In congressional testimony Wednesday, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies provided the intrepid Washington press corps what should be an important scoop: that one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, the Palestinian Authority, is helping the Hamas terror organization raise money.
Despite a bitter feud with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, "the PA has secretly allowed the jihadist group to raise funds through an electricity scam," Schanzer told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Electricity in Gaza is produced by a power plant guaranteed by Mahmoud Abbas' Ramallah-based PA, but Hamas is responsible for collecting the money.
Hamas is supposed to forward the funds to the PA, but isn't doing so.
"In other words, Abbas allows Hamas to raise funds by billing Gazans for electricity that they don't generate," Schanzer testified. "And because the PA is funded by U.S. taxpayer money, we are all enabling Hamas to raise these funds. It is a violation of U.S. law, and it must be addressed immediately."
Given that Abbas' Palestinian Authority receives upwards of $500 million a year from U.S. taxpayers (and the intense media coverage being given to Abbas' demand that the United Nations recognize an independent Palestinian state when it convenes next week) one might expect some interest in the question of whether he is aiding a terrorist group.
But thus far, the media has missed the story. The Washington Post briefly touched on the subject in a blog, but judging from a list of stories compiled by Google News, the issue has been otherwise ignored by the rest of the print and broadcast media.
While ignoring the Abbas story, on Thursday, the New York Times published some Arab and Israeli responses to this question: Can Israel Survive Without a Palestine?
The consensus of the respondents, among them Arabists like Rashid Khalidi, Shibley Telhami, and Rami Khouri and Israelis like journalist Ronen Bergman and public opinion researcher Dahlia Scheindlin seemed to be that Israel had no choice but to accept Palestinian statehood that does not come via negotiation – regardless of the Palestinians' behavior. There is no call for the PA to stop broadcasting anti-Semitic programming, or rescind honors it bestows upon terrorists.
Rather, the sharpest rhetoric directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies came from the Israelis. For example, Bergman suggested that Netanyahu wasn't serious about achieving a lasting peace with the Palestinians and wrote that continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank could jeopardize the Jewish state's international "legitimacy." Scheindlin depicted creation of a Palestinian state as a "liberal democratic" triumph over "Israel's security obsession" and likened Netanyahu's approach to the Palestinians to the behavior of Serbia's nationalist government after the fall of strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Shalem Center Fellow Daniel Gordis does note that Abbas refers to 63 years of Israeli occupation – referring not to the post-1967 borders, but to Israel's very creation. "If the U.N. votes to recognize Palestinian statehood in light of this attitude," Gordis writes, "it will simply be tightening the noose further."