Jack Cohen

Palestinian inequity

On the basis of long experience do not expect the Palestinians to show gratitude to Israel for making concessions. In line with Pres. Obama’s pressure on Israel to make goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians to persuade them to rejoin the negotiations, Israel has recently made the following moves: 1. The signing of an economic accord between the Israeli Government and the PA, signed by PM Fayyad, clamping down on tax evasion and aiming at enhancing trade; 2. Advancing the PA 180 million NIS from previous tax deductions to help the PA pay salaries before Ramadan; 3. In May, transferring the bodies of some 90 terrorists that had been accumulated over the years; 4. Increasing the number of Palestinian construction workers allowed into Israel by 5,000, adding to the income of the PA; 5. Decreasing the number of checkpoints on the West Bank, increasing Palestinian mobility; 6. Agreeing to restart negotiations over the gas fields discovered opposite Gaza about 12 years ago, that could provide the PA with a much-needed source of income.

Needless to say the PA has not thanked Israel for any of the goodwill gestures that Israel has made, neither has it made any reciprocal moves. Pres. Obama has not acknowledged publicly that Israel has made these gestures although the State Dept. praised the tax agreement. However note that these gestures were done without fanfare of seeking publicity and you probably would not have heard about them in your media. Nevertheless, the response has been the usual snub to Israel. Only last week PA Pres Abbas sent a letter to the EU protesting relations between Israel and the EU and calling upon the EU to freeze discussions about a political upgrade for Israel. There is also the continuing threat of the PA to apply for greater recognition, starting with requesting non-voting membership within the UN this September. This potential move, that ultimately cannot succeed without Security Council approval, is designed to embarrass Israel within the international body and to avoid further negotiations with Israel. PM Netanyahu has pointed out that since all UN resolutions call for bilateral negotiations, this unilateral action by the PA will trigger Israel to take its own unialteral measures that will negatively affect the PA.

In one positive step an advisor to Pres. Abbas, Ziad Bandak, visited the concentration camp at Auschwitz in the first such visit by a PA official. But, in response, a spokesman for the Hamas authorities in Gaza, Fawzi Bathoum, stated that this visit “serves the Zionists” and he called the Holocaust a “false tragedy” that he said did not compare with the “real Palestinian tragedy.” This dispute also reflects the fear in Gaza that the PA might become more friendly towards Israel, although there is no evidence of this. It is clear that Hamas thinking reflects that of Iran, and Pres. Ahmedinejad again last week released an anti-Semitic tirade against Israel calling for its annihiliation.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.