Deputy assistant secretary of state Hady Amr, Biden administration envoy to Israel and the Palestinians, went on a mission to help Palestinians. He asked Israel to take steps to alleviate “Palestinian suffering” and help the Palestinian economy. What he really meant was to help Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority strongman. The Biden administration sees Abbas as a partner in some future “peace process.” Amr told Israeli officials, “I have never seen the Palestinian Authority in a worse situation,” comparing it to “a dry forest waiting to catch on fire,” as reported by The Times of Israel. Amr proposed several unspecified measures the Israeli government could take to help the Palestinian economy and strengthen Ramallah’s standing.
In addition, Israel’s Haaretz reported, “Amr also sought collaboration to bring humanitarian relief to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which is still reeling from the aftermath of the latest round of fighting with Israel in May.”
The government of Israel will make whatever decision it chooses to make on this, but as the U.S. government is heavily invested, it is appropriate to ask some questions.
Why should Israel help Hamas-controlled Gaza? Presumably, because Israel has more resources. Then ask the question the other way: why might it decline to help? Perhaps because the entire Palestinian political, economic, and social mess is the result of deliberate policies of the governments of the West Bank (Palestinian Authority) and Gaza (Hamas) to impoverish their own people and kill Israelis.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem said Amr’s visit “was guided by the objective of the United States to advance equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike in ways that are tangible and achievable in the near term and beyond.” He discussed “issues ranging from human rights and the rule of law, economic development, energy, water and regional cooperation.” Israel doesn’t need Amr to achieve those goals for citizens of the state of Israel, so this was directed at changing governance in Palestinian territories.
Why should Israel help? Presumably, because Israel has more resources. Why might it decline to help? Possibly because despite billions in aid and mountains of promises, neither Hamas nor Fatah acts to construct an open, economically successful society because both are fundamentally corrupt and totalitarian — not to mention terrorist and terrorist-supporting. Outside economic and social support (whether Israeli, European, or American) allows both Hamas and Fatah to pursue their ultimate goal of eliminating Israel.
Add to this the fact that the “latest round of fighting” did not, contrary to Haaretz, “break out” like a thunderstorm. It was ginned, fanned, planned, and executed by both Hamas and Fatah. The Washington Post claims that the war began on May 10, but the paper is late. Beginning on April 2, Fatah engaged in a media campaign to incite violence against Israelis, calling for riots, stabbings, and general mayhem — which ensued. At the end of April, Hamas began firing rockets into Israel from Gaza. In May, Hamas fired ever greater numbers of rounds into Israel (4,300 in all, about 10% of which landed inside Gaza). May 10 is just the date Israel began to fire back. Eleven days later, there was a ceasefire, largely brokered by Egypt.
In the weeks since then, Hamas has been victory-dancing in Gaza.
Fatah has found itself in yet another political crisis brought on by its own malfeasance. Palestinian people demonstrating over canceled elections, general repression, and lack of COVID treatment (particularly after the P.A. declined 700,000 vaccine doses that were eagerly taken by South Korea) have been severely attacked by Palestinian Authority police. The death of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat while in P.A. custody increased the size and scope of demonstrations. The level of police violence against unarmed protesters actually drew expressions of concern from the U.N. high commissioner for human rights and the U.S. State Department.
In addition, P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas poked his middle finger up at Israel and the United States. He announced that the P.A. will continue its policy of paying stipends to those who commit acts of terror against Israelis without respect to Israeli or American laws that forbid either to pay into the P.A. while “pay for slay” continues. He defended the P.A. policy to a group of American congresspeople as a form of welfare for their families. The delegation’s response was to ask whether the P.A. offers similar stipends to families after a parent dies of cancer. Good question.
The Palestinian people are in a wretched situation brought on by a) their own leadership in both Hamas and Fatah and b) the perpetual call by the United States for Israel to do something about it.
Amr insists, but that U.S. policy will not be to twist arms, and “the sides will be expected to take their own initiative.” Unfortunately, it appears that U.S. policy also will not honestly assess the culpability of Palestinian leadership or find a way to navigate other than looking for more money to throw down the rathole.