One goal envisioned by the parties involved in formulating
and signing the Oslo Accords in Washington in 1993 was that the newly created
Palestinian Authority would henceforth use its powerful mandate to advance the
interests of the Palestinian people.
Since then, billions of international dollars have been poured into the Palestinian territories with the hope that as negotiations between Israel and the PA advanced, the groundwork would be laid for a robust Palestinian state to be established alongside Israel. More than 25 years later that likelihood seems dimmer than ever, and all eyes need to turn to the Palestinians.
Granted, the last 10 years of Israeli governments led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have not been conducive to diplomatic progress. Netanyahu’s coalition partners and his own indecisiveness about whether he favors a two-state solution have helped paralyze any process.
But the major obstacle throughout the last quarter century has remained Ramallah, which continues to bite off its nose to spite the Palestinian people’s faces.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has already made it clear, before even knowing what it contains, that he rejects the forthcoming “deal of the century” formulated by the Trump administration. That error in judgment can be rationalized by Abbas’s fracture with Trump over the president’s blatantly pro-Israel moves – from relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem to officially recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights – that have in Abbas’s view removed the US from its role as an honest broker.
Abbas believes that time is on the Palestinians’ side. He told a government meeting in Ramallah this week, “We’ve been patient for 70 years, and we are ready to wait another 10 and 20 years.”
However, he may not have that long. As Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff reported in The Jerusalem Post this week, the PA is on the verge of financial collapse.
At the United Nations Security Council meeting in New York, UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary A. DiCarlo warned, “Despite the austerity measures announced and the recent pledges of support by Arab states, the risk of a financial collapse of the Palestinian Authority is growing.” She called on the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that met Brussels on Tuesday to discuss donor support for the Palestinians to tackle the issue of the financial crisis that “threatens the viability of the PA.”
The cause of the current crisis derives from the PA’s refusal on principle to accept any tax revenues from Israel because Israel has decided to withhold the equivalent sum of money that the PA gives monthly to terrorists in Israeli jails and their families.
A UN report published last week estimated that Israel planned to withhold $140 million in 2019 – approximately $11.5 million each month – in tax revenues over the terrorist payment issue.
The sum Israel is withholding over the terrorist payments represents 6% of its tax revenues to the PA, the UN said. The overall tax revenues represent 65% of the PA’s budget, the UN added, explaining that this was equal to 15% of the PA’s entire GDP.
According to Abu Toameh and Lazaroff, the PA feels so strongly about continuing payments to the people it holds to be martyrs on behalf of its cause, it is willing to risk financial collapse.
Abbas accused Israel of “stealing or deducting the money belonging to martyrs, the wounded and security prisoners,” and announced that the PA will not be able to pay its employees full salaries because of the Israeli tax withholding.
So, ultimately, a policy that has been roundly condemned for promoting terrorism by providing compensation to perpetrators’ families, a policy that pushes away the prospects of eventual peace between Israelis and Palestinians more than just about any other issue, is the straw that may break the PA’s back – a 6% straw.
It’s only fitting that in the ongoing tragedy of the Palestinian people, they are once again missing every opportunity to put an end to their plight and work toward a just solution to the stalemate with Israel.
Accept the tax revenue minus the 6% or stop paying money to the families of terrorists. There are two ways out of the morass. Will the Palestinians take one of them?