Israel is to begin officially monitoring incitement in the Palestinian Authority and will periodically issue a report on it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week.
Netanyahu also decided to appoint Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, the former head of Military Intelligence's research department, as government coordinator for incitement in the PA.
"We will set parameters by which to measure the level of incitement," Netanyahu told the committee. "People must know exactly what is happening on this issue, because for a peace agreement, education toward peace and acceptance of Israel are needed."
The main focus of the monitoring process will be whether inculcating a "culture of peace" becomes part of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's plan for building the institutions of a Palestinian state. "This should not wait until the day a state comes into being," a senior Israeli government official said.
Israeli officials involved in monitoring incitement in the PA concede that there is almost no crude incitement of the type common under Yasser Arafat. "There are fewer expressions of open incitement to terror, but there is encouragement of a violent atmosphere," one official said.
The "incitement index" will be produced by monitoring broadcasts in the official PA media, statements and actions by senior PA officials and textbooks, a senior Israeli official said. All of these will be examined for incitement, encouraging an atmosphere of violence and/or manifestations of anti-Semitism.
The senior official said the index would be published in the Israeli media, and an international diplomatic campaign would be launched to pressure the PA into preventing incitement and educating toward peace.
Netanyahu adviser Ron Dermer is pushing the project in the prime minister's bureau, and two months ago, he complained to the White House about the PA's incitement against Israel. But Kuperwasser, who is currently deputy director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, will be the point man on the project.
According to a senior Israeli official, Kuperwasser will coordinate the monitoring efforts of various bodies, including Military Intelligence, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Shin Bet security service and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. All these bodies worked on the issue extensively in the early years of the second intifada, but over the past five years, this work has declined to a minimum.
Kuperwasser himself was very active on the matter of incitement in the PA, especially at the beginning of the second intifada, when he was the IDF Central Command's chief intelligence officer.
Under the previous government, efforts to monitor incitement declined, in part because the incitement itself was greatly reduced as a result of progress in the peace process. During the talks that followed the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, a task force assigned to deal with the "culture of peace" was able to make progress on making changes in textbooks.
But Israel was outraged recently by the PA's plan to name a square in Ramallah after Dalal al-Mughrabi, one of the terrorists who perpetrated the coastal road massacre in 1978, in which 37 Israelis were killed.
The square is to be dedicated tomorrow with senior PA officials in attendence, and Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein has asked Netanyahu to approach the American administration about stopping the event.
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