Bennett Builds a Terror State

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Standing at the speaker’s rostrum at the Knesset last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared, “There are no negotiations taking place towards the establishment of a terror state in the heart of Israel.”

Bennett was compelled to make his declaration because the political opposition insists that the opposite is the case. Bennett’s former political partner, MK Bezalel Smotrich gathered the requisite forty signatures to compel Bennett to appear before the Knesset last week and answer questions. Smotrich and his fellow members of the opposition believe that Bennett’s far-left dominated government is moving swiftly to establish a Palestinian terror state in the heart of Israel.

Events this week indicated that despite Bennett’s denials, the opposition is right.

In Oslo, Norway on Wednesday, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee convened for its semi-annual conference. The AHLC is a consortium of donor governments that support the Palestinian Authority. It was founded in 1993, immediately after the Israeli-PLO peace process was formally inaugurated on the White House Lawn. The peace process was dubbed the Oslo process because the secret talks that led to the official peace process were initiated in Oslo.

The AHLC serves a double purpose. Donor governments raise funds to finance and maintain governing mechanisms and institutions in the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority. Those institutions and mechanisms are supposed to serve as the foundation of a future Palestinian state. The donor countries also fund projects geared towards developing the Palestinian economy.

Since 1993, through the AHLC and other international donor mechanisms, the Palestinians have received more foreign aid per capita than any nation has received in history. Despite this, the PA never formed a functioning economy. Yassir Arafat, his successor Mahmoud Abbas and their cronies opted instead to use the funds to form a terror sponsoring kleptocracy.

As more and more donor nations realized they were being had, AHLC funding of the PA plummeted by some 80 percent over the past decade. Whereas, in 2011, donor nations gave the PA $1.3 billion, in 2020, the sum had dropped to $500 million. This year, the PA is only expected to raise $184 million.

Most European aid to the PA has been frozen. Investigations of the use of those funds showed that forty percent of donor funds to the PA did not reach their recipients. They also showed direct links between EU funds and Palestinian terrorism.

Aside from Qatar, which funds Hamas in Gaza, Arab states have largely stopped bankrolling the PA. In retaliation for Palestinian condemnation of the Abraham Accords, last year Arab states ended all assistance to the PA. Although it was reinstated this year, the amounts being transferred are a fraction of what they gave in the past. In 2019, Arab donor governments gave the PA $265 million. This year, funding of the PA stood at $32 million.

The Trump administration ended U.S. funding for the PA in 2018 following Congress’s passage of the Taylor Force Act. Named for Taylor Force, a U.S. army veteran of the Iraq War who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist during a university trip to Israel in 2015, the Taylor Force Act bars the U.S. from funding the PA so long as it pays salaries to convicted terrorists jailed in Israeli prisons and to families of dead Palestinian terrorists.

The Europeans and Americans didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to stop funding the terror sponsoring, corrupt PA. Their decisions were the product of a decade of painstaking work by the Netanyahu governments to persuade them that money for the PA was money ill-spent.

For the past generation, the Israeli Left has insisted that it is possible to support the PLO and oppose Palestinian terrorism at the same time. This contention was the main rationale for the Oslo process. But as the massive increase in Palestinian terrorism since the establishment of the PA in 1994 proved incontrovertibly, the opposite is the case.

If you want to prevent Palestinian terrorism, you mustn’t give the PLO money, or arms or legitimacy. The PLO is the architect of Palestinian terrorism specifically and of modern terrorism more generally. And it is one leopard that has never and will never change its spots.

By the same token, if you want to prevent the establishment of a terror state in the heart of Israel, you cannot fund the PLO-controlled PA. All the funds that aren’t stolen by PA leaders are spent developing the military, political and economic foundations of a Palestinian terror state in the heart of Israel.

During Benjamin Netanyahu’s long tenure as premier, supported by Israeli NGOs, the government devoted great efforts to persuading the U.S. Congress, and the Obama and Trump administrations that the U.S. should end its financial support of the PA. They did the same thing with European governments and parliaments. Their relentless work made it impossible for the Americans and the Europeans to shut their eyes to the PA’s massive embezzlement of funds and diversion of billions of dollars to finance and incentivize terrorism.

But today, Bennett is using his declaration that no negotiations are being carried to hide the fact that the actions he and his ministers are taking have the same effect as negotiations. They are dismantling everything the Netanyahu governments achieved. Netanyahu’s moves to prevent the PA from having the financial wherewithal to wage a terror campaign are being undone. His efforts to deny the Palestinians the geographical and political means to establish a terror state in the heart of Israel are also being reversed.

