Spare the Rod, Spoil The Peace

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Spare the Rod, Spoil the Peace Font Size:
By J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss: BIO | 28 Apr 2006
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The Bush administration announced earlier this month that the United States was ending direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), now that the terrorist group Hamas is installed at its helm.

According to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, “Because the new Hamas-led Palestinian government has failed to accept the Quartet principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and respect for previous agreements between the parties, the United States is suspending assistance to the Palestinian government’s cabinet and ministries.”

Despite the fact that McCormack simultaneously announced that the U.S would actually increase aid to the Palestinians via United Nations and other agencies by 57 percent, howls of anguish and rage were not slow in coming from the PA and its friends. Taking talking points from a February 20 Washington Post op-ed by former President Carter, PA officials argued that the suspension of aid would bankrupt the government and equated this to punishing “innocent people” for engaging in a democratic process. PA President Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) complained that the Palestinians “should not be punished for their democratic choice.” Calling Washington’s and the European Commission’s cut-off of aid “blackmail,” PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniya complained that the West’s move “will increase the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Unfortunately, Washington and its partners appear to be at least partially seduced by this faulty logic, as they are upping the ante for so-called “humanitarian” agencies (including the notorious corrupt and anti-Semitic UN Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA), profiled in “Humanitarians for Hamas “).

One can appreciate the administration’s dilemma: having made “democracy” the cornerstone of its Middle East policy, it was caught off-guard when Palestinians used their franchise to bring Hamas to power. Since then, apologists have argued that voters did not support Hamas because of its commitment to destroy Israel, but as an alternative to Yasir Arafat’s corrupt Fatah. Alas, this explanation is as delusional as the Hamas Covenant. Numerous liberal-minded candidates ran and were roundly rejected by the Palestinian electorate. For example, the reformist Third Way movement, led by Salam Fayad (a well-respected former PA finance minister and World Bank official) and Hanan Ashrawi (a former PA spokeswoman and well-known human rights advocate) came in sixth in the popular vote, eking out enough votes to secure 2 seats in the legislature. By contrast, Hamas won 74 of the 132 seats. Even the fringe “Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa List” of the ultra-violent Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine won 3 seats.

Prime Minister Haniya has said, “the world should respect the choice of the Palestinian people.” We fully agree. That’s why we advocate going further than the U.S. government and the European Union have. We should cut off both direct assistance to the terrorist-led PA, and any indirect assistance that would make life “normal” under Hamas. Yes, this might harm Palestinian civilians. Had Hamas seized power through illegitimate violence, it would be ethically complicated whether harsh sanctions are appropriate. But these terrorists came to power through the “choice of the Palestinian people.” The world would best show its respect for that sovereign choice by demonstrating that free choices have consequences.

Israel’s decision to boycott the Hamas -led PA government was termed a “declaration of war” by Hamas itself. But of course just the opposite is true: it is Hamas’s election that constitutes a declaration of (continued) war against Israel — witness the sickening justifications delivered by PA government spokesmen for ongoing “martyrdom” operations against innocent Israeli civilians like the recent attack on a Tel Aviv sandwich stand, as well as the less-than-wholehearted “condemnation by PA President Abbas.

An entrenched Hamas regime runs counter to the precondition for success in our project of transforming the region, i.e., the renunciation of violence followed by the adoption of democratic processes. Ever-increasing sanctions might anger the Palestinian populace, but would also lead them to see that their vicious choice was a costly one. Maybe upon reflection they will realize that a terrorist leadership, rather than bringing them any closer to their dream of a viable state, will turn back the clock. Only when both the voters and leaders are willing to face the reality that any Palestinian state must recognize and live in peace alongside Israel can peace be possible.

Legally and morally, neither the U.S. nor Europe owes the Palestinians any assistance — much less hundreds of millions of dollars worth on a continuing basis. There are plenty of needy causes to which to devote the scarce humanitarian resources of our overburden governments: Darfurians subject to genocidal campaign by an Islamist government, Congolese trying to recover from “Africa’s World War,” Tibetans sitting in exile in India, etc. The only justification for our governments’ paying good money to the PA is our national interest in a stable Middle East — and we are hardly getting our money’s worth if the dividend is a casus belli against Israel.

At the moment, the Palestinians see no incentive to modify their hard line positions. By sparing the rod, we spoil any prospects for peace over the long run.

Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are academic fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Spare the Rod, Spoil The Peace

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