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What would a ‘revitalized’ Palestinian Authority be?

Even before reforming its endemic corruption, the PA must stop promoting Jew hatred and accept Israel’s existence

People wave Palestinian, Hamas and Fatah flags during a march in support of the people in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 26, 2023 (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)
People wave Palestinian, Hamas and Fatah flags during a march in support of the people in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 26, 2023 (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

The Palestinian Authority, in its current form, is a failure. It has failed the Palestinians, and it has failed the peace process. Nonetheless, in the wake of the October 7 massacre and the ensuing war against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Fatah-affiliated terrorists, there is still discussion about what role the PA will play – if any – in the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip. U.S. President Joe Biden stated in his op-ed in the Washington Post that his vision is “Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority….” Secretary Blinken repeated this message in his press conference in Tel Aviv on January 9th.

Before any discussion can be held about how to “revitalize” the PA, which includes creating a functioning democracy free of corruption, the PA reform must immediately include six non-negotiable steps.

Step 1. Condemn the October 7 massacre

The October 7 massacre carried out by Palestinian terrorists led by Hamas was the complete antithesis of the fundamental commitment of the Palestinians to abandon the use of violence and terror as a way to achieve their political goals. The massacre, in which more than 1,200 people were tortured, raped, beheaded and murdered, hundreds wounded, and some 240 people kidnapped to Gaza, was the worst terror attack ever carried out by Palestinians and the blackest day for Israelis since the Nazi Holocaust.

More than 4 months have passed since the Shabbat Simchat Torah Holiday atrocities, and to this day, no PA leader or figure has condemned the massacre. Sadly, the opposite is true, as PA and other Palestinian leaders have not only not rejected the acts of terror but rather have embraced and justified them.

While PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas initially ignored the massacre and “instructed to provide defense to our people, and emphasized the Palestinian people’s right to self-defense facing the terror of the settlers and the occupation forces,” later, under immense international pressure, he said that “Hamas’ policy and actions do not represent the Palestinian people.” However, soon after, the official PA news agency changed the quote and replaced it with a statement saying, “The PLO is… the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – and not the policy of any other organization.”

FILE – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in Gaza City, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh chose to invert both reality and morality, emphasizing “The Palestinian people’s right to defend its land and its holy sites, which are always being violated…” and that the massacre was “a natural result of not acceding” to the PA’s recurring warning against the severe consequences of “Israel’s continued crimes.”

Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub, whose name has often been mentioned as a potential successor to Abbas, said, “What happened on October 7 was an earthquake, an unprecedented incident, and a war of defense full of epics and acts of heroism that the Palestinian people have been waging for 75 years.” He warned that “the explosion in the West Bank is also coming.”

Instead of condemning the massacre, the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Hussein Al-Sheikh, also touted as a potential successor for Abbas, chose to talk about the PA/PLO’s “brothers in the Hamas movement” and that their “arms… and hearts are still open to all dialogue that will lead in the end to the unity of the Palestinian people and its forces.” Al-Sheikh’s Twitter account still includes the unfounded libel that Israel attacked the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, despite the now unequivocal proof that the hospital parking lot was hit by an errant rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who has also been discussed as a potential replacement for Abbas despite his currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison following his conviction for his part in multiple murders, said from the prison cell, “The winds of liberation are growing in the skies of Palestine” and “We call for a complete rally behind the option of comprehensive resistance” – the term “resistance” being the Palestinian euphemism for terror. Turning to the PA security forces, Barghouti added that they should be “at the forefront” of what he referred to as the fight against “Israeli aggression” using “the weapons and training you possess.” Driving his point home, he added, “There is no excuse for anyone not to participate in a chapter of the liberation battle.”

Marwan Barghouti, file photo (Flash90)

Only a Palestinian Authority capable of recognizing simple morality and rejecting violence, and indeed, the massacre of Jews is worthy of consideration. Accordingly, the first prerequisite for the “revitalized” PA is an unequivocal condemnation of the October 7 massacre, condemnation of Hamas as a terror organization and opposing the option of allowing Hamas to take part in the future Palestinian leadership.

Step 2. Abolish the PA/PLO’s ‘Pay-for-Slay’ policy

The PA’s terror incentivizing and rewarding “Pay-for-Slay” policy represents the antithesis of the fundamental commitments made by the Palestinians. Entrenched in PA law (PA Law No. 19 (2004) Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners and its implementing regulations), which defines the terrorists as the “fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society,” the policy mandates the payments of substantial financial salaries to terrorists.

The payments are made to all Palestinian terrorists, including mass murderers, participants in the October 7 massacre, and other members of internationally designated terror organizations. As part of the policy, every year, the PA pays over $300 million to imprisoned terrorists, wounded terrorists, the families of dead terrorists, and released terrorists, who, according to the law and regulations, are even entitled to guaranteed employment in the PA. The policy, which the U.S. Taylor Force Act accurately describes as an “incentive to commit acts of terror,” is universally rejected.