Israel’s delegation to the AHLC in Oslo is headed by Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Freij. Freij arrived in Oslo several days before the conference opened to join PA Prime Minister Mohammed Ashtayeh in lobbying the Europeans, Arabs and Americans to give more money to the PA. Freij and Ashtayeh are asking donors to make multi-year commitments that will provide the PA with a billion dollars a year.

Freij isn’t the only Israeli cabinet minister fundraising for the PA. Defense Minister Benny Gantz is also in on the action. Haaretz reported this week that Gantz dispatched his senior advisor Zohar Palti to Washington to ask the Biden administration to pressure European and Arab governments to increase their contributions to the PA and to fund major projects geared towards expanding the Palestinian economy.

These efforts by Bennett’s ministers aren’t simply financing the terror-sponsoring PA. They are demolishing Israel’s future ability to combat international funding of Palestinian terrorists.

Led by anti-Israel Congressman Andy Levin, a group of Congress members are currently pushing a bill that calls for the U.S. to disregard the Taylor Force Act and reopen the PLO representative office in Washington and reinstate funding for the PA. Both moves are prohibited under the law because the PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists and pensions to the families of dead terrorists. How can Israel, which is lobbying governments worldwide to fund the terror-financing PA object to their devasting bill?

Fundraising for the PA isn’t the only way the Bennett government is facilitating Palestinian terror. The government’s approval of thousands of Palestinian construction pemits in Area C, along with its refusal to destroy thousands of illegal Palestinian structures in Area C is a strategic gift to Palestinian terrorists. Area C is where all of the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are located.

The purpose of massive Palestinian construction in the area isn’t to alleviate overcrowding in PA-controlled Areas A and B. Those areas are not overcrowded. The purpose of Palestinian construction in Area C is to transform all Israeli communities from relatively safe, flourishing villages, towns and cities into isolated enclaves vulnerable to terror assaults like never before. Palestinian domination of Area C will also turn Israeli cities like Jerusalem and Kfar Saba into border towns, much like the bombarded towns and villages bordering Gaza.

Freij and Gantz’s fundraising partner Ashtayeh is generally presented to Westerners as a moderate technocrat because of his university-educated English. But Ashtayeh’s positions are just as fanatically anti-Semitic and bellicose as any garden variety jihadist. In a speech to delegates at the PA’s ruling Fatah faction’s annual conference in July, Shtayeh argued that the Jews have no ties to the land of Israel or the biblical nation of Israel. Contemporary Jews, he said, are descendants of the sixth century Russian Khazars.

At the climate change conference in Glasgow earlier this month, Ashtayeh adapted the age-old “Jews poisoning the wells” blood libel to his contemporary context. Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, he said, are polluting the natural resources of “Palestine.”

 In what he though was an off-record briefing for Israeli Arab journalists in late September,  Ashtayeh said that if Israel doesn’t bow to all of the PLO’s territorial and political demands, then the PA will join forces with Israel’s Arab minority, form a unified leadership and wage a war to destroy the Jewish state.

This brings us to Shtayeh’s boss, PA Chairman and PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas. In September Abbas gave Israel an ultimatum at the UN General Assembly. He said that Israel has a year to surrender Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. If it fails to do so, the PLO will renounce its recognition of Israel’s right to exist. In other words, he told Israel that if it fails to surrender, the PA will renew its terror war against the Jewish state.

The Bennett government’s reversal of Netanyahu’s policies was supposed to usher in a new era of friendship between Israel and the Democrats and post-nationalist Western Europeans. But the opposite has happened. While Biden is happy to ignore the Taylor Force Act and finance the PA, his administration grows more hostile to Israel by the day. 

Last week the U.S. abstained in a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution endorsing the so-called “right of return,” of Palestinian “refugees.” As the Biden administration understands well, the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” or unfettered immigration of millions of foreign- born Arabs to Israel and the PA, is a demand for Israel’s destruction. If the Jewish state is flooded with millions of Arab immigrants, it will be undone.

So, while Israel’s government is running around the world raising money for the establishment of a Palestinian terror state, Washington no longer can say whether it supports Israel’s existence.

When seen in the context of his government’s actual policies, it is clear that Bennett’s statement at the Knesset was a head fake. You don’t need to negotiate the establishment of a terror state in the heart of Israel. You can simply raise the money to establish one, give its leaders control of the territory they will need to attack Israel, and convince the international community that Israel wants them to fund Palestinian terrorism. This is what Bennett is doing.

It took the Netanyahu governments ten years to repair the damage the catastrophic Oslo process caused Israel. It will take many more years to repair the damage the Bennett government is causing the country today.

Originally published in Israel Hayom.

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