Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.
Israel signed a series of accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on the assumption that the latter had sincerely transformed itself from a terrorist organization into a political force; and that it sought to live in peace with Israel. The PLO's record of compliance with the commitments it made in those accords, it was agreed, would show the sincerity of this promise.
The PLO's record during the two years since the first accords were signed shows, unfortunately, that it has consistently violated its commitments. This is significant, because as Senators Joseph Lieberman (Democrat of Connecticut) and Connie Mack (Republican of Florida) hold, "So long as the PLO and [Yasir] Arafat are not held to commitments they have made, there will be no peace."1 For this reason, the U.S. government must pressure the PLO for compliance with its own promises before the PLO takes control of more territory, because the more territorial gains it makes, the less incentive it will have to abide by the accords.
ARAFAT HAS NOT KEPT HIS WORD
As part of the Israel-PLO peace accords of September 1993, the PLO undertook a number of commitments: to "discipline" any PLO "elements and personnel" that continue to engage in terrorism; to "call upon the people in the West Bank and Gaza" to "reject violence and terrorism"; and to take steps to change the PLO Covenant, which calls for Israel's destruction. Later, in the Gaza-Jericho self-rule accords signed in Cairo in May 1994, the PLO assumed additional obligations, including "taking all measures necessary" to prevent anti-Israel terrorism; extraditing fugitive terrorists to Israel; and ceasing all anti-Israel propaganda.
A look at that record shows a dismal record of compliance. The PLO is violating virtually every aspect of its accords with Israel. Problems include:
Failure to accept Israel's permanent existence. Arafat has repeatedly assured Arab audiences that his agreements with Israel are part of the PLO's "Strategy of Phases" plan adopted in 1974, according to which the PLO seeks to destroy Israel step by step: first by taking control of the administered territories, then by conquering the rest of Israel. On the very day that he signed the original Israel-PLO accords at the White House, September 13, 1993, Arafat appeared on Jordanian television (which is broadcast to homes throughout the territories) and explained the accords as a phase in the implementation of the 1974 plan.2 Again, on the eve of signing the Oslo II (or Taba) accords, in September 1995, Arafat assured readers of the Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustur that it was all part of the PLO's 1974 strategy.3
Failure to take "all measures necessary" against terrorism. The PLO has not disarmed terrorists; nor has it shut down terrorist training camps. (Hamas members captured by Israel in June 1995 revealed that training facilities in Gaza are still functioning.)4 It has taken no steps to outlaw Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or similar groups;5 quite the contrary, the PLO's governing agency in the territories, the Palestinian Authority (PA), initiated negotiations to implement a "reconciliation" with Hamas.6
Failure to "discipline" terrorists. The peace accords require Arafat to "discipline" -- that is, punish -- any PLO members or factions, such as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who violate the pledge to halt terrorism. There are a variety of punitive measures Arafat could take. For example, he could expel the DFLP and the PFLP from the PLO altogether; he could outlaw them; or he could order his police to disarm all DFLP and PFLP members. But he has taken none of these steps.
(Ironically, the anti-terrorism directive President Clinton signed on January 24, 1995, prohibits Americans from contributing to terrorist groups, specifically including the DFLP and PFLP; yet, the Clinton administration is sending funds to the PLO, even though it includes these two organizations in its ranks.)
Failure to change the PLO Covenant. The accords obligate Arafat to take steps to change the PLO Covenant, since thirty of its thirty-three clauses conflict with the accords by directly or indirectly rejecting Israel's existence, or by directly or indirectly urging violence against Israel. Arafat has taken no steps in this direction. Quite the contrary, he reportedly sent a message to PLO delegations in Arab countries to assure them, "I will never give my hand to the annulment of one paragraph of the Palestinian National Covenant."7 Days later, Arafat's Fatah organization unilaterally decided that the Covenant would not be changed until Israel recognized the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.8
Failure to "reject terrorism and violence." Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin insisted on Arafat's having to call on Arabs to "reject terrorism and violence" against Israelis as a way for Arafat to show both how he and the PLO had truly changed and to influence the views of Palestinian Arabs. Jews know how important it is to stop hate speech before it turns into violence. As Paul Johnson writes, "One of the principle lessons of Jewish history has been that repeated verbal slanders are sooner or later followed by violent physical deeds."9
Arafat has not lived up to his promise. Instead, he has made speech after speech inciting violence against Israel. He has urged Arab audiences to take part in a "jihad [holy war], via deaths" against Israel.10 He praised the intifada (Palestinian uprising) and said that it must "continue, continue, continue."11 On many occasions,12 he heaped praise on Abir Wahaydi and Dalal Magribi, two female Arab terrorists, calling them "heroes" and "stars." With regard to Magribi, a leader of the 1978 Tel Aviv Highway hijacking that led to the massacre of thirty-seven Israeli bus passengers, Arafat said: "She commanded the group that established the first Palestinian republic in [that] bus. This is a Palestinian woman . . . we are proud of."
