During a much publicized meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Wednesday, United States President Barack Obama pledged $400 million to the Fatah-led PA.
When asked by journalists how the distribution of the American tax dollars will be overseen in light of the PA’s well known reputation for corruption, Obama avoided the question saying, “I’ll let my team give you the details in terms of how that will be administered and how the money will begin to flow.”
It was reported that during the meeting between leaders, the American president mentioned the need for the PA to end all incitement against Israel, to which Abbas responded, “I say in front of you, Mr. President, that we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we’re not doing that.”
But the people living in the West Bank know better. The Abbas-controlled official PA media and school system continue to deny Israel’s right to exist, define the conflict with Israel as an uncompromising religious war, promote hatred through demonization of Jews and glorify violence against Israel as well as against any Palestinian who so much as questions Fatah policies. PA and Fatah leaders may offer token moderate statements to Western journalists in English but in Arabic they promote a culture of hatred and intimidation. If 20 years ago, peace between us and Israel was within reach, today most people on both sides of the conflict have trouble envisioning any end in sight.
The number one question being asked today by Palestinians – the vast majority of whom are sick of suffering under Fatah – is whether or not the PA’s masters in Washington are aware of the situation taking place on the ground. Is the US government genuinely – if not willfully – naïve to what Fatah actually represents or are Abbas and his cronies somehow promoting an American agenda?
To answer this question, it is necessary to distinguish between PA behavior towards Israel and PA behavior towards the people under its control. Regarding the situation of Arabs living under the PA, it is unclear what Washington knows and doesn’t know. US diplomats, such as Obama’s Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, come relatively often into PA-controlled territories but one can easily make the argument that these visitors are only shown what the PA wants them to see.
Regarding the PA’s behavior towards Israel, it is harder to make a case. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seen in this video condemning the PA for inciting Palestinian school children towards anti-Israel violence. Clinton, then a New York state senator with presidential aspirations and an interest in Jewish support, admits to having watched video reports of what children are taught in PA schools and uses the harshest terms possible to describe the PA’s education policies. So for the administration for which she now directs foreign policy to be content with pronouncements from Abbas that he and his government have “nothing to do with incitement” can’t help but raise a few eyebrows.
Israel’s government is accused by Washington of deception and fraudulence at every step. The notion that Benjamin Netanyahu can get away with mere verbal acceptance of US policy dictates would be laughable to any serious political analyst. The best proof of this is the hundreds of US Consulate officials currently roaming the West Bank ensuring that not one new home is built during the 10 month ban on Jewish construction.
But no Palestinian has even seen American observers sitting in on public school classes. It seems enough for Abbas to declare for the cameras that he has “nothing to do with incitement against Israel.” So given the fact that Abbas continues to promote anti-Israel incitement and given the fact that the US administration knows this full well, the question remains whether the Fatah chief’s protestations of innocence were meant to get him off the hook with Obama or meant to get Barack Obama off the hook with the American people, who he can now legitimately tell that he raised the issue of incitement and was assured that none exists. And if the incitement is actually serving an American agenda here on the ground, then Palestinians need to ask for what and whom our children are becoming pawns.