Monday, March 23, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Sestak: Tighter Reins On Palestinian Funds Needed

As originally published in the Philadelphia Bulletin

By David Bedein and John Rossomando

Congress Needs Better Oversight On Monies Dedicated For The Palestinians

JERUSALEM - Documentation showing the Palestinian Authority (PA) routinely transfers American, European and Israeli aid monies to Hamas and harbors terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade has a prominent local congressman calling for tighter congressional oversight.

U.S. Rep. Joseph A. Sestak Jr., D-7th, says Congress has too often passed the buck to the Executive Branch when it comes to overseeing how the monies are distributed, especially in the light of the 2007 Mecca revenue-sharing agreement between the PA and Hamas, which is still in force. The agreement established financial ties between the PA and Hamas, an organization the U.S. government lists as a terrorist organization, whereby the former pays the latter’s civil servants and military forces.

Recently, new documentation has surfaced that U.S.-backed Palestinian security forces on the West Bank had confessed to having harbored Islamic Jihad terrorists, which highlighted the PA’s lack of enthusiasm when it comes to cracking down on terrorists.

He says only congressional oversight hearings into the reported abuses of U.S. aid to the Palestinians can give the American public and the world the answers they need about how the money is being spent.

“We should have accountability to ensure the money goes to the Palestinian people and organizations such as UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) are held accountable,” Mr. Sestak said. “Having money siphoned off is something we can’t abide by, and it is not something that American taxpayers want.”

Assisting those who are in need of material aid is something Mr. Sestak says is a basic American ideal, but it isn’t something that should be done without strings attached or close oversight to ensure those who need the aid actually receive it.

“It is an important issue that money flows to the Palestinian people and that we deal with organizations that don’t deal with Hamas,” he said. “The Palestinian Authority is a difficult issue because there needs to be a fine balance.”

Corruption has long been a serious problem for the PA, evidenced by allegations Yasser Arafat amassed a multibillion fortune during his 40 years at the helm of the ruling Fatah movement - money that has yet to be accounted for.

If the U.S. can’t work with the UNRWA because of evidence it allows Hamas and other Palestinian groups to infiltrate it and divert the aid for nefarious purposes, Mr. Sestak said the U.S. should find other groups to work with groups such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent to deliver the aid free from Hamas interference.

Mr. Sestak says lessons in accountability from the Iraq war related to publicized contractor abuses and misappropriation of funds is just as applicable with the Palestinians. The abuse of funds by contractors such as Kellogg, Brown & Root, he said, showed what can happen when Congress abdicates its oversight responsibilities to the Executive Branch. The firm overcharged the Pentagon to the tune of $1 billion according to a 2005 audit.

“On the subcommittee I am on, we do required oversight for Iraq once a month, and the problem with foreign aid is we don’t do enough,” he said. “The challenge we had with the execution of things in Iraq [in the beginning] was there wasn’t enough oversight.

“We have to make sure the public is informed and there is transparent accountability.”

He believes having America play a strong role in the Middle East is the answer to many of the incitements the PA has shown toward Israel. These have included using Israeli-provided frequencies to broadcast pro-terror anti-Israel programming on the PA-run Palestinian Broadcasting Company (PBC), which is directly answerable to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The PBC also routinely calls for the “liberation” all of the former British Mandate of Palestine from Israeli control.

Additionally, the public relations agencies that promote the pa provide a seemingly moderate image for the PA in English and in other languages, while its leaders turn around and continue to spout virulent anti-Israel rhetoric that praise terrorists and call for Palestinians to liberate all of Palestine and destroy Israel in Arabic. The PA’s message, in Arabic, to its own people goes virtually ignored.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Sept. 13, 1993 promise to annul portions of its charter calling for the destruction of Israel stand as a prime example because the Palestinian National Council (PNC) never ratified the agreement. An Arabic-language video tape and transcript of the April 26, 1996 PNC session that was supposed to have annulled the PLO’s call for Israel’s destruction show no such action happened.

Instead, Arafat altered the PNC’s meeting agenda and deleted the paragraph, which would have rescinded the call for Israel’s destruction.