President Clinton has said that Arafat promised "that he is not only renouncing violence, but he is going to condemn violence";13 and Congress declared in 1994 its expectation that U.S. aid will be linked to Arafat's "condemning individual acts of terrorism and violence."14 Yet, Arafat has so far denounced only three of the more than four hundred attacks that have taken place. In speeches to Arab audiences, he has never condemned the Hamas terrorist group by name. Indeed, he has done precisely the opposite. He has described the imprisoned Hamas leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as "brother Yassin" and called for his release from jail.15
Failure to extradite terrorists. The peace accords require the PLO and PA to honor requests by Israel for the extradition of terrorists who have taken refuge in the Gaza and Jericho self-rule areas. The Israelis have submitted requests for the extradition of fifteen terrorists.16 Yet, the PA has ignored every one of them.
Failure to postpone sovereignty issues. Issues concerning sovereignty over the administered territories are to be postponed until final-status negotiations between Israel and the PLO begin in May 1996. Contrary to this promise, the PLO uses stationary with the phrase "State of Palestine" and labels all of Israel as "Palestine." A map distributed by PLO official Faysal al-Husayni even labels major Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv and Haifa, as "Jewish settlements"; Jerusalem it calls the "capital of Palestine."17 Arafat refers to himself as "President of Palestine"18 and to Faruq Qaddumi as "Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine."
Failure to respect human rights. The PA must "adhere to internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights and the rule of law." Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B'Tselem (the Israeli human-rights group) have documented numerous cases of PA policemen's torturing Arab prisoners.19 The PA has also repeatedly shut down Arab publications that fail to toe the Arafat line.
Failure to exclude former terrorists as PA policemen. The accords exclude terrorists from the PA police force but that has not prevented a number of fugitive terrorists from being hired as PLO policemen, including Yassar Abu Samahadana, wanted by Israel for his role in the killing and wounding of fifteen Israelis in various incidents.20
CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT
Should the PLO receive $500 million in U.S. aid over five years, despite these many violations of its solemn promises? In early 1994, at the request of the Clinton administration, Congress passed the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act (MEPFA), which enabled U.S. funds to go to the PLO. At the same time, it made that funding conditional on the PLO's fulfilling its commitments in the peace accords.
But while Congress linked U.S. aid to PLO compliance, it also left a significant loophole in the MEPFA bill by giving the president the sole power to "certify" that the PLO is complying with the accords. President Clinton, in turn, has made this determination on the basis of biannual State Department reports, which have minimized, distorted, or ignored the many PLO violations.
Consider, for example, the most recent report, dated June 1, 1995.21 It praises the PLO for announcing that all privately held weapons in Gaza and Jericho must be turned in to the authorities by May 11, 199522 -- without noting that the police of the PA in Gaza and Jericho failed to confiscate weapons after that May 11 deadline.23 It mentions that the PLO "claims to have turned over 20 prisoners to the Israelis"24 -- without noting that those prisoners were wanted for ordinary crimes; and that no terrorist suspects have been turned over, contrary to promises. It makes much of the PA's prosecuting some Hamas and Islamic Jihad members25 -- without noting that not a single one of them was prosecuted for attacks on Israelis. It totally ignores some of the PLO's commitments, such as the promise to refrain from anti-Israel propaganda, to adhere to "internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights and the rules of law," and to refrain from taking steps involving sovereignty issues. U.S. congressman Benjamin Gilman (Republican of New York), chairman of the International Relations Committee, and Israel's respected Jerusalem Post both rightly criticized the State Department report as a "whitewash."26
That whitewash has not convinced the American public. A Luntz poll taken in May 1995 found that 78 percent of Americans oppose giving further aid to the PLO until it keeps its commitments.27 A second Luntz poll, taken in the same month, found that 62 percent of U.S. Jews distrust Arafat and 56 percent believe the Israel-PLO peace accords have failed.28 A survey of American Jews by the American Jewish Committee, released in September 1995, found: 56 percent believe that "the goal of Arabs is not the return of occupied territories, but rather the destruction of Israel"; 63 percent oppose further "economic aid to Palestinians"; 71 percent hold that Arafat and the PLO cannot be "relied upon to honor agreements and refrain from terrorism"; and 91 percent conclude that "the PLO is not doing enough to control terrorist activities against Israel."29
This skeptical opinion is being heard in high places. Senator Richard Shelby (Republican of Alabama), co-chair of the Senate's Peace Accord Monitoring Group,30 has noted that increasing numbers of American citizens look at the PLO's rule in Gaza and "wonder why we should be pouring money into a sinkhole of deepening chaos and disorder."31 Fortunately, recent congressional discussions about renewing MEPFA have gone beyond the State Department report to focus on the PLO's record.
