Editorial

A Softer Palestinian Policy During the Election Campaign Would Help Everyone

Israel should foster a strong and functioning PA and the economic rehabilitation of the West Bank and Gaza, not its recent hard line on the Temple Mount

Palestinian protesters face Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near the divided West Bank city of Hebron's on February 22, 2019
AFP

The other day the police showed up at 5 A.M. at the home of Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, the custodian of the Muslim religious trust, the Waqf. At 73, Salhab is one of the most important Palestinian spiritual leaders in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He and his deputy were detained for many hours of questioning based on an allegation that he had violated a closure order at the Bab al-Rahma building at the Temple Mount.

For two weeks this building has been the flashpoint between the police and the Waqf. The police want to keep it shut, claiming that 15 years ago it was used by an organization with links to Hamas. The Waqf has sought to reopen it and turn it into an additional prayer site on the Mount. The sheikh was finally released and a court, while addressing the issue of other people in detention, raised questions about the legality of keeping the building shut.

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The sheikh’s arrest and the attempt to keep the building closed without a dialogue with Jordan, the Waqf or the Palestinian Authority amount to another example of a lack of sensitivity and wisdom regarding Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. This comes on top of the government’s decision to freeze half a billion shekels ($140 million) of Palestinian tax revenue based on a claim that the funds are used to pay the salaries of security prisoners.  

It would be worth reminding Israelis that these funds aren’t an Israeli donation to the Palestinians; they actually belong to the Palestinian people. No less important is the fact that the PA is a loyal partner in Israel’s war against terror, and it’s in Israel’s interest to bolster the PA and allow the economic rehabilitation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

It also can’t be ignored that while Israel withholds funds from an authority that above all serves the security interests of Israelis, it also lets money from Qatar reach the Hamas government in Gaza.

A third example of illogical Israeli conduct is the heavier hand being taken against security prisoners. Contrary to the claim by the right, Israeli prisons are neither hotels nor summer camps. The worsening of prison conditions goes against morality, logic and the national interest.

Not only could these three decisions lead to violence, but they were made for considerations benefiting Israelis. These cases are an empty show of force designed to preserve an image during the election campaign.
Israelis would benefit from a calm brought about by dialogue over the Temple Mount, a strong and functioning PA, an economic rehabilitation of the West Bank and Gaza, and a system of incarceration and punishment that recognizes the human rights of security prisoners.

When making such decisions, the government should take into account not only its image and the election campaign, but what would most benefit the country’s citizens.