“We have been the missing element for far too long, and we have been absent in the region with our leadership,” Mr. Sestak said. “We are the strongest ally of Israel, and what President [George W.] Bush did at the Annapolis Conference should have been done all along... We have been outsourcing our leadership to the European Union for far too long.

“It doesn’t work when you don’t have an accountable police force and one side is broadcasting [inflammatory material]. It just doesn’t hold.”

Mr. Sestak sees an analogy between the Palestinian-Israeli situation and the one that existed during the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union because the latter frequently engaged in similar deceptions that were put into check by American determination. He said he believes the U.S. should no more abandon the peace process any more than it abandoned the nuclear reduction talks with the Soviet Union, which ultimately proved successful.

“When we were sitting at the table with the our translators with the Soviets, we could tell when they were mistranslating for us,” he said. “With the Soviet Union, it was not dissimilar. When there was a different nuance on what we agreed upon, we didn’t walk away. We worked hard.”

He said a carrot-and-stick approach needs to be employed with the Palestinians to force them to act in good faith, rewarding them when they keep their word and sanctioning them when they do otherwise.

“We need to protect Israel at all costs, but we need to work as an honest broker,” Mr. Sestak said.

As a result, he said, the U.S. needs to ensure that both sides are participants in the process, rather than having a U.S. administration dictating terms without their participation.

“We are the ones appropriating the money, and before we let the Executive Branch see how well the money is being appropriated,” Mr. Sestak said. “We should be doing a lot more; we should be doing a lot better job at counterterrorism and a much better job showing how contracts get executed.

“Congress has a bigger role to play.”

David Bedein can be reached at and John Rossomando can be reached at

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Palestinian Authority TV Celebrates Major Terror Attack

Palestinian Authority TV Celebrates Major Terror Attack

by David Bedein

On March 12, and again yesterday, the official Palestinian Authority (PA) television, known as the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), which operates under the direct supervision of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, and uses Israeli government frequencies, ran a television program celebrating a major Palestinian terror attack that occurred 31 years ago.

On March 11, 1978, Palestinian terrorists landed on an isolated beach located near Caesarea, where they murdered American nature photographer Gail Rubin, a cousin of the late U.S. Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, D-Conn. The terrorists proceeded to hijack a bus and murder 37 Israeli passengers aboard the vehicle.

This weekend, the Palestinian Authority celebrated this terror attack with an hour-long TV special, which included Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) training camps, while featuring interviews with Palestinian terrorists who described the planning and implementation of the killings.

According to an excerpt of the program that was translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the narrator described the attack as “... one of the most important and most prominent special actions, executed by the Palestinian revolution by sea, on the coast between Haifa and Tel Aviv.

“This action, which was carried out by a group of heroes and led by the heroic fighter Dalal Mughrabi, had a great impact on continuing events of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

The spokespeople of the outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who has often described the Fatah and the PA as “moderates,” were asked if they would issue a specific condemnation of the broadcast. No response was forthcoming.

Whenever this level of incitement has emanated from the PA, the standard response of Mr. Olmert’s spokespeople has been to “always ask the Palestinians to stop their incitement.”

However, during the three years of Mr. Olmert’s tenure, his spokespeople will not provide any record of his administration’s having issued a specific reprimand to the PA for their use of their official media organs to endorse terrorist attacks.

David Bedein can be reached at

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad Resigns

As originally published in the Philadelphia Bulletin

Hamas-Fatah Gov’t To Rule PA Lands

After less than two years in office, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced his resignation in light of the new Hamas/Fatah alignment talks that are to begin next week in Cairo.

Mr. Fayyad, who is not a Hamas or Fatah member, was the man whom the American government relied upon for financial accountability and for a future stable Palestinian entity that would not be tainted by the terrorism that has been the legacy of both Hamas and Fatah. Hamas is defined by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), and the military forces of the Fatah, known as the al-Aqsa Brigades, are also designated by the American government as a FTO.

