The Biden administration believes that the best way to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians is by allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to recruit more officers to the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
According to reports, the Biden Administration officials recently proposed a plan "to provide 5,000 Palestinians with commando training in Jordan" and then deploy them to areas under the control of the PA. The 5,000 officers will bring with them 5,000 rifles to Palestinian cities and towns -- where almost every Palestinian already has a weapon.
The Biden administration is fooling itself into believing that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA leadership will suddenly change their policy towards the terrorists just because they are getting an additional 5,000 "commandos." These "commandos" will simply join the tens of thousands of Palestinian security officers in the West Bank who are doing nothing to enforce law and order or prevent terrorism.
Any time the US has funded, armed and trained Palestinian militias, the target has invariably ended up not terrorist groups but Israelis. Why is there any reason to think that this time will be different?
In addition, the plan would require Israel "to sharply curtail IDF counterterror operations." The Biden administration, in other words, wants Israel to stop defending itself and rely on the Palestinian leadership and the new Palestinian "commandos" to go after the terrorists. Palestinian officials, meanwhile, are busy glorifying terrorism and paying visits to the families of terrorists.
This would leave the Israelis with the rights to neither self-defense nor hot-pursuit. Terrorists will be able strike inside Israel, then run back to the Palestinian areas where they will be "home free;" instead of being arrested, they will be celebrated.
The Biden plan also reportedly "foresees the deployment of foreign forces, including U.S. military forces, on the ground."
This arrangement creates a political and military nightmare.
Israel, roughly the size of New Jersey, would have on its border a Palestinian terrorist army, well-trained, well-funded, and "protected" by a superpower.
Under this proposed new arrangement in the West Bank, when the Israelis are attacked and need to take out the launch-pad or the attackers, they would find themselves in the impossible position of risking harming the Europeans and Americans forces stationed there. These troops, mingled among the Palestinians, would essentially be "human shields," deliberately placed in harm's way to prevent Israel from taking any action.
Apart from creating an implicit alliance that would then have to be funded forever and destined to grow, the presence of foreign troops would also create pressure on Israel to capitulate to any demands from the countries involved. Their first concern would presumably be to protect their troops and assets.
What, then, is the Biden Administration really doing?
An international military presence to help the Palestinians in the West bank would handcuff the Israelis. This appears to be the real plan.
Worse, if "foreign countries" were allowed into the West Bank to work with the new US-trained Palestinian militias, who would get to decide which foreign countries? Perhaps the Palestinian leadership would like Iran -- which , since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, has been launching attacks against Israel (for instance here, here and here) and threatening genocide -- to stop in?
Or perhaps the US will try to persuade the Palestinians to reintegrate Gaza, run by Hamas, an Iranian proxy, into the West Bank, as the US Department of State's new Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs, Hady Amr, recommended in his Brookings report?
Another Iranian proxy, Hezbollah in Lebanon, has already been threatening Israel for years (here, here, here, here and here ).
It would be suicidal for Israel to permit "foreign forces," who any day could be hostile, on border of Jerusalem. Why would, or should, any country, especially such a small one, place its border security in the less-than-reliable hands of someone else? Would Germany? Would France?
The Palestinian Authority does not need more "commandos" to rein in the numerous armed groups operating in areas under its control, especially in the northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus. All that is needed is an order from the Palestinian leadership to crack down on the terrorists. Such a scenario, however, as the Biden Administration surely knows, is out of the question, particularly under the current Palestinian leadership, which has continually chosen to side with the terrorists and their families.
The Palestinians have enough police and security forces to crack down on the armed groups, but they will do nothing -- zero -- to disarm the terrorists or stop them from carrying out attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
All that is needed is for Abbas to order his security forces to go after the armed groups, in accordance with the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo II) of 1995.
Abbas, however, has so far refused to issue such an order. He is most probably afraid that if he does so, his people, who view the terrorists as "heroes," would revolt against him, denounce him as a "traitor" a "collaborator" with Israel, and kill him, as happened to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat after he signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
The Palestinian Authority is not prepared to send its forces to arrest Palestinian terrorists so long as they do not pose a threat to Abbas or his associates.
This is the same Abbas who has long been glorifying terrorism and inciting hate against Israel. This is the same Abbas who pays generous rewards to Palestinians, and their families, who carry out shootings, bombings, stabbings and other attacks against Israelis as part of a well-funded Palestinian "Pay for Slay" program that rewards murdering Jews.
A public opinion poll published in December 2022 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) found that 72% of the Palestinian public are in favor of forming armed groups such as the Lions' Den in Nablus.
Another 79% said they oppose the surrender of the armed groups' members and their weapons to the Palestinian Authority security forces. According to the poll, a vast majority (87%) said the PA does not have the right to arrest or stop members of the armed groups from carrying out attacks against Israel.
Judging from their actions, the Palestinian security forces have become part of the problem, not the solution. Instead of combating terrorism, the Palestinian security forces are taking their cue from their leaders by paying tribute to the terrorists.
Abbas's security forces proved that they can be tough, but only against human rights activists, not terrorists. Abbas uses the Palestinian security forces to suppress political rivals and critics, such as Nizar Banat, a leading human rights activist and outspoken critic of the Palestinian leadership. In 2021, scores of security officers raided his home and beat him to death.
In light of the growing Palestinian support for terrorism, as the Biden Administration doubtless knows, it is laughable to think that any Palestinian leader would dare act against the wishes and sentiments of the Palestinian public.
The new "commandos" that the Biden Administration wants to train and deploy in the West Bank will undoubtedly join their comrades in the Palestinian security forces in honoring terrorists and presumably helping them murder even more Jews.
Instead of creating a new terror army in the West Bank, the Biden Administration should simply demand that the Palestinians abide by the agreements they signed with Israel.
If the Biden Administration were serious about the Palestinian Authority reining in its terrorists, it could simply demand that the Palestinians honor Article XIV of the Oslo II agreement, which states that, "except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."
The Biden Administration could also remind the Palestinians of Article XV of the same agreement that states that "both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crimes and hostilities directed against each other, against individuals falling under the other's authority and against their property and shall take legal measures against offenders."
The latest Biden Administration plan will bring anything but security to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Creating a new armed militia in the West Bank will not stop terrorism as long as the Palestinian Authority continues to support and glorify terrorists and incite violence against Israel.
Above all, the Biden Administration needs to keep all foreign troops out of the area. They are simply decoys -- to protect the terrorists from counterattacks.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.