Sometimes terror doesn't have to pay. Reports last week that Fatah Prime Minister Salaam Fayad had paid the annual salaries of members of Hamas's army in Gaza caused US Congressman Eric Cantor to shoot off a livid letter to Fayad.
Cantor, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, had just returned from leading a Republican Congressional delegation to Israel and the Palestinian Authority where he met with Fayad in Ramallah. He wrote: "Without further explanation from you, I will feel compelled… to forewarn my colleagues in the Congress that any visits with your government offer little value toward bringing peace and security to Palestinians and Israelis. Furthermore, I will help lead opposition in Congress to any proposed call for additional US taxpayer dollars being sent to the Palestinian Authority."
Cantor has good reason as an American to be angry at Fayad. Hamas forces in Gaza, which are trained and commanded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, constitute a key member of the axis of global jihad against which the US is fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world. By strengthening Hamas, Fayad is not simply harming Israel. He is acting in a manner that strengthens the axis as a whole. And so he is harming US national security interests.
In defending his move, Fayad initially claimed that the payment was a regrettable error caused by a computer glitch. In his updated story, Fayad claimed that a Hamas agent in his Ministry of Finance was responsible for the move.
Fayad's excuses naturally raise the question: If Fatah opposes Hamas, why are all the names and bank account numbers of Hamas's soldiers conveniently located in Fatah's Ministry of Finance's computer files? Aside from that, it is hard to believe that Fayad objected to paying the jihad forces. Since Hamas took over Gaza in June, Fayad has regularly paid the salaries of Hamas legislators, civil servants in Hamas's government, and Hamas terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails.
Moreover, Fayad's assertions that Fatah opposes Hamas are hardly believable given that Fatah is engaged in intense negotiations with Hamas toward a reunification of their forces. Wednesday, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stated openly that he seeks to reconcile with Hamas. In his joint press briefing with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Abbas called for a "return to national unity." He said, "The split [between Judea and Samaria and Gaza which happened] as a result of Hamas's coup is temporary and will be removed."
The fact that Fatah is itself a jihadist terror group also helps explain why it has no problem paying the salaries of Hamas's terror army. The inconvenient truth of Fatah's commitment to terror was brought home this week with the indictment of Fatah legislator and deputy commander of its General Intelligence militia Jamal Tirawi. Tirawi is accused of dispatching the suicide bomber who blew up at the Coffee Shop cafe in Tel Aviv in March 2002. He is also accused of training and commanding other terrorists who carried out suicide and shooting attacks against Israelis.
Tirawi's indictment was further evidence that Fatah undermines US interests. As Aaron Klein reported Wednesday in World News Daily, as deputy commander of Fatah's General Intelligence militia, Tirawi held extensive contacts with US Security Coordinator Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton and received US weapons.
But of course America is not Fatah's primary victim.
IDF forces, which engaged Hamas's army in southern Gaza this week, reported that Hamas today is a much more formidable foe than it ever was before: It fights much like Hizbullah, it has advanced arms and equipment and is organized in disciplined units.
Since Fayad paid these forces with funds that Israel transferred to him, it could have been expected that the Olmert government would be joining Cantor in condemning him. But, in yet another sign of the government's strategic dementia, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni rushed to Fayad's defense.
Speaking to a visiting delegation of Democratic congressmen, Olmert and Livni insisted that Fayad was telling the truth when he said that his payments to Hamas's army were the result of a computer glitch. As Representative Steny Hoyer told The Jerusalem Post, Olmert, Livni and the US consul general in Jerusalem, Jacob Walles, all "said they believed that this was a clerical, bureaucratic mistake, not a conscious effort to help Hamas.
"In light of the fact that Israel's foreign minister, Israel's prime minister and our consul general all agreed on that fact, Mr. Fayad's representations had more credibility with us when we brought it up with him," Hoyer concluded.
ON THE most basic level, it is deeply disturbing that Olmert and Livni are acting as Fatah's public relations team. But beyond that, their insistent support for Fatah demonstrates that they fail to understand or reconcile themselves to three basic facts.
First, Livni and Olmert show that they are incapable of accepting that Fatah is Israel's enemy. Their commitment to appeasing Fatah and establishing a Palestinian state is so strong, that they cling to it even when Fatah's inherent hostility is staring them in the face.
