Recognizing Palestinian Progress In Battling Incitement

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"Recognizing Palestinian Progress In Battling Incitement"

Writing up an event yesterday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in which WINEP’s Robert Satloff, David Makovsky, and Scott Carpenter shared insights from a recent trip to the region, JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports, “Makovsky noted the strides the Palestinian Authority has made in combating incitement, taking over Hamas run charities and booting out of their jobs violence-inciting imams as well as changing some textbooks to remove objectionable references to Jews”:

I asked Makovsky if WINEP — with its formidable collection of intellects, a forceful voice in the pro-Israel world — planned to take that message to the organizational Jewish world, which reflexively makes an issue of incitement without noting the strides.

He and Satloff said yes, with the caveat that regressions into incitement must also be noted — most recently the idiotic “study” denying a Jewish claim to the Western Wall. Satloff recalled being energized by the meeting with the P.A. leadership, and then being chauffered down Yahiya Ayyash boulevard — named for the “Engineer,” assassinated by Israel in 1996, and whose singular accomplishment was slaughtering Israeli civilians.

“These are issues people need to be vigilant about,” Makovsky said. “If there are 30 metrics” to measure progress, “if we only look at one metric, we’re missing a lot of the metrics.”

Added Satloff:: “We need to recognize what needs to be improved and recognize and praise the progress that’s been. We need to stay away from hysteria and its opposite, whitewash.”

Coming from WINEP, this is a refreshing take, one that tracks with what I’ve heard from both Israelis and Palestinians on the issue of incitement on recent visits — there has been a serious and successful effort on the part of Palestinians to clamp down on it. I admit to being skeptical, though, of seeing any real follow through from WINEP, for precisely the reasons that Kampeas indicates. But I’m always ready to be surprised.

Since coming into power, the Netanyahu government has placed an enormous amount of emphasis on the issue of Palestinian incitement. Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that Israel is planning to publish a Palestinian “incitement index,” measuring the level of ant-Israel sentiment in Palestinian media.

There are a few reasons for this emphasis. One is that incitement is not conducive to peace, promotes hostility, and should stop. But another is that Palestinian incitement is a useful tool for Israelis to distract from the fact that they continue to be an occupying power (also not conducive to peace, also promotes hostility), and in violation of numerous agreements, particularly the 2003 Quartet road map, which calls for an end to Palestinian incitement as well as a complete Israeli settlement freeze. As one Israeli official remarked to me this past summer, the Palestinians have done so well on their road map obligations that the Netanyahu government is “desperate to find evidence of Palestinian wrongdoing” to rebut criticisms of its own violations. And that’s where the new “incitement index” comes in.

Is it unreasonable for the Israelis to demand that the Palestinians meet their obligations on incitement while refusing to meet their own on settlements (to say nothing of the incitement coming from the Israeli side)? Of course it is. But this does suggest a way out of the current impasse and back to direct talks, at least one that doesn’t involve the U.S. bribing Israel to stop doing what it shouldn’t be doing anyway.

The Palestinians could offer to continue to curb incitement for as long as the Israelis freeze settlements. Given how important the incitement issue clearly is to Netanyahu, accepting such a generous offer should be an easy decision. Then talks can restart. You’re welcome.

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