from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Honoring Terrorism While Talking Peace

July 3, 2013

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

How does one prepare for peace? With Secretary of State Kerry shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem seeking to launch peace negotiations, it’s a fair question. In the media, attention has been fixed on new housing units in Har Homa, a Jerusalem neighborhood. The Jerusalem Post described the matter this way:

The Jerusalem Municipality approved construction permits on Wednesday [June 26] for 69 new homes in the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa – just one day before US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to arrive in hopes of rekindling direct Israeli-Palestinian talks. The homes are the tail end of a large project of more than 1,000 units in Har Homa that received approval in August 2011 and for which tenders were issued in April 2012....

Whether you think this is a big story or a repeat of a 2011 or 2012 story, it has evoked criticism and condemnation from the United States government and numerous European governments. But what about the Palestinian side? Unmentioned in the Western press is the way Palestinian president and PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas is preparing for peace this week, by honoring terrorists--again.

Palestinian Media Watch has the story:

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has awarded the "highest order of the Star of Honor" to arch-terrorist Nayef Hawatmeh. This is a continuation of the policy followed by Abbas and the PA to glorify terrorists responsible for murdering Israelis, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch. Nayef Hawatmeh is the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). The DFLP carried out many deadly terror attacks, including the killing of 22 schoolchildren and 4 adults after taking them hostage in Ma’alot, the killing of 9 children and 3 adults in an attack on a school bus, the killing of 7 in a Jerusalem bombing, the killing of 4 hostages in an apartment building in Beit Shean, all of which took place in the 1970’s. In addition, the DFLP has participated in and claimed responsibility for dozens of other terror attacks, including a suicide bombing near Tel Aviv that killed 4 in 2003.

Ma’alot? That was a long time ago. In May 1974 and perhaps timed for Israel’s independence day, DFLP terrorists first broke into an apartment in the town and killed the father, mother, and five-year-old child who lived there. They then broke into the nearby elementary school and took hostage all the children who were sleeping there overnight (as part of a tour of the Galilee)--over one hundred kids. In the end 26 were killed, and nearly 70 injured. That was a long time ago, but it is right now--at the end of May, with Secretary Kerry seeking to start up peace talks--that Mr. Abbas awarded the medal to Hawatmeh. It is part of a pattern, as the Palestinian Media Watch story details, of honoring perpetrators of terror.

How can one persuade Israelis that the PLO seeks peace when acts of terrorism are comemmorated? How serious can Palestinian negotiators be when their chief is personally honoring terrorists? A final question: has Mr. Kerry’s staff ever made him aware of all this, and has he told Mr. Abbas that it must stop?