Second, they fail to understand the potential impact of Cantor's letter on US policy toward the Palestinians. In defending Fayad against Cantor's rebuke, Livni and Olmert made clear that for them, there ought not, and indeed, cannot be a US policy toward the Palestinians other than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's policy of pressuring Israel to give land, money, statehood and guns to the Fatah terror organization.
Finally, by supporting Rice's policy of appeasing Palestinian terrorists, Olmert and Livni ignore the fact that both Israel and the US are treating the Palestinian jihad in a manner that completely contradicts the US's strategy for contending with the forces of jihad everywhere else in the world. In stark contrast to the administration's embrace of Fatah and Palestinian statehood, everywhere else in the world, the US works to defeat terrorists and deny them control of territory. The fact that the current US-Israeli policy toward Palestinian terrorists is antithetical to the Bush administration's overall strategy for fighting terror is reason enough to expect that many Americans might not believe that Rice's support for Fatah and Palestinian statehood advances US interests.
ALTHOUGH OLMERT and Livni refuse to see any of this, Rice herself openly acknowledges that hers is not the only possible view of the Palestinian jihad against Israel. Last month, in a conversation with members of Congress, Rice explained that she feels compelled to devote her energies to creating a Palestinian state quickly because she cannot trust that the next administration will see the situation as she does.
The strongest voices calling for the US to apply the same policies toward the Palestinians that it applies to terror forces throughout the world are heard in President George W. Bush's own Republican Party. Former New York mayor and Republican presidential frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani has been the strongest Republican voice calling for change.
In an article published this week in Foreign Affairs, Giuliani supported Bush's view that the aim of the US war is to destroy both the global terrorist movement and its radical Islamic-fascist ideology. But Giuliani expressed deep misgivings regarding Bush's actual policies, which he believes have been inconsistent and insufficiently strong.
Giuliani makes his call for consistency most clearly in his discussion of the Palestinians and Israel. In his words: "Too much emphasis has been place
d on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians – negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism."
He added, "America's commitment to Israel's security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy."
By so couching his argument, Giuliani made clear that, from his perspective, there is no difference between the jihad against Israel and the jihad throughout the world. As a result, in his view, the US should align its policy toward the Palestinians with its policy against jihad everywhere in the world.
While Giuliani has been the most candid in his critique of Bush's policy toward the Palestinians, his views are not out of sync with the general tenor of the Republican presidential debate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Fred Thompson have similarly made clear that they believe the US must be more forthright and consistent in fighting the war.
THE REPUBLICAN debate should be signaling two things to Israel. First, it shows that there is a reasonable chance that in January 2009 Israel will be greeted by a US administration that does not share the Olmert government's enthusiasm for appeasing Palestinian terrorists.
Second it indicates that as the 2008 elections draw nearer, the Republican candidates may force Bush to dampen his support for Fatah. Rice may not be able to force her way to the finish line.
Here in Israel, after Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu's stunning victory in the Likud leadership primaries Tuesday, we are also moving into pre-election mode. Israeli voters will expect Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader, and Netanyahu to present their visions of where Israel should be going.
Since Barak owes his primary victory to Labor's Arab voters, no one expects him to give up on his commitment to Palestinian statehood. But Netanyahu is a different story. It would make perfect sense for the Likud to base its electoral platform on recognizing that Fatah is Israel's enemy, and by rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state. And Netanyahu is better qualified than any politician to convince Israeli voters to support such a reality-based platform.
In addressing Iran's nuclear weapons program, Netanyahu recognized that there is a strong coalition in the US that is eager to act more forcefully to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons than either the Olmert government or the Bush administration. Netanyahu wisely supported these forces and helped them to pressure the administration to intensify its efforts to stop the Iranians. One consequence of that pressure was the administration's decision this week to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
As Cantor's letter and Giuliani's article make clear, there also is a strong coalition in the US that is willing to recognize that Fatah is a member of the enemy camp and to accept that a terror-supporting Palestinian state would harm US national security interests. Yet, as Steny Hoyer made clear, only Israelis can stand at the helm of such a coalition. Israelis and Americans alike must hope that Netanyahu will embrace his duty to lead that coalition.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.