Trump's Middle East adviser works for peace — Abbas must do the same
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Last week, the World Values Network hosted President Trump’s chief Middle East negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, in New York City for a small briefing on the region. Greenblatt had just returned from meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. As always, his insights were clear and direct. Most of all, Greenblatt is uniquely humble, which allows him to be an excellent and disarming listener.

Media reports indicate that Trump holds hope that a two-state solution is possible but has not made it an exclusive and unquestionable doctrine of American policy as did the Obama administration before him. He is, as the reports indicate, open to other solutions as well.

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The Trump administration’s hard line on Iran and commitment to holding Qatar accountable for their decades-long funding of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood sends a strong message that peace in the Middle East cannot be attained while terrorists earn big bucks. Last week, the media was reporting that President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Greenblatt were finally turning up the heat on President Abbas to cease all payments to terrorists.

 

Pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in accordance with Jewish values, which prize peace above all things. It was the Jews who taught the world about the primacy of peace and international brotherhood as the highest goal for mankind. While the Greeks were lionizing warlords like Leonidas and Alexander, Jewish prophets were teaching the world of a time where “no nation will lift up a sword against another nation, and never again will they learn the art of war.”

While the Romans were erecting arches and columns to military conquests and the ruthless emperors who led them, the Jews were yearning for a time when men would “beat their swords into plowshares.” It was the Book of Psalms that instructed man to “seek peace and pursue it,” and the Jewish sage Hillel who taught mankind to “love peace and pursue peace.” We cannot allow our message of peace to be co-opted by others, and we must be equally sure that we ourselves never part from it.

So we should applaud President Trump and Greenblatt’s dogged determination to bring peace. What is critical though, is that these efforts actually bring peace, and not more bloodshed, because sadly, almost every American peace effort in the past few decades has only led to an often-drastic uptick in violence. And it’s easy to understand why.

For peace to be achieved, it is an absolute requirement that both sides actually seek it. Israel has proven time and again its deep-seated will for peace. It was the Zionist leaders who sought to find a peaceful settlement of the Jewish state through the United Nations. After conquering the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights in a defensive war of annihilation waged against them by five Arab states, Israel reached out to its allies in Washington to find a way to negotiate a lasting peace through the forfeiture of newly acquired territories.

And from there, Israel would commit to a self-defeating policy of relinquishing land in the hope of realizing the era of peace its prophets had called for. In 1979, Israel actually did give Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace. In 2000, Israel retreated from its security zone in Southern Lebanon, thereby inviting further Hezbollah rocket attacks into its northern cities. In 1994, Israel gave the Palestinians control over all major Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria. In 1998, they gave away the most ancient Jewish city of Hebron, in the Wye River Accords. In 2005, Israel let go of Gaza.

Every single time Israel gave away more land, it did so in the name of peace. Sadly, though, Israel’s overtures of peace were answered consistently with yet more violence.

Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza led to a Hamas-takeover of the strip and a staggering three wars in 10 years, three additional Israeli operations in response to Gaza-based attacks, and tens of thousands of rockets being indiscriminately launched from Gaza toward Israeli civilian centers. Israel became, as a direct result, a state where almost every home is equipped with a bomb shelter.

The Oslo accords, too, were followed by a string of suicide bombings beginning in 1995 that left more Israeli civilians dead in the five years following the agreement than in the 15 years preceding it. Within two years of the Wye River agreement in September 2000, the second intifada would explode, leaving nearly 1,000 Israel civilians dead in its wake. The withdrawal from southern Lebanon led directly to Hezbollah’s mobilization of the abandoned territory — a military buildup that brought about Israel’s largest war in 30 years: the Second Lebanon war of 2006.

While Israel hasn’t been at war with Egypt since the return of the Sinai, it’s worth noting that it is the Sinai territory that serves as the main supply line of weapons to the genocidal Hamas terrorists in Gaza — a line which was left wide open by the Hamas-supporting Egyptian government under Mohamed Morsi. Today, the peninsula is teaming with bands of ISIS terrorists who pose a serious rocket-threat to Israel’s critical seaport and vacation destination of Eilat.

So if the past is any indicator, if you combine one side that wants peace with another that wants destruction, you’ll probably get more violence. This would unfortunately seem to be the case with Israel’s newest “partner in peace” — Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority under Abbas celebrates terror and lionizes those who perpetrate it. There was no secret made of the heroic homecoming offered by President Abbas to free Palestinian terrorists in 2013, in which he triumphantly held up the hands of cold-blooded killers such as Abu-Musa Atia, who axed a 67-year-old survivor of the Sobibor death camp to death as he walked through a construction site. As for those terrorists who never made it home, they have streets, schools, parks and competitions endowed with their names.

Dalal Mughrabi was just 19 years old when she led the most barbaric and deadly terrorist attack in modern Israeli history. Known as the Coastal Road massacre of 1978, 38 Israelis, among them 13 children — seven of whom were under the age of six — were murdered. Her reception in Palestinian government and society for such gruesome acts was purely applause and veneration.

Two girls high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship, two summer camps, and a public square have since been named after her. As it turned out, the U.S. Agency for International Development directly funded one of those schools in Hebron.

Even worse, Abbas does not only celebrate terror, but he actually funds it, and with American taxpayer dollars. Far from being hidden, the Palestinian Authority gives stipends to convicted terrorists as part of mandatory Palestinian law. Just last year, Mahmoud Abbas re-signed this “pay-for-slay” policy into Palestinian law.

The law, moreover, dictates that that the deadlier an attack, the richer the reward. The monthly income received by imprisoned terrorists and their families is directly proportional to the length of the prison sentences that they receive in Israeli courts — or in other words, the number of people they manage to maim and kill.

There are currently two Palestinian government bodies, each with special office space and hundreds of civil servants, dedicated to dispersing funds to terrorists and their families. In the last year, these funds amounted to $315 million, or 8 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s total budget, to this twisted system of terrorist welfare.

To put it simply, if you blow up children, disembowel pregnant women, and stab Jews (or American tourists) to death, you are legally entitled to an official Palestinian government stipend for the rest of your life. And even if you don’t survive your own attack, your family will thank you. They’ll get the money in your stead.

That this terrorist tenure is enshrined in Palestinian law would seem to argue against Abbas being a serious partner for peace. One simply cannot seek peace and reward the most cold-hearted perpetrators of the most savage violence.

While I stand firmly with Jason Greenblatt in his mission to bring about peace, I believe it begins with a firm insistence that any and all Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists cease forthwith.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, "America's Rabbi," whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his most recent “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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