To the Biden Administration, Israel Is Always at Fault—Even While 11 Israelis Are Murdered | Opinion

Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Israel last week coincided with a wave of terrorist attacks. In the week preceding Blinken's visit, an Israeli Bedouin man affiliated with ISIS killed four and severely wounded two by driving his car into a crowd and stabbing people with a knife. Later that week, a Palestinian man from east Jerusalem stabbed a civilian in Israel's capital and another Palestinian stabbed and wounded two Israeli police officers. Then, on the first day of Blinken's visit, two terrorists who also had ISIS affiliations shot at multiple crowded restaurants, killing two Border Police officers and wounding five others. And two days later, a Palestinian man shot at pedestrians, killing five. They included a young father pushing a toddler in a stroller and two Ukrainian citizens.

Yet, when Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, his description of the situation made it sound like it was Israel that needed to be reined in. In a statement after the meeting, Blinken said he and Bennett "discussed ways to foster a peaceful Passover, Ramadan, and Easter across Israel, and Gaza and the West Bank," which he said meant "working to prevent actions on all sides that could raise tensions, including settlement expansion, settler violence, incitement to violence, demolitions, payments to individuals convicted of terrorism, evictions of families from homes they've lived in for decades."

Note that amidst a wave of terror by Palestinians against Israelis, Blinken's list of the actions to foster peace includes four which fall to Israel and just one that is clearly the responsibility of the Palestinians, with a sixth item—"incitement to violence"—vague enough to belong to either or both.

Someone seeking to interpret Blinken's remarks charitably might have presumed that he sought to bring up Israel's faults in Jerusalem and would later stress the Palestinians' problems in Ramallah, to encourage each side to change. But such a person would have been proven wrong when Blinken presented the exact same litany, almost verbatim, hours later that day after a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The problem with Blinken's list is not just its insensitivity to a nation in mourning, but what it reveals about the Biden administration's orientation to this conflict. The Biden administration "obsessively" fixates on settler violence, a senior Israeli source told me. And this obsession creates a false equivalence and lets the Palestinians off the hook.

It's true that there has been a rise in settler violence in recent months—specifically, in the number of deplorable acts of intimidation, vandalism, and violence by Israelis against Palestinians. But the Israeli government has stood up to those acts against their perpetrators; earlier this year, Bennett himself told me that those acts are shameful. "We are a state of laws," he said in an interview. "I will not allow this to continue. We will act against pockets of lawlessness."

There is perhaps legitimate criticism, in Israel and abroad, that there is not enough enforcement or prosecution in these cases. But there is no open or implicit approval from above.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) listens as President Joe Biden speaks on Ukraine during an event in the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House on March 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. President Biden delivered remarks on U.S. assistance to Ukraine. Alex Wong/Getty Images

No such comparable level of condemnation exists from the Palestinian establishment about the violence perpetrated in the name of their cause. Moreover, none of the recent deadly attacks in Israel took place in settlements; they all took place in cities that have been part of Israel from its establishment. They were clearly not about "settlement expansion;" they were motivated by a belief that the State of Israel should not exist.

Far from receiving condemnation by Palestinian leadership, many support the terrorists' eliminationist view, from terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who state their mission clearly, to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, who find other ways to go about it. Last week, for example, Abbas referred to "a decision by the Palestinian Central Committee that would be implemented soon," referring to a decision made in February to rescind the Palestinian Authority's recognition of Israel and end its security cooperation with Jerusalem. And he brazenly referenced this decision with Blinken standing right next to him.

Meanwhile, there is incitement to violence across Palestinian state-controlled media and on the Facebook pages of Abbas's Fatah Party. Most tragically, Palestinian textbooks are used to promote a violent and delusional agenda; they don't show the State of Israel on maps, and some use pictures of Palestinians using slingshots to strike Israelis as an example of Newton's Second Law. The only female role model in these books is a terrorist.

But perhaps the biggest incitement to violence of all is the fact that the Palestinian Authority literally incentivizes it. In 2021, the Palestinian Authority paid over $270 million in salaries to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons and the families of those killed while committing acts of terror; the higher the prison sentence—in effect, the more Israelis killed—the more the PA pays.

Last week, Abbas took the rare step of condemning the terrorist attack on Israel that claimed five lives (albeit with an "all lives matter" kind of formulation)—yet he did not go so far as to say that the family of the Palestinian terrorist who shot at pedestrians minding their own business would not get their "martyr" payment.

Congress has recognized that what the PA calls its "Martyrs' Fund" and what its critics call "pay for slay" encourages Palestinians to murder Israelis; it passed the Taylor Force Act in 2018 which stops funding to the PA until it ends the practice of rewarding terrorists.

But since entering office, the Biden administration has done all it can to make the Taylor Force Act irrelevant by granting hundreds of billions of dollars to organizations that prop up the Palestinian Authority without demanding changes or reforms.

This is no accident, as we learned from Blinken's comments last week, which grotesquely turned "pay for slay" into an afterthought following a recitation of complaints about Israel at a time when Israelis are being gunned down and stabbed in the street. It only served to broadcast what seems obvious at this point, that discouraging terrorism and putting an end to the Palestinian Authority's murder-for-hire policy is not really on the administration's agenda.

It speaks volumes about who the Biden administration sees as the conflict's victims and who its perpetrators; not even four terrorist attacks and 11 martyrs could change that.

Lahav Harkov is the Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post. You can follow her on twitter @LahavHarkov.

The views in this article are the writer's own.