Since incentivizing and rewarding terror and the murder of Jews is unacceptable, a second prerequisite for the “revitalized” PA is the abolition of the abhorrent policy, including the canceling of all laws, decrees, regulations, or documents authorizing or implementing the policy, and an immediate halt to all the terror incentivizing and rewarding payments to all the different categories of terrorists and their families.

Step 3. Recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people

Despite paying lip service to the de facto existence of Israel as a state, the Palestinians have never accepted Israel’s right to exist as the state of the Jewish people. The Palestinian Authority rejects the very existence of a Jewish people, referring to Judaism merely as a religion, undeserving of a national homeland. Jews, according to PA teachings, are descendants of “apes and pigs” and are responsible for the ills of the world and have no sovereign history in the land of Israel/Palestine.

Only once the PA has explicitly recognized the Jews as a people, entitled to a state in their ancestral homeland, will it ever be possible to consider a future role for the PA.

Step 4. Cease all incitement to murder and glorification of terror

Another one of the few fundamental commitments accepted by the Palestinians as part of the Oslo process was the need to combat incitement. Violating this commitment for the last 30 years, the PA has actively engaged its education system, media, and culture in hate indoctrination and inciting terror and has permitted and condoned the incitement of others. Incitement to murder and the glorification of terrorists who heeded the calls to violence have been a daily phenomenon. Generations of Palestinians have grown up and been educated to hate Jews, to seek the destruction of Israel, and to see murderous terrorists as central role models. These practices have directly led to the murder of thousands of Jews, provided the sociological and psychological basis for the commission of the October 7 massacre, and have also resulted in the death of thousands of Palestinians killed in terror attacks and anti-terror operations.

For the PA to continue playing any role, let alone a future role, in the rehabilitation of Gaza, it must immediately cease all incitement to terror and murder of Jews and refrain entirely from terror glorification.

Step 5. Immediately halt all PA attacks on Israel in international forums

While the Oslo process never mentioned or envisaged the creation of a Palestinian State, over the last 30 years, the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the accords’ signee, have done their utmost to force the creation of the “State of Palestine” on Israel and the entire international community. After applying much political pressure in 2011, the PA/PLO pushed for the acceptance of the non-existent “State of Palestine” as a UN non-member observer state. The PLO/ PA then used that recognition to join scores of international forums. The PA/PLO is now exploiting those stages, most notably the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to conduct full-scale lawfare against Israel.

The attacks, based on invented facts and outright libels, seek to delegitimize Israel and turn it into a pariah state.

While Israel made the initial mistake of not understanding the true intentions of the PLO, it should never again accept these flagrant breaches of the accords. In order to consider any continued role of the “revitalized” PA, it must immediately halt its lawfare attack on Israel in all forums, including but not limited to the ICC and the ICJ.

Step 6. Actively fight terror

Another of the fundamental commitments undertaken by the Palestinians as part of the Oslo process was to actively combat terror. To fulfill this commitment, the PA was permitted to establish a strong security apparatus that benefitted from international funding and training. The PA never complied despite being provided with all the tools to meet this elementary commitment.

Instead of fighting terror, the PA invented the “revolving door” policy, which saw terrorists being only temporarily arrested and then quickly released. Many members of the PA security forces, who were meant to be fighting terror, were themselves actively involved in terrorism. Instead of combatting the terrorists, the PA demanded that internationally recognized terror organizations, such as Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and others be recognized as legitimate “Palestinian factions” and even be allowed to participate in the PA electoral process. The result was the victory of Hamas, the internationally designated terror organization that led the October 7 massacre, winning the last PA elections (held in 2006) and legitimately assuming power. While PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas later deposed the Hamas government in Judea and Samaria, in Gaza, Hamas reigned supreme. In a recent move, Abbas even agreed to the recruitment of released terrorists into the PA security forces as a means to conceal the full extent of the PA’s Pay-for-Slay policy.

The task of combatting the terrorists, who have been legitimized and whitewashed by the PA for the last 30 years, will certainly not be simple. To fight terror, a revitalized PA must be fully committed to intentions and bona fide actions, including effective prosecution and the imposition of custodial sentences.

Once these rudimentary prerequisites are fulfilled, an additional plan to revitalize the PA would deal with its deeply embedded corruption and turn it into an effective democracy with regular elections in which a fully functioning judicial system can be developed.

The lessons of October 7

In short, the PA must stop promoting a narrative of Jew hatred and an ongoing battle against the existence of a Jewish state before it may be considered fit to assume any position on the “Day after” in Gaza. The entire world, including Israel, the United States, and the EU, should learn the lessons of the October 7 massacre and no longer tolerate any Palestinian support for terror and hate indoctrination. Israel and the international community should, once and for all, abandon its regrettable willful blindness, adopted since the Oslo Agreements were first signed in 1993, that ignored Palestinian failure to carry out their obligations and commitments.

Only after these problems are solved can other significant weaknesses of the PA – such as massive corruption and violations of human rights – that currently render it unfit to serve a central role in post-Hamas Gaza be addressed.

Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch is the Director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former Director of the Military Prosecution for Judea and Samaria.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is the Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division.

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