Sunday, April 23, 2017

Netanyahu: Palestinians Must Make 'Real Change' For Peace, Out Of Electricity, Gaza Is Close To Breaking Point

Netanyahu: Palestinians must make 'real change' for peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday called for international pressure on the Palestinians to stop incitement and halt stipend payments to the families of terrorists, in what he called “the first test of peace.”

Speaking to Fox News’s Sean Hannity ahead of US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington on May 3, Netanyahu said that while Israeli leaders are “held accountable for every word… in the case of Abbas it’s like he lives in a different universe. He can say ‘I want peace’ to Western leaders, ‘I want peace, I’m willing to recognize Israel,’ but then to his own people he says the very opposite.”

Netanyahu called for greater pressure on the Palestinian leadership to make steps for peace.

Netanyahu said “the first test of peace is to say to them ‘Hey, you want peace? Prove it. Confront terrorism, stop rewarding terrorism, stop paying terrorists. And don’t finagle the books.’ What they do is [say], ‘Okay, we won’t pay directly, we’ll pay it to somebody else and they’ll pay it to the terrorists’ in a sort of circular fashion. No. Come clean on this.”

In an apparent message to Trump ahead of the May meeting, Netanyahu said, “I think the only chance that this will change is if there’s pressure brought to them to make this real change.” If such a demand were put forward, he added, “that could make for a turning point.”

The PA provides salaries and other benefits to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including those convicted by Israeli civil courts of murder and terrorism, as well as to their families if they are killed while carrying out their attacks. It is believed that the PA pays hundreds of millions of dollars in such stipends every year.
“They pay terrorists on a sliding scale… the more you kill, the more you get. And it accumulates to vast sums. Some of it contributed by Americans, by European governments,” Netanyahu said.

‘As usual, the situation is shit,” says A., a resident of the Gaza Strip. “It is so bad here that all we can do is laugh about it. We have four hours of electricity and then there’s none for half a day. Then we get another four hours, and then 12 more hours without it. Do you understand?
“So there is all kinds of black humor now. Kids tweet and post things like, ‘In other countries, the snow comes down; here, it’s the electricity.’ I saw a photo on Facebook of two teenagers looking at a sign belonging to Gaza’s electric company and laughing. What are we going to do? After all, we dare not speak out against Hamas, and speaking out against the Palestinian Authority won’t help.”

Power outages in Hamas-ruled Gaza, combined with abject poverty, have turned into an all too familiar routine for the Strip’s inhabitants. Every few months, the Palestinian Authority announces its refusal to pay the excise tax that Israel collects for the fuel that enters Gaza. Hamas, the Islamist terror group that seized control of the Strip in 2007, also refuses to pay, the power station in Gaza stops working, and Gazans lose their electricity.
The last time the power station ceased operations, Qatar stepped in and paid Israel for the fuel. Qatar may do the same now as well, but sooner or later even the Qataris may become fed up with the fact that Hamas is living it up at their expense.
The PA is already infuriated. Hamas continues to demand that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his people, or Qatar, pay for the diesel fuel that gives Hamas electricity. This, despite the fact that Hamas collects taxes from the residents of the Gaza Strip, and all the money goes into its coffers.

But then, this is Gaza, where anything is possible — including stealing residents’ money by imposing new taxes on top of old taxes, and manufacturing a humanitarian crisis in order to blame it on the Palestinian Authority and on Israel.

Hamas has a well-oiled policy of screwing things up, then crying foul. It is astonishing to watch it funnel tens of millions of dollars each year to its military wing, its rocket makers and its tunnel diggers, in pursuit of its relentless goal of destroying Israel, while simultaneously pleading that it cannot pay for water or fuel. Almost every day this past week, Hamas has organized marches of thousands of furious residents, who burn photographs of Abbas and of his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, together with Israeli flags, of course.

Anyone who dares wonder aloud about Hamas’s cynical mismanagement is asking for trouble. A man named Mahmoud el-Zak, who is not a member of Fatah, was arrested and beaten this week. His crime? He dared to write about Hamas consuming electricity in Gaza without being willing to pay for it. The deterrent message was clear — it’s safer for Gazans to blame the PA and Israel.

No imminent solution appears likely. For years, the Abbas government in Ramallah has paid Gaza’s water and electricity bills. But recently something in the PA and Fatah leadership seems to have snapped. Hamas supplies electricity to its own units and institutions, as well as to its military, civilian and political wings — all at the PA’s expense. And the PA may not be willing to take it anymore.
In 2016, the PA’s overall budget was $4.14 billion, of which the Gaza Strip’s share was $1.65 billion. In other words, approximately 40 percent of PA funds is going to an entity under Hamas rule. Hamas, for its part, bolsters its coffers with various taxes that go to its military wing, which fights not only against Israel but also against the PA.

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