This article originally appeared in Mondoweiss September 14.
Congressional threats to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) have grown in recent weeks as the PA leadership forges toward action at the United Nations.
But at least some Israel lobby groups are voicing opposition to any reduction in aid to the PA–not because they support the bid to attain UN recognition of Palestine but because they realize a US aid cut-off could lead to the PA collapsing, which would in turn harm Israel.
It is difficult for pro-Israel groups to publicly support maintaining aid to the Palestinians given the Palestinians’ stated determination to flout the wishes of the United States.
However, at least two groups have explicitly done so — The Israel Project, which says it has laid out an argument to members of Congress that US security aid should not be cut; and J Street, which has issued a statement defending the aid.
“We have made the case that the security cooperation, which is largely funded and supported by America, needs to continue if we want to see the progress … in reducing terrorism continue,” The Israel Project’s president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, told Reuters, stressing her group does not lobby.
J Street said last week: “We must make clear to American politicians, particularly in Congress, that being pro-Israel does not require cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for approaching the UN
“Such a move will hurt Israel’s interests by undermining moderate Palestinian leadership and defunding productive security cooperation.”
The right-leaning Israel Project and J Street have both come out against the Palestinian move to the UN. Their position on funding for the PA, though, is a reminder of what the PA’s actual role in the West Bank is and why US officials like Senators John McCain and John Kerry and Elliot Abrams (all quoted in the Reuters report) are becoming increasingly vocal about maintaining aid to the PA. It also may be a harbinger of the Obama administration’s line on PA funding if a vote takes place at the UN.
The PA’s most heralded accomplishment over their decade-plus tenure was the establishment of “law and order” in the West Bank, which in part meant cracking down on political dissidents through the creation of a repressive security force. The PA security forces, which have been accused of detention, arbitrary arrest and torture, have worked hand-in-hand with the Israeli military, the US and the EU to keep the West Bank void of resistance to the occupation.
State Department cables released by WikiLeaks clearly show this dynamic. One recently released cable shows the PA’s efforts at containing protest against Israel’s 2008-09 assault on Gaza:
Hamas leaders called for mass demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem starting January 2. PA security personnel are deployed to contain violence or clashes with Israeli forces after Friday prayers. PA security contacts told ConGenOffs that the PA will allow the demonstrations but will not permit demonstrators to approach IDF positions. These contacts say they anticipate Palestinian-Israeli clashes in areas without a PA security presence, including Qalandia, Hebron’s H2 zone, and villages west of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Palestinian press report that GOI DefMin Ehud Barak ordered a general closure of the West Bank on January 2-3, and raised the IDF’s alert status.
That cable and others show why the US and Israel–bluster from right-wing politicians aside–are keen on keeping the donor tap flowing to the PA. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Obama administration bucked Congressional calls to cut off the PA–after all, the aid benefits Israel in the end, and that consideration dictates US policy.