The Obama Administration has made it clear that it will not pursue Israeli-Palestinian "peace talks" while the Iran deal remains fluid. But as the President heads into his last year in office, the "two state solution" apparently remains an important political aspiration. The Iran deal and the "peace process" are linked by concerns over Iranian behavior on the non-nuclear front, and concerns about American willingness to remain the sort of ally Israel has found it to be in the past.
The following stories -- all involving money and how it is spent -- should be understood together:
- U.S. requests lower bond for Palestinian appeal of terror case
- Infant mortality in Gaza
- Schools in Gaza may not open
- Iranian assistance to Hamas
First, the U.S. Department of Justice this week asked a judge to "carefully consider" the size of the bond he requires from the Palestinian Authority (PA) as it appeals the award of damages to the victims of six terrorist attacks that killed and injured Americans in Israel. Concerned about the possible bankruptcy of the PA, Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken added a statement to the Justice Department filing, saying, "A P.A. insolvency and collapse would harm current and future U.S.-led efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
The Palestinian Authority was proven in a U.S. court to have organized and paid for terrorist attacks that killed Americans and Israelis. The U.S. has provided approximately $5 billion to the Palestinians in bilateral aid since the mid-1990s and about $540 million this year. The EU added more than €500 million ($558 million), making it the largest single-year donor. Why should PA not have to pay the bill for its own savage behavior?
And why is the U.S. so determined to protect it?
Second, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), which maintains camps for Palestinians in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and parts of the West Bank, released a broadside last week entitled, "Infant Mortality Rises in Gaza for the First Time in 50 Years." Subhead: "UNRWA's Health Director says the [Israeli and Egyptian] blockade may be contributing to the trend."
Such a rise would be a terrible thing, and Israeli culpability would be terrible also. But is it true? It takes only a few clicks of the computer keys to find out.
Palestinian infant mortality in the West Bank and Gaza has been on a straight downward slope since 1968. Using CIA Factbook figures, infant mortality was 158 per 1000 from 1950-55; 87 per 1000 in 1968 (using an Israeli government publication); 25 per 1000 in 1985-90; and is at 14 per 1000 today in Gaza. Where is the rising trend? The UNRWA release came from an article entitled "Increasing Neonatal Mortality among Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip," published by PLOS ONE, an "open access" online journal.
The study itself notes, "These estimates are based on small numbers of deaths, and the confidence intervals are wide, so the infant mortality rate could in fact be stable or continuing to decline" (emphasis added). Yet its conclusion reads, "In conclusion, we have estimated that, for the first time in five decades, the mortality rate has increased among Palestine refugee newborns in Gaza, and this may reflect inadequate neo-natal care in hospitals."
An Israeli website that evaluated the entire study caught the inherent contradiction. "They didn't have enough data to reach the conclusion they did... Those two statements have no place in a serious scientific paper and would merit its immediate rejection."
Third, having dispensed with scare mongering about infant mortality, let us turn to the other UNRWA broadside of the week: "Without New Cash, UNRWA Schools Won't Open." According to the deputy head of the organization, UNRWA needs $101 million in order to open schools on time.
Why does the Hamas government not pay for its own children to go to school?
This is similar to a story last January, in which UNRWA suspended the repair of Palestinian houses in Gaza because of a shortage of international donor money, and it raises the question: Why does the Hamas government not pay for the repair of its own peoples' houses?
It is UNRWA's belief -- like that of the U.S. government, apparently -- that Palestinian governments, including the one on the U.S. list of sponsors of terrorism, have to be protected from the consequences of their own war-making, support for terrorism, and thievery. UNRWA and the U.S. government seem to believe that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas cannot be expected to spend their own funds -- or donated funds -- on the needs of their own people.
Which brings us to Iran; the only country working assiduously to ensure that its client, Hamas in Gaza, gets the assistance it needs to meet its goals, and then meets those goals.
According to Israeli government sources, Iran's most recent assistance includes "cash, military training for Hamas fighters, weaponry, and electronics equipment including for use against Israeli drones... Hamas has also been training fighters in the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and is training recruits to fly paragliders across the border."
Bridging the Sunni-Shia divide, for the goal of genocide: Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (left) confers with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in 2010. (Image source: Office of the Supreme Leader)
UNRWA and Iran, with a supporting role played by the United States, have long made it possible for Hamas and the PA to spend other people's money building more tunnels, arming multiple militias, paying "salaries" to convicted terrorists in Israeli jails, and improving the quality of their rockets and missiles. They know -- and Israel knows -- that between the Israeli government and the international aid agencies including, but not limited to, UNRWA, no Palestinians will starve, no one will go without medical care, no one will go homeless (except those homeless because Hamas confiscated about 20% of the cement and steel meant to restore Gaza houses damaged in last year's war). Hamas can therefore use all its funds to make war.
As long as Hamas and the PA are permitted both to spend sponsors' money on terrorism and warfare while escaping responsibility for the needs of their people, and as long as Iran is a key donor -- with all the temptations, means and opportunity to "wipe Israel," as it repeatedly threatens to do -- the idea of a U.S.-led "peace process" is fantasy.