Mr. Fayyad assumed office in June 2007 after Hamas staged its takeover in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Ismail Haniyeh’s Hamas government that had been elected in January 2006 and announced the establishment of a new government, based in Ramallah, under Mr. Fayyad at that time.

As the man who assumed the role of Palestinian finance minister following the death of PLO founder Yasssir Arafat, Mr. Fayyad had been credited with initiating the first system of financial accountability into the Palestinian Authority, following years of corruption under Arafat leadership.

A mantra of American and Israeli foreign policy over the past two years was that the Palestinian Authority could be trusted because Mr. Fayyad was at the helm. Now that Mr. Fayyad’s accountability and moderation has been removed, Fatah and Hamas have come together in their war against Israel.

David Bedein can be reached at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Clinton Visits Israel

Secretary Of State Talks About Gaza Aid, Envoys To Syria

Yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton spent a day in Israel for the first time in her role as the Secretary of State.

The first matter of business that Mrs. Clinton addressed upon her Jerusalem arrival was Gaza.

The report that she gave to Israel from Monday’s conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt - where 81 kings, presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and representatives of aid organizations pledged $5 billion to aid Gaza - topped her agenda. The Israeli government had requested an invitation to the conference; however, organizers were adamant in their response to Jerusalem: “You are not invited.”

Mrs. Clinton opened her remarks in Israel by saying the U.S. would transfer $900 million to the Palestinians: $300 million for rebuilding Gaza and $600 million to be deposited with Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for developing economic projects in the West Bank.

Throughout her one-day visit to Israel, Mrs. Clinton addressed the contentious issue of how the American government and the other 80 donor nations could transfer funds to Gaza without the funds going through Hamas, which maintains a tight totalitarian grip on Gaza.

However, Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman brushed off the query posed by The Bulletin as to how she could prevent American government funds from finding their way into Hamas’ hands in Gaza, because Mr. Fayyad acts in accordance with the Mecca Accord of March 2007. The Mecca Accord, agreed to in Saudi Arabia by the representatives of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), obligates the PA to pay Hamas salaries in Gaza, including for armed Hamas military units that continue to fire rockets into Israeli communities throughout the Western Negev region.

Hamas has fired 120 times into Israel from Gaza since the Israeli government declared a self-imposed cease-fire on Jan. 18, after 22 days of an Israeli military incursion into Gaza, which Israel launched with the aim of stopping Hamas from firing into Israel.

With $5 billion of pledges in hand, even while Hamas continues attacks on Israel, the Israeli intelligence community believes Hamas will be the main beneficiary of the Sharm el-Sheikh conference.

An Israeli intelligence officials said, “Only Hamas will benefit from Gaza’s rebuilding - and not the people of Gaza. Hamas can further consolidate and strengthen its rule and impose Islamic hegemony on Gaza.”

Mrs. Clinton also announced she plans to dispatch two emissaries to Syria: Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon and now acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Dan Shapiro, head of the Middle East desk of the White House’s National Security Council.

What no one reported, however, is Mr. Shapiro is far from popular in Syria because he was one of the key congressional staffers who authored the bipartisan-backed Syria Accountability Act, which was signed into law in May 2004.

The act’s purpose was to force the American government to act against Syrian support for terrorism, to end Syria’s presence in Lebanon, to top Syria’s development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to stem Syrian shipments of military items to anti-U.S. forces in Iraq. By dispatching one of the key players of the Syria Accountability Act to Damascus, Mrs. Clinton conveyed a double message from Jerusalem to Syria: The United States will launch a dialogue with Syria, yet only in the context of the Syria Accountability Act.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Will The New Israeli Government Adopt New Policies Toward The PLO?

by David Bedein

Questions remain.

Last month’s Israeli elections witnessed a solid defeat of the Israeli left wing.

As recently as the 1992 elections, the left-leaning Labor and Meretz parties controlled 56 seats of the Israeli Knesset’s 120 seats; however, in the 2009 elections both parties together garnered only 19 seats.

The 1992 election of Labor and Meretz to the helm of the Israeli government ushered in the Oslo PLO negotiation process of 1993. This caused the the Israeli government to launch a new information policy toward the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which promoted the PLO as a potential partner for peace.

