends to terrorists and their families as rewards for violence, and to line their own pockets.
Former PA President Yasser Arafat diverted billions of dollars to support a lavish lifestyle with mansions and travel, while his people languished in abject poverty. A 2006 report in UK Parliament revealed that, at the time of his death, Arafat may have had as much as $6 billion in hidden bank accounts overseas.
Despite claiming not to have funds to meet the needs of his people, several years ago, current PA President Mahmoud Abbas built a mansion worth $6 million which was widely criticized by many Palestinians while other Palestinian government officials live in luxury as well.
An economic advisor to Arafat, Mohammed Rashid, claimed that Abbas was worth well over $100 million and it’s widely believed that his family is worth over $300 million.
The leaders of Hamas place a different value on international aid as they continue diverting millions of dollars to the manufacturing of missiles and illegal tunnels leading into Israel – its sole desire to eradicate Israel.
Even more disturbing, when opportunities for advancement do arise for Palestinians, the PA and Hamas sabotage them, claiming to the world that they want peace all while keeping their people underfoot and inciting violence through rhetoric in Arabic, especially in school curriculum and textbooks.
But there is some hope. Palestinian businesses throughout Judea and Samaria, where my organization does the lion share of our work, partner with Israeli businesses, for the benefit of both.
Yet, these business owners must keep it secretive or risk being arrested, tortured or killed.
Today, industrial zones throughout Israeli-controlled Area C in Judea and Samaria, which afford Palestinian Arabs opportunities to work in Israeli owned businesses, allow them to earn wages two-three times greater than what they can earn working in their own communities and they’re in high demand.
Numerous Israeli politicians would also like to see these numbers increase exponentially. Former Defense Minister and chairman of the Yamina Party, MK Naftali Bennett, has often spoken of the need to build peace from the ground up through economic advancements.
He argues that improving relations between Israelis and Palestinians through economic opportunities will dynamically change the landscape. I’ve personally seen these industrial zones and spoken with Palestinian workers. There are many who would merely like to provide a livable wage for their families.
If the PA would place greater emphasis on improving the lives of its people rather than the continuing incitement of violence against Israel, much could be solved. Many Palestinians have never wanted the so-called Two-State Solution, which, in my opinion, was never a viable solution at all.
They view Israel as illegitimate and would like it wiped off the map. For those, it will take decades to undo the inbred hatred upon which they were raised. Yet, there are others who have expressed in anonymous polls that they don’t trust their own leadership and would actually prefer living under Israeli governance to improve their own lives.
If President Biden truly wants to bring peace, I believe he would do well to take a step back before repeating the same failed policies of prior US administrations from Israel’s founding until President Donald Trump and his team.
If he would like to achieve significant progress, he needs to convince the Palestinian leadership to institute monumental reforms and place their people over provocation.
Paying its people for attacking and killing Israelis achieves nothing save for prolonging the tensions between the two peoples. Palestinian leaders need to begin prioritizing peace, unity and their people—not their personal bank accounts.
Scott M. Feltman is the executive vice president of One Israel Fund, an American philanthropy that provides security and humanitarian aid for those living in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the communities impacted by the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005. Read Scott Feltman's Reports — More Here.
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