There are other reasons, beyond these many violations, not to send funds to the PLO.
There is considerable evidence of corruption in the PLO's handling of foreign donations. For example, Britain's Overseas Development Agency sent $5 million to pay the salaries of 9,000 PLO policemen in 1994, with specific instructions that none of the money be given to Arafat's plain-clothes "preventive security forces" -- yet more than $500,000 of that money went to those forces, prompting a British government investigation.32 Last year, Norway's attorney general and a United Nations Oversight Committee began investigating the disappearance of a $100,000 Norwegian grant for a PLO agricultural project.33 Foreign contributions totalling $16 million intended for humanitarian projects in Gaza and Jericho went instead to PLO military and propaganda activities in Lebanon, according to a December 1994 report by Peace Watch, an Israeli organization monitoring Israeli and PLO compliance with the peace accords.34
Does the PLO really need American money? Great Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service concluded in 1993 that the PLO has worldwide assets of $7-$10 billion and an annual income of $1.5-$2 billion.35 Rachel Ehrenfeld, a criminologist, suggests even that estimate may be too low.36 The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently conducted an investigation to determine the extent of the PLO's financial assets, at the request of Congressman Gilman. Completed in July 1995, the report was immediately classified by the Clinton administration -- and so kept from the public.37
And why should Americans help an organization that murdered Americans in the past and to this day makes no apology or effort at restitution? Prominent American victims of PLO terror include Cleo A. Noel, Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Sudan, murdered in March 1973; Gail Rubin, niece of U.S. senator Abraham Ribicoff, murdered in March 1978; and Leon Klinghoffer, the wheelchair-bound tourist shot to death aboard the Achille Lauro in October 1985. And the killing continues. On April 9, 1995, Alisa Flatow, an American college student, was one of eight people murdered in an attack on an Israeli bus in PLO-controlled Gaza. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation tried to send agents to investigate, the PLO said no.38 On August 20, 1995, terrorists blew up a Jerusalem bus, murdering five passengers, including Joan Davenny, a Connecticut school teacher. Two individuals implicated in the bombing fled to PLO-controlled Jericho; the PLO has since refused to extradite them to Israel.39
The PLO even continues to indulge in anti-American rhetoric. In response to action by the Senate in September 1995 to tighten the linkage between U.S. aid and PLO compliance, the PA called such action
Provocative and insulting to Palestinian national feelings . . . the American Congress have set a record for themselves in the competition of hatred towards the Palestinian people. . . . How does Congress allow itself to act in a racist manner towards the Palestinian people?40
Despite the PLO's long record of peace-accord violations and anti-American hostility, proponents of U.S. aid to the PLO contend that Palestinian Arabs will reconcile themselves to Israel's existence once they begin enjoying economic benefits from the peace accords. Poverty, they say, causes terrorism. But is poverty indeed the real basis for the century-long Arab war against the Jews?
Recall that even though Jewish immigration to Palestine in the 1920s brought Palestinian Arabs many economic benefits, including higher skills and new jobs, there were repeated Arab pogroms against the Jews. Or, one might ask, if poverty in Gaza is the root of violence, why did violent mass uprisings not take place in Gaza during 1949-67, the years of Egyptian occupation? For that matter, why was there no intifada during the first twenty years of Israeli administration, 1967-87? There was no sudden onset of poverty in 1987 to provoke the intifada violence. Furthermore, wealthy Arab countries, such as Libya, have been as hostile to Israel as poor ones, such as Syria. Money is not the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict because lack of money was never the problem.
