On Thursday Secretary of State John Kerry will be visiting Israel, and presumably also the Palestinian Authority, for the fourth time since accompanying President Obama on his visit here in late March. Four times since late March suggests something like obsession. Indeed, Kerry is reportedly set to unveil a "framework for peace talks" in early June.
The PA, for its part, is making threats about what it will do if the talks don't start up again. Israel Hayomreports that "The Palestinians have done all the legal work necessary to join 63 U.N. agencies, conventions and treaties [and are] planning to apply as a state to 16 international organizations if peace talks with Israel [do] not resume by June."
The Palestinians want to make this unilateral-statehood push on the basis of the UN vote last November that gave them the status of a nonmember observer state. The United States (along with Israel, of course) was one of the few countries voting "no" and, at least declaratively, strongly opposed the Palestinian move.
Meanwhile, not for the first time, the Palestinians—both official bodies and civilians—have been engaging in behavior not notably consonant with visions of peace.
A Palestinian man who was detained by the Palestinian Authority security forces in Hebron has lost the ability to speak as a result of severe torture, according to a report released by the Independent Commission for Human Rights. Mohamed Abdel Karim Dar of Hebron was hospitalized after being tortured while in detention, the report, which documented 28 cases of torture in PA prisons in the West Bank last month, said. Dar had been detained by agents belonging to the PA's Preventive Security Service and held in solitary confinement, the document said. "He lost the ability to speak and suffered from wounds to his body as a result of banging his head against the wall and tying his hands while being held in solitary confinement," the report added…. The organization…said that it had received complaints of torture and mistreatment against other branches of the PA security forces in the West Bank—13 against the police, seven against the Preventive Security Service, seven against the General Intelligence Service and one against Military Intelligence.
Britain…has been playing a major role in training and financing Palestinian security forces in the West Bank…. [O]fficials said Britain has been training and advising virtually every major PA security force, often in coordination with the United States.
The report goes on to note that British intelligence "has repeatedly urged PA security commanders to stop torture," but "acknowledged that torture and abuse continued in PA detention facilities against Hamas suspects and pro-democracy activists."
The report later specifically mentions the Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence Service as two of the outfits being trained by Britain "often" with U.S. cooperation.
Over the past three months, some 200 firebombs and 80 explosive devices have been thrown at worshippers and Israeli soldiers at Rachel's Tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The figures were provided by senior Israel Defense Forces and Border Police officers on Monday during a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The committee gathered to discuss the security threats facing worshippers at the tomb. Committee Chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman instructed the army to examine options to assure the safety of the worshippers and present the plans to the committee in one month.
Here, then, is a suggested agenda for Secretary Kerry's next talks with the Palestinians:
● Threaten a complete cutoff of U.S. aid if they go through with the unilateral-statehood moves—a direct flouting of the official U.S. position over the past 20 years, including U.S. signatures on several Israel-Palestinian agreements, that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is only to be resolved through negotiations.
● Raise very seriously the issue of torture, since it is not at all clear why the U.S., along with Britain, should be training forces that torture pro-democracy activists.
● Demand, once and for all, an end to official PA incitement, since, again, it is not at all clear why the U.S. should be supporting an entity whose population—among much else—persistently violently attacks a biblical shrine.