The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is opposing the Obama Administration for misusing funds earmarked for overseas development to finance an advertizing campaign designed to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to trust each other and make peace. The U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), which is supposed to help countries raise their living standards, has given a $250,000 grant to the H.L. Peace Education Program of the Geneva Initiative, a far-left outfit that has proposed far-reaching Israeli concessions beyond those offered by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 to Yasser Arafat, which met with a wave of Palestinian terrorism in response.
The advertising campaign encompasses a series of advertisements aimed at Israelis and Palestinians, with the leaders of one side speaking to the other. The advertisements aimed at the Israelis include senior, extremist PA officials Saeb Erekat, Jibril Rajoub, Yasser Abed Rabo, and Riad Malki, with each using a concluding refrain: We are partners what about you?
Noted Middle East scholar Barry Rubin has observed of the advertising campaign using these PA officials that:
The implication of the signs and film clips to Israelis who see them is that the Palestinians are ready for peace but the question is whether Israel wants peace. Oh, that will be very effective with Israelis, right? If you have any doubts on that point, read the article about what went on behind the scenes from Israel’s leading newspaper, Yediot Aharonot. Even the Israeli film crew members were making sarcastic cracks about what the “partners” were saying off camera. It is rather funny to watch the left-wing Israeli politico prodding the “moderate” Palestinians to say dovish things according to his script when they are clearly unwilling to do so. By the way, on one occasion, during the 1990s’ peace process era, dovish American Jews wrote the speech for Yasir Arafat to make to an American Jewish audience so he would say the “right” things even though he didn’t mean them. This kind of thing is totally unproductive, isn’t it, since it portrays a moderation that really isn’t there. A colleague of mine still has a copy of the speech marked up by Arafat’s hosts to clean up his image. We all saw how well that worked out in the end!
[Referring to the PA officials used in the advertising campaign] theyve said, not so long ago, some very extreme things about Israel and Israelis know it. Malki, to cite one example, was for years the West Bank leader of the PFLP at the height of its terrorism. Abed Rabo was a hardliner during the Oslo process. Jibril Rajoubs record is mixed and he can be called a relative moderate. Still, when an Israeli hotel near Sinai was attacked by terrorists in 2004, Rajoub blamed Israel for the bombing, calling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a terrorist who was engaged in continuous and unprecedented aggression against the Palestinian people. In 2009 alone he criticized a speech by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas as too moderate toward Israel. He extolled the unity efforts between Hamas and Fatah while cheering the Fatah conferences decision to adhere to its original program, which called for Israels destruction and explicitly stated that Fatah still retained the option of armed struggle. They also have something else in common: none of them is a mainstream Fatah person, though Rajoub comes closest to being so. When it comes down to it, they dont have much real power. Israelis know that as well.
The Geneva Initiatives Israel office director-general, Gadi Baltiansky, has actually said of the advertising campaign that, The perception in the Israeli public is that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side We all want peace, but don’t believe there is anyone to talk to. We are trying to change this perception, to explain that there is a partner, and that the problem is actually with us (Alon Goldstein, Shalom, Saeb Erekat here, Yediot Ahronot, August 29, 2010).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The Obama Administrations advertising campaign, designed to convince justifiably disillusioned Israelis that Palestinians seek a genuine peace in a state of their own alongside Israel, is a flawed and improper initiative that misuses U.S. taxpayers money in pursuit of blatant and wrongful interference in Israeli domestic politics.
Virtually all Israelis desperately want a real peace, but have understandably lost faith in the possibility of one because they see the PA daily fomenting violence and extremism in its schools, media, speeches and sermons. They have also seen numerous past peace offers rejected by the Palestinians. After striving for years, making concessions, offering almost everything the Palestinians publicly claimed they wanted, only to receive terrorism and hatred in return, it is like the case of the boy who cried wolf Israelis do not believe the stilted public statements directed to them from the PA about wishing to live in peace. The PA has no credibility with them.
The Obama Administration has behaved throughout as though Israel is to blame for the absence of peace, rather than Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA). This advertising campaign is thus a typically misconceived and wasteful idea that stems from the Obama Administrations flawed and hostile attitude toward Israel. It seems to think that if it tells the Israeli public that it is the stumbling block to peace, the Israelis will change their minds about the terror-promoting PA and sign another worthless agreement with it.
For the Obama Administration to fund unrepresentative, far-left initiatives that try to tell Israelis, as Gadi Baltiansky put it, that the problem is actually with us, is improper interference in Israels internal political debate. It is not for any foreign government to try and influence political debate within another democracy, let alone by dubious use of U.S. taxpayer funds from a government agency charged with very different work.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) is supposed to be funding vital projects in developing countries like building hospitals, eradicating disease, purifying water, and so on. How scandalous that U.S. taxpayers money is diverted by the Obama Administration from these worthy tasks to fund instead a propaganda campaign to sanitize the current PA leadership in the mind of the Israeli public in the hope of persuading Israelis to put aside their well-founded distrust of the PA and to support signing an agreement with it. The U.S. Congress should investigate whether the use in this manner of U.S. AID funds is even legal.