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Israeli goodwill measures and Palestinian intransigence

By Missing Peace

The atmosphere surrounding the current peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel seems to be poisoned since the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners who were convicted of serious crimes, such as murder.  The release was part of a deal that was reached with the US administration prior to the renewed negotiations.

 Many in Israel were outraged by the prisoner release which took place despite  continuing Palestinian terror and incitement against Israel.

President Mahmoud Abbas for example told Fatah leaders during a meeting in Ramallah this week that Israel lies about the demand to retain control over the border in the Jordan valley.  

Israel wants to retain control over this border because it fears a repetition of the events following the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Following the unilateral Israeli withdrawal Hamas smuggled thousands of rockets into Gaza and started a war of attrition against Israeli towns and communities in the vicinity of Gaza.

Abbas claimed that the Israeli demand to retain security control in the Jordan Valley is all a matter of investment. “The Israelis gain an annual profit of $620 million from the Jordan Valley. So the claim that they want to protect their eastern border from Iran and others is all lies”, according to Abbas.

During the same meeting he  reiterated his opposition to demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“We don’t accept the Jewish state or the Jewishness of the state,” he emphasized. “This is something that we won’t accept.”

Earlier this month in  a speech during a memorial Abbas stated that not an inch of Palestine has been liberated and that all ‘Palestinian’ land including Israel and Gaza (Israel left Gaza in 2005) is still under occupation. The speech was delivered in his name by Jamal Muhaisen a member of the Fatah Central Committee.

Abbas statements were not reported by media outside Israel nor did his statements lead to international condemnation

This was not the case when Israel announced building plans for another 1500 units in the Jerusalem area and the West Bank right after the release of the Palestinian prisoners. A move that was known from the outset of the talks to the US administration and to the Palestinian leadership.  Israel would announce settlement construction plans around the time of each of the four promised prisoner releases.

Nevertheless the PA reacted furious and claimed that Israel was not interested in peace. The international outcry that followed was entirely predictable and showed once again the level of bias against Israel.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for example, issued a statement ‘deploring’ the Israeli move. Ashton did not mention the release of Palestinian prisoners nor the incitement against Israel by Palestinian leaders.

The reality since the start of the current peace negotiations is that the Israeli side makes the goodwill gestures while the PA continues its policy of generating support for BDS measures and other actions which aim to isolate Israel.

Most of the goodwill measures that Israel took over the last year and especially since the start of the peace negotiations, are unknown to the general public because the international media ignores them.

Here are a few examples:

Employment of Palestinian laborers in Israel

In light of the high unemployment in the territory administered by the PA, especially among young people, in August 2013 Israel increased the number of permits issued to Palestinians to work in Israel by 5000. This is in addition to the 10,000 permits added in 2012, making a total of 53,000 work permits (including seasonal permits for agricultural work). Today, more than 100,000 Palestinians earn their living working in Israel (including about 30,000 illegal laborers) or employed by Israelis in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank). Their income constitutes more than 10% of the Palestinian GDP.

Furthermore, Israel relaxed the criteria for employment in Israel and increased the number of overnight permits issued to Palestinian laborers in order to expand the number of young Palestinians working in Israel and to ease the working conditions of many others.

Energy

Four substations are being built by the Israel Electric Company to increase the supply and the quality of supply of electricity to the West Bank.  This happens while the Palestinians’ debt to the Israel Electric Company, which recently surpassed one billion shekels (283 million USD)continues to grow at the rate of NIS 60-80 million (17-22.6 million USD) a month.

Water

Israel supplies to Judea and Samaria 53 million cubic meters (more than 1,400 million gallons) of water annually (about 22 million  cu.m. – 582 million gallons – more than the amount set in the Oslo Accords).The water is supplied at the original cost of NIS 2.6 million (NIS 1.26 million less than the price of water sold to local authorities in Israel). In other words, Israel subsidizes the PA’s water to the tune of 18.9 million USD annually.

Health

About 5800 Palestinians were brought to Israeli hospitals in emergency evacuations in 2012. In addition, in the first half of 2013, more than 94,000 Palestinians were hospitalized in Israel. Israel allocated about 849,000 USD in 2012-2013 to cover the hospital expenses of [Palestinian] patients hospitalized in Israel. 2455 Palestinian medical personnel participated in medical training courses in Israel during this period.

Facilitating movement of people and commercial goods

Israel is working to improve the movement of people and goods in Judea and Samaria. During the last Ramadan holiday and throughout the summer, about one million Palestinians entered Israel. Today there are 12 checkpoints, which are normally open. This allows an uninterrupted flow of traffic. 

Israel continues to upgrade the commercial goods crossing points. One example of this is a scanner installed at Jalama crossing in October 2013, in order to facilitate the transfer of goods including containers to Haifa port. There are already scanners in use in Tarkumiya and Shaar Ephraim crossing points. This has speeded up the passage of goods through the crossing points, which takes about 45 minutes.

In the first half of 2013, more than 190,000 truckloads of goods passed through the crossing points between Israel and the West Bank, an increase of 12% compared to a similar period the previous year.

Israel does not charge any service fees at these commercial crossing points, in spite of operating costs that reach hundreds of millions of shekels annually.

Why goodwill measures?

The question why Israel continues to make these goodwill measures while it is clear that nothing has changed in the attitude of the Palestinian leadership, was probably best answered by a report in the Israeli paper Yediot Acharonot last weekend.

The paper reported that during the recent seven hour during meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and PM Benjamin Netanyahu Kerry warned that that the price for walking away from the talks with the PA will be European economic strangulation of Israel.

One of the first measures taken by the EU will be excluding  Israel from participating in the European research and development program ‘Horizon 2020’.

So after forcing Israel to release Palestinian terrorists prior to the negotiations the Obama administration, together with her allies in the EU, now threaten to join the BDS effort against the Jewish state.

 In the words of Ya’acov Amidror, the outgoing National Security Advisor,  in his last address to the Israeli cabinet:

“ It is absolutely clear that our ability to handle international pressure is dependent on making advances in the negotiations. If the negotiations fall apart, it will give justification to all the forces that want to boycott us to do so”.

Logjams

The latest news reports indicate that there are logjams in the negotiations. The Times of Israel reported that the latest meeting between the sides devolved into a shouting match.

A PA official announced that the Palestinians will not continue the negotiations as long as Israel continues to build in the settlements.