Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shared some interesting news with England's Prince William during a meeting in Ramallah on June 27. He informed the royal visitor that the Palestinians are "serious about reaching peace with Israel." Abbas also said that the Palestinians were "committed to combating terrorism."
What makes this news interesting is that as Abbas was speaking to Prince William in his Ramallah headquarters, known as the Mukata, the Palestinian government issued a statement praising Palestinian terrorists imprisoned by Israel. The Ramallah-based government also vowed to continue paying salaries to Palestinians convicted of murdering and injuring Jews, defying Israeli and American demands to stop the payments.
The Palestinian government's pledge to continue supporting the terrorists and their families financially came in response to a new Israeli law that allows the Israeli government to deduct funds that are supposed to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority commensurate with the amount of money the Palestinians pay to the terrorists and their families.
The Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved the law this week, on June 27. The bill, which was proposed by MK Avi Dichter (Likud) and MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), states that welfare payments paid by the Palestinian Authority to the terrorists and their relatives will be deducted from tax revenues Israel transfers each month to the Palestinian Authority. The money withheld would instead go into a fund designated to help victims of Palestinian terror attacks.
Abbas and his government are outraged by the new Israeli law, which comes in the context of Israel's effort to combat terrorism -- the same terrorism that the Palestinian leader claims he is "committed" to fighting. They see nothing wrong with funding terrorists and their families.
It seems that Abbas and Israel have different views on how terrorism should be combated. Abbas seems to think that paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families is a good first step in that direction.
For some reason, Prince William, who sat next to Abbas when the Palestinian leader made his statement about combating terrorism, did not bother to ask the Palestinian leader about the payments to the terrorists and their families. Nor did the visiting prince deem it necessary to ask his host about the Palestinian Authority's long-standing tradition of glorifying terrorists who target Jews. Instead, Prince William just spread smiles around as Abbas was talking about the Palestinians' "serious" desire to achieve peace with Israel and their "commitment" to combating terrorism.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during an official visit to in Ramallah, on June 27, 2018. (Photo by Joe Giddens - Pool/Getty Images)
The prince must have been unaware of what the Palestinian government had to say about convicted terrorists during his visit to Ramallah. In case the prince still does not know, here is a translated excerpt from the Palestinian government's statement (which was issued while the prince was meeting with Abbas): "Palestinian prisoners are our national icons and symbols of defending freedom and dignity and confronting oppression and subjugation." The Palestinian government vowed that it would "not abandon the prisoners and the families of the martyrs."
It is worth noting that the "martyrs" that Abbas's government is talking about are in fact Palestinian terrorists, who were killed by the Israeli army or police during attacks on Jews. The "martyrs" also include Palestinians who blew themselves up during suicide bombings in Israel.
Abbas, like the vast majority of the Palestinians, consider terrorists who killed or maimed Jews as heroes, shaheeds (martyrs) and role models. Of course, there is nothing new about the Palestinian tradition of glorifying terrorists, and much has been said about the policy of naming schools and squares after Jew-murderers in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In addition to the government's statement, another Palestinian Authority institution, The Commission for Palestinian Prisoners and Ex-Detainees, described the Palestinian terrorists as "soldiers of freedom and dignity." The commission was responding to the new Israeli anti-terrorism law. In sharp contrast to Abbas's message of peace during his meeting with Prince William, the commission denounced Israel as a "fascist" state that engages in "piracy and theft" of Palestinian funds. "The Palestinian people, government and leadership will not abandon the prisoners and the families of the martyrs," the commission said in a strongly worded statement. The Palestinian terrorists, it added, "have sacrificed their lives and souls for the sake of their people and homeland and the entire humanity."
On the eve of Prince William's visit, the Palestinian Authority inaugurated a monument commemorating the "martyrs" of Ramallah. At the ceremony, the mayor of Ramallah praised the "martyrs" and described them as "great" fighters who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their people and homeland.
Predictably, Prince William was not taken by his Palestinian hosts to see the monument erected in the old city of Ramallah to honor Palestinian terrorists. Instead, he was escorted by his Palestinian hosts to enjoy falafel, hummus and kenafah sweets and attend a musical presentation on the streets of Ramallah.
But the choice to share candy rather than training for terrorism makes sense good sense, from the Palestinian point of view.
The last thing the Palestinians want is for the prince and his entourage to see a monument honoring terrorists. That would stand in sharp contrast to Abbas's claim that the Palestinians are committed to combating terrorism and serious about achieving peace with Israel.
The Palestinian leadership sought to protect the prince from the double-talk and hypocrisy of Abbas and his cronies. They do not want the prince and the rest of the world to know about the conflicting messages they send to their people and to the rest of the world. The message to the Palestinians: We support anyone who murders a Jew and will take care of their families if they are killed or imprisoned by Israel. The message to Prince William and other world leaders and dignitaries: We are committed to peace and the war on terrorism.
Prince William may have received a red-carpet reception in Ramallah, but he left the city ignorant of the dark side of Palestinian culture -- particularly the part concerning the glorification of terrorists and the ongoing anti-Israel incitement. Falafel and hummus are just the beginning of what is happening on the Palestinian street and in the mosques and the media.
As chance would have it, on the very day that the prince was in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority was repeating its pledge to continue funding terrorists and their families. One hopes that Prince William enjoyed his visit to Ramallah. One also hopes that he asks his advisors to translate for him what Palestinian leaders are saying to their own people in Arabic.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.