From the outset of the Oslo process, the Israeli government deleted virtually all prior documentation from its information services that had always previously defined the defined the PLO as a terrorist entity.

It remains to be seen if the new Israeli government will reverse the policies toward the PLO that Israeli governments have adopted over the past 16 years.

The new Israeli government must now wrestle with at least eight major policy areas.

Late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and his protégé, Mahmoud Abbas, agreed to the Declaration Of Principles in Oslo, in what became known as the Oslo Accords. They signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993, together with late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and then-Israeli Foreign Minister, now President, Shimon Peres.

The accord committed the PLO to abandon violence and to cancel the PLO Covenant that calls for Israel’s destruction, in exchange for Israeli recognition.

The Israeli Knesset adopted the Oslo accord within a week of its signing. However, the PLO Executive Committee met on Oct. 6, 1993 to consider ratification of the Oslo accord, but it failed to ratify the agreement.

The head of the Israel Government Press Office at the time noted that Arafat and Mr. Abbas had signed the Oslo accord with the hope that the PLO would eventually ratify the Oslo accord.

However, successive Israeli governments have not asked the PLO to ratify the Oslo accord and have instead acted as if the PLO had already ratified the Oslo accord with Israel and as if the PLO canceled its covenant calling for Israel’s destruction.

This remains to be seen.

The PLO introduced new Palestinian Authority textbooks that were supposed to promote peace and reconciliation and integrated these school books into the curriculum in all PA schools - under Fatah, Hamas, UNRWA and even in Arab schools in Jerusalem.

However, this curriculum inculcates the next generation of Palestinians to make war on the Jewish state. While special subcommittees of the Israeli government have discussed the PA curriculum, the Israeli government has never made it a policy to even ask the PA abandon its was curriculum.

The Israeli government has gone so far as to ask that Israel advocacy organizations not discuss the new curriculum. The Israeli government has also asked research institutions to refrain from critiquing the anti-Semitism in the PA school curriculum. The Israeli government has also discouraged news investigations of the anti-Semitism in the PA school curriculum.

Arafat was elected in January 1996, and Mr. Abbas was elected in January 2005 on the same clear platform which advocates the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to take back the villages that they or their ancestors left in 1948. This means uprooting most of the Israeli population now living on the sites of the former Arab villages.

The Israeli government has never demanded that the PLO and the PA stop advocating the “right of return.”

In May 1994, the Israeli government provided Israeli-owned TV and radio frequencies for the Palestinian Authority to establish TV and radio networks with the idea that these networks would promote peace and reconciliation between the two peoples.

However, for the past 15 years, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), has used these Israeli-government-owned TV and radio frequencies with a daily drum roll of incitement to overthrow what it calls “the Zionist entity” (Israel). At no time has the government of Israel ever annulled its agreement to allow the PBC to use Israeli government frequencies that have been used to encourage hostilities against the people and the State of Israel.

The PLO has never disbanded the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorist organization, which continues to operate under the aegis of the PLO, despite the fact that this group continues to be designated by both the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist organization. Again, it remains to be seen what line the new Netanyahu government will take in this regard.

The draft of the proposed constitution of the Palestinian state, prepared by Nabil Sha’ath, creates a Palestinian State based on a strict Shariah Law that recognizes Islam as the only religion with juridical status. In that context, the PA has instituted policies that make it very difficult for Palestinian Christians to practice their religion.

With the demise of Arafat, Israeli intelligence played down public reports that documented hostilities and incitement promulgated by Mr. Abbas and the PA. The Israeli government also played down the March 2007 Mecca agreement between the Fatah and the Hamas, which instituted obligatory revenue sharing between the Fatah and the Hamas. Consequently, funds accrued by the Palestinian Authority are automatically be divided between both factions.

This agreement contradicts Israeli-government-signed tax revenue rebate agreements with the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, that held an understanding that no tax revenue rebates would reach terrorist organizations such as Hamas or the al-Aqsa Brigades.

David Bedein can be reached at