Since the Oslo Accords came into effect, each time a breakthrough seems close, the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] leadership, has exhibited a perplexing way of breaching the Accords' conditions and provoking Israel, thereby working against the very agreement that brought the Palestinian Authority into existence.
The late PLO Chairman, Yassir Arafat, violated Oslo on the very first day by trying to smuggle a man into Israel whom the Israelis had explicitly banned by hiding him under the seat of his car. More generally, although under the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority is obligated to refrain from incitement and hate propaganda against Israel, Arafat's anti-Israel propaganda started right from his first speech, rolling down to Palestinian TV, media, and schools. Arafat then crossed the ultimate red line by creating and financing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Hamas-style terrorist group responsible for tens of terrorist attacks on Israel -- the Brigade still exists today.
This pattern, begun by Arafat, is still in place today under Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- initially viewed as a more "moderate" leader. Abbas's latest political initiative, calling for a UN vote on Palestinian statehood to circumvent direct the negotiations with Israel to which it is committed -- by its own agreement -- in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 -- is a breach of its own Oslo Accords that will most certainly drive the peace process to a point of no return and which presumably entitles Israel to end its side of the Oslo Accords, as well.
Abbas has also been focused on issues counterproductively interjected by the United States -- such as demanding that the Israelis freeze settlement construction -- instead of addressing more workable issues, such as improving the daily lives of Palestinians, who used to enjoy working and moving inside Israel until the suicide bombings began.
These acts of obstructing the peace process –- most recently shown by the PLO's refusal to negotiate with Israel for the past two years --- along with its continual breaches of the Oslo Accords, raises the question: Does the Palestinian leadership want peace at all? Or does it want peace only on its own terms: Erasing Israel from the map?
It would seem, based on the PLO's behavior, that Palestinian Authority leadership has not actually been seeking a solution to the conflict, but rather seeking to expand its solution: Israel supplanted by an Arab state.
For the past several decades, the PLO leadership seem to have been trying to grab whatever it could get in negotiations, using the "ceiling of the last negotiation as the floor of the next," and pocketing whatever concessions it could acquire while waiting for more. This approach is consistent with the Palestinian "Phased Plan" laid out by Arafat in 1974, which "adopted the political solution of establishing a National Authority over any territory from which the occupation withdraws" -- leading it to be referred to as the "Piece Plan" -- and which, as Arafat reaffirmed on September 1, 1993, still is incorporated into the Oslo Accords. This approach is also consistent with the PLO's charter, never rescinded, which calls for the annihilation of the "Zionist Entity."
Back when the Oslo agreement was still fresh and that least theoretically being implemented, the London-based Palestinian Journalist Abdul Bari Atwan in an interview with the London-based Arab TV station, ANB, blamed Arafat for allegedly giving "too many concessions" to Israel. According to Atawn, Arafat's response was: "By Allah, perhaps not in my lifetime, maybe in yours, you will see the Israelis fleeing from Palestine, have a little patience."
In short, Arafat's philosophy revolved around creating chaos and unrest to drain Israel politically while at the same time enjoying the spoils that resulted from doing so. Many senior members of the Palestinian Authority, including its current leader, Mahmoud Abbas, are still enjoying a good life under the protection of the very country against which they are working: Israel.
Arafat's doctrine has come at a very dear cost to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians have lost their formerly open access to the Israeli job market -- with Israel as the only country in the world that allows them to work freely and be treated well – as people who, in the minds of their employers, have been hired as daily workers rather than "bought" as if they were slaves or property -- and be paid according to Western standards.
Countless Palestinian children have perished in either suicide attacks or fruitless confrontations with the Israeli forces during the first and second Intifadas, initiated under Arafat's regime and media machine. Of course, Arafat had little to worry about: at the time of the Second Intifada at least ,both his wife and daughter were enjoying a comfortable living between Paris and Tunis.
Additionally, if Abbas's Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] had joined in a so-called unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization, both organizations would now effectively be terrorist entities. Presumably the PLO was stopped only out of concern that the US and perhaps also Europe would not then continue to fund it.
Abbas doubtless realizes all of this. He probably realizes that Israel would never accept a UN vote for Palestinian statehood, nor would Israel's close allies necessarily be able to continue supporting the Palestinian Authority if such a vote took place. Abbas also knows that Hamas is his sworn enemy, with ambitions of an Islamic Palestine "from the river to the sea," as is stated in the second article of the Hamas charter,and at the same time, with no tolerance for the PLO, which Hamas forced out of the Gaza strip within weeks of taking it over. Members of the PLO in Gaza were from the top floors of buildings. So why is Abbas doing this?
