February 4, 2015 | Press Release

U.S. Should Take Steps to Weaken PLO and Return as Peace Process Arbiter, FDD Scholar Tells Congress

WASHINGTON – Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday that the United States must take action to ensure that the Palestinian bid at the International Criminal Court fails. He called on Congress to take steps to weaken the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Schanzer told the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee that Abbas’ goal with international recognition is to force Israelis to relinquish territory or give other concessions outside the scope of bilateral negotiations.

“The dangers of this campaign cannot be understated,” Schanzer said. “For one, these efforts are not likely to resolve the conflict peacefully. Rather, they will keep the embers of conflict glowing.”

He also said it is clear Abbas and his team no longer feel beholden to the United States, despite hundreds of millions of dollars provided each year in economic assistance.

“Threats to cut assistance to the Palestinian Authority have not had the desired impact in recent years,” he said. “Washington is dependent on the PA for continued security cooperation with Israel. Abbas knows this. This is why he feels comfortable testing the patience of legislators, and even the president.”

Schanzer called Abbas “a huge part of the problem” and said the United States should call for new elections, noting he is now in the tenth year of a five-year presidential term. “He has a strangehold on Palestinian politics,” he said.

Schanzer called on Congress to take steps to weaken the PLO because it still has terrorist groups under its umbrella, its leaders are unelected, its decision-making is opaque and its finances are obscured from the public eye.

“Its very existence enables a dysfunctional system,” he said. “At any given time, we don’t know whether it is the PLO, the Fatah faction, or the PA that is speaking in the Palestinians’ name. If the goal is to hold the Palestinian leadership responsible for its actions, it is time to empower the Palestinian government we seek to engage and to make the PLO obsolete.”

Schanzer made several other recommendations for action the United States could take, including:

  • Returning to its role as arbiter of the peace process, which will empower it to call for a halt to all unilateral activity and guide the conflict toward a more constructive dynamic.
  • Declassifying intelligence on Palestinian terrorism, illicit activity and human rights abuses, to send a message to Palestinian leaders that they are also susceptible to ICC prosecution.
  • Establishing a U.S. lawfare office, which could help the United States battle lawfare, in defense of U.S. officials and allies.
  • Leveraging “Article 98” agreements with foreign governments, which ensure U.S. citizens are not surrendered to the jurisdiction of the ICC, and entering into additional agreements with other foreign governments.

Schanzer is a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of Treasury, where he played an integral role in the designation of numerous terrorist financiers. He is a former research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and has studied Middle East history in four countries. He earned his Ph.D. from Kings College London and is the author of three books, including “State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State” and “Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine.”

He has recently authored an article in Foreign Policy about escalating tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem and co-authored a piece on CNN.com on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. He regularly appears on CNN and Fox News.

The full text of the written testimony can be found here.

About the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Founded in 2001, FDD combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism education, strategic communications and investigative journalism in support of its mission to promote pluralism, defend democratic values and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism. Visit our website at www.defenddemocracy.org and connect with us on TwitterFacebook and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Matthew E. Berger, Senior Director of Communications
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Palestinian Politics