A series of conflicting statements between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Israel’s government and the Palestinian Authority have right-leaning Zionists gathered in Washington saying, “We have seen this before.”
Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that the P.A. had agreed to stop making so-called martyrs payments to Palestinians held in Israeli prisons as well as their families. But on Wednesday, both Israeli and Palestinian leaders said Tillerson had it wrong — the payments are continuing.
Irene Alter, a New Yorker who came to Washington Wednesday to attend the gala for the rightwing think tank Endowment for Middle East Truth, thinks Tillerson’s statement was a symptom of the Trump administration’s learning curve about the Middle East. The lesson is that you can’t believe what the Palestinians say, she said.
“I think it’s [the curve] just in relation to understanding that the Palestinian Authority might say one thing to the American government, and we know, memory has shown us … that when they [P.A.] go back to their own people it’s totally different.”
Bethesda resident Toby Gottesman said he doesn’t look to politicians for whom to believe.
“When [the payment] stops it stops, and I trust the Mossad.” Israel’s CIA, he said.
Emet founder and president Sarah Stern put the blame for Tillerson’s statement squarely on the P.A., which she said has shown a consistent disregard for its promises over the last 20 years.
“I have tremendous respect for the secretary of state and for his office, but talk is cheap,” she said. “Let’s see that these payments get immediately stopped.”
Daniel Pipes, president of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, a rightwing think tank, said it would be a “momentous shift” if the Palestinians ever stopped giving stipends to terrorists.
“It’s essential to who they are to support and reward individuals and their families who attacked Israelis,” he said. “Let’s hope [Tillerson] knows what he’s talking about.”
During dinner, guests applauded loudly each time a speaker railed against the P.A. or condemned language labeling Israel as an apartheid state. Col. Richard Kemp, a retired British Army officer who was honored for his service, said that “lies have become the central pillar” of the P.A.’s strategy in the Middle East.
“Today, they finally told the truth and admitted that they’re not going to stop these payments, and part of their objective in that is to humiliate President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson,” he said.
Later, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said that an Arab attack on American soil would result in more outrage than an attack on Israeli soil.
“If they would have dispatched hundreds of suicide bombers and five thousand rockets in this country, well I think you know what would have happened,” he said.