What Hamas has done, and what the Palestinian Authority is pursuing today, are not random acts of irresponsibility, but -- among other hoped-for outcomes, such as being able more easily to tangle Israel up diplomatically and economically in international courts and the like – are rather carefully measured political bullying that results in prosperity to the leadership.
Khattab Abu Sittah, a former officer in Hamas's Ministry of Interior, who then left Hamas, and is now being persecuted by it, told this author that when Hamas took over Gaza, Hamas commanders became more able to control the needy Gazans, who spent most of their time trying to provide the basics for their families, while Hamas took control of the economic life of the Gaza strip. Hamas became the main importer of food through its tunnels with Egypt; got involved in smuggling not only household products but also whole cars -- in addition to weaponry -- and eventually Hamas leaders became rich landlords who had close-to-no suffering. Those men who were able to ease the grip on the Gazans a little for their own benefit are the ones opening businesses there today,, and even terrorizing anyone who tries to compete with them. Abu Sittah said: "I was with them at the beginning because I thought they were better than the nasty (Palestinian) Authority; they have proven to be worse and they are enjoying the current situation and want it to continue."
The model described by Abu Sittah was confirmed earlier in a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, entitled: "Gaza's Economy: How Hamas Stays in Power," which asserts that Hamas has overseen the formation of a wealthy Palestinian class -- associated with Hamas.
This pattern is not new; the PLO has been sustaining this economic bonanza for its leadership since its establishment in 1968: The more trouble there is, the more foreign aid money the PLO, and later the Palestinian Authority, have been able to receive -- and the more Palestinian officials are able to mismanage the funds, and thrive, along with their families, while getting sympathy from the world against "the evil Zionists" of Israel. The PLO has played this show long before it arrived in Judea and Samaria; no wonder, most of the PLO leaders were already very rich men when they arrived in there from Tunis.
Moreover, establishing a state is what Abbas saw Hamas do — successfully -- a few years ago, when it insisted on forming a government despite warnings and advice from both its friends and foes, including the former Egyptian regime. Nonetheless, Hamas went on, regardless; it formed a government; created a relatively massive police force, and eventually took over Gaza by force. Just like Abbas's PLO today, Hamas knew it would face extreme reactions from Israel, the US, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, but at no cost and with no consequences.
Sadly, it is only only establishing a peace that includes an"end of conflict" and a Palestinian leadership accountable to its people that will lead to the demise of the corruption and empires of oppression of these men. The people now in charge are not politicians so much as warlords who thrive on war, especially as their own children and homes rarely ever affected by what happens to their people, whom they willingly put in harm's way.
It is not only the Palestinian leadership who thrive on war and unrest; but also the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA], a bloated jobs program for over 20,000 people, that benefits from conserving rather than ending the current situation; as well as several Arab regimes. These have often added even more pressure on the Palestinians, both on their leadership and on their people, to engage in hostility with Israel. UNRWA goes along with whatever the Palestinians want.
Among Arab nations, Jordan's King Abdullah II, for example, went to the UN threatening war unless Israel "freezes all settlement activities". Of course Abbas appeared on the media the next day saying he, too, would not consent to peace without Israel's freezing all settlement activities. And just recently, the Syrian regime—struggling with an unprecedented revolution -- sent Palestinian youngsters from Yarmouk refugee camp to storm the Israeli borders and throw rocks at Israeli soldiers; as a result, twenty young men and women were killed; and when their families protested against the Syrian regime for what they believe was the its manipulation of their children for political gain, the Syrian-controlled Public Front for the Liberation of Palestine responded by killing 14 protestors on the spot.
The more trouble Arab regimes cause for Israel through the Palestinians, the more they release the pressure on themselves by switching their dissatisfied people's attention against Israel. The Palestinian leadership is no exception: it would therefore rather maintain the no-peace situation -- and, if possible, escalate uncalled for confrontations with Israel -- whenever possible. After all, what is better for the Palestinian officials: a state where they will be held accountable for every dollar, or a state of chaos where they can surreptitiously get rich?
With the Arab Spring sweeping the Middle East region, Abbas and his friends have reason to fear a normal progression for the peace process: if they achieve statehood: their people would start scrutinizing them and asking them for services and benefits and individual rights which for decades have been provided by Israel for free.
Israel should not tolerate this political rat-race, which has come at a substantial cost to its citizens as well as to the Palestinians. Also, so-called pro-Palestinian sympathizers - including Western governments -- should stop tolerating and supporting the Palestinian leadership's recklessness, and should instead focus their efforts on supporting the Palestinian people, especially as most of them do not even live in Israel, but actually in Jordan, Lebanon and other Arab lands.
While Abbas and Hamas will keep provoking Israel to the extreme, and breaching the Oslo Accords at every turn, Israel might do well to reconsider its increasingly one-sided commitment to upholding an agreement, which, it seems, is being upheld by almost one else.