But money can be used as leverage to pressure the PLO to comply with its commitments. Congress should suspend all U.S. aid to the PLO and the PA immediately. Aid should be resumed only after Congress had determined that the PLO has complied, for a period of at least six months, with the commitments it made in the peace accords.
1 Letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Dec. 9, 1994.
2 The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 18, 1994.
3 The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 29, 1995.
4 Ha'aretz, June 5, 1995; also The New York Times, Oct. 20, 1994.
5 Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin specifically called on the PLO to "outlaw" Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Associated Press, Feb. 15, 1995).
6 In Hebron, Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO recently teamed up with Hamas to run a joint list in recent local elections. Talks are also underway to bring about a reconciliation between Fatah and two PLO factions that have engaged in numerous terrorist attack, the DFLP and the PFLP.
7 Radio Monte Carlo, Aug. 10, 1994.
8 The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 22, 1994.
9 Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (New York: Harper & Row, 1987).
10 The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 1995.
11 Associated Press, Jan. 7, 1994.
12 The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 1995. The Zionist Organization of America has in its possession a videotape of the June 19, 1995, speech, as well as the Sept. 3, 1995, speech.
13 The Washington Post, Sept. 13, 1993.
14 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1994 and 1995 (Washington, D.C.: House of Representatives, 1994), p. 113.
15 The New York Times, July 2, 1994. When questioned about Arafat's hostile rhetoric, PLO officials have given a variety of explanations. To my question (on Feb. 5, 1995, at the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council assembly) as to why Arafat had not made speeches to Arab audiences, in Arabic, against violence, PLO official Nabil Sha`th offered this choice reply: because "he is not a very good public speaker."
16 The Jerusalem Report, Sept. 21, 1995.
17 The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 29, 1995.
18 The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 1993; Headquarters of the Israel Chief Military Judge Advocate, Jerusalem, "Palestinian Violations of the May 4, 1994 Cairo Agreement," Dec. 13, 1994, sect. 30.
19 The Gaza Strip and Jericho: Human Rights under Palestinian Partial Self-Rule (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995); Amnesty International--Report 1995 (New York: Amnesty International, 1995), pp. 170-73; Neither Law nor Justice: Extra-Judicial Punishment, Abduction, Unlawful Arrest, and Torture of Palestinian Residents of the West Bank by the Preventive Security Service (Jerusalem: B'Tselem, 1995).
20 The Jerusalem Post, June 13, 1995.
21 U.S. Department of State, Report Pursuant to Title VIII of Public Law 101-246, Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1990-1991, As Amended (Washington, D.C.: June 1, 1995).
22 Ibid., p. 6.
23 The New York Times, May 20, 1995, reported that "the deadline came and went without any visible response by the Palestinian security forces. There have been no sweeps of neighborhoods to find unlicensed weapons or to disarm Muslim militants, and Palestinians who missed the deadline for licensing their guns have not been punished."
24 Report Pursuant to Title VIII, p. 7.
25 Ibid., pp. 4-6.
26 The Washington Post, June 14, 1995; The Jerusalem Post, June 5, 1995.
27 Jewish Telegraphic Agency Daily News Bulletin, June 7, 1995.
28 Jewish Telegraphic Agency Daily News Bulletin, May 22, 1995.
29 American Jewish Attitudes toward Israel and the Peace Process (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1995).
30 At the initiative of the Zionist Organization of America, Peace Accord Monitoring Groups were established in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 1994 to monitor and challenge PLO violations of the accords. Forty-five senators and representatives currently are members of the groups.
31 Transcript of remarks by Senator Shelby, Zionist Organization of America annual dinner, New York City, Dec. 11, 1994.
32 The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 7, 1994.
34 The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 22, 1995.
35 The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 2, 1993; The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 22, 1994.
37 The Jerusalem Post, July 27, 1995.
38 Qol Yisra'el, Apr. 13, 1995, in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: Near East and South Asia, Apr. 14, 1995.
39 The Jerusalem Report, Sept. 21, 1995.
40 Palestinian Authority, Ministry of Information, press release, Sept. 23, 1995.