Trump vs Terror
By Hal Lindsey
On May 22nd at 10:30 PM local time, an ISIS suicide bomber targeted a Manchester concert audience of mostly teen and pre-teen girls. A few hours later, two unlikely men stood together on a stage in the ancient city of Bethlehem. President Donald Trump of the United States and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas each gave a brief statement before taking questions from the press.
“We would like to reassert our willingness,” Abbas said to Trump, “to continue to work with you as partners in fighting terrorism in our region and in the world.”
It was the kind of thing Abbas has said to western audiences many times before, and especially to U.S. presidents. But in the past, no president ever publicly called him on it while standing next to him. Quietly, diplomatically — Trump did.
Abbas claims to be America’s partner, fighting terrorism in the region. But his government rewards terrorism, terrorists, and the families of terrorists with money and honor. A Palestinian in the region can give financial security to his family by committing a terrorist act. The Abbas government will give his family what they call a “salary” while he remains in prison. That “salary” will be at least as much as the average Palestinian annual wage, and can be four times the average. U.S. taxpayers help fund such “salaries.”
If the terrorist dies as a suicide bomber, Abbas and his comrades will not just give money to the family, they will name a town square (perhaps more than one) in the terrorist’s honor.
In other words, if the Manchester attack had been perpetrated by Palestinians against Jews, Abbas would have praised the attack, honored the attacker, and given a salary to his family. Abbas does not fight terrorism. He rewards it. He has made “terrorist” a respectable occupation, and the quickest route to fame and glory among his people. He is an enabler and encourager of terrorism.
When it was Trump’s turn to speak, he went back to the theme of his speech to Muslim leaders in Riyadh a couple of days earlier. “The terrorists and extremists, and those who give them aid and comfort, must be driven out from our society forever.”
The phrase, “those who give them aid and comfort,” seemed to be a direct reference to the Palestinian policy of honoring and supporting terrorists and their families.
Later, Trump said something that left no doubt about his concerns regarding the Abbas government. He said, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.”
In a Jerusalem Post editorial, Adam Rasgon wrote, “The only problem with Trump’s request is that Abbas almost certainly cannot fulfill it as prisoners and ‘martyrs’ loom large in Palestinian society and the PA president’s popularity is declining.”
He’s right. Abbas is too weak to stop paying terrorists’ families. If he did it, his countrymen would rise up in arms against him. That weakness is a problem because any peace agreement would require strong leadership on both sides. The Palestinian leader’s fragility makes a U.S.-brokered peace nearly impossible.
Abbas is now in the 15th year of a 5-year term. That makes his leadership completely illegitimate. And the Palestinians know it. 64% now say he should resign.
President Trump has been characteristically optimistic about the possibilities of peace. A few weeks ago, when he met Abbas at the White House, the President spoke of brokering a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. “It is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
We will see.
Real and lasting peace among nations will not arrive on earth until the return of Jesus. But that doesn’t mean we should stop working for peace. We will not be able to achieve ultimate peace, but we should follow the teaching of Jesus and be peacemakers where and when we can.
In Matthew 5:9, the Lord said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He knew our limitations. He knew that humans working for peace would not end all war. But when we work out even a season of peace, it alleviates massive levels of suffering. Avoiding another intifada means saving hundreds or even thousands of lives on both sides.
So, we should be peacemakers. But we should do so with humility. Some of the peace efforts of past Presidents have done great harm to both Israelis and Palestinians. They pushed Israel to do more than was fair, right, or safe. They inadvertently encouraged Palestinians to take a tough line. Some previous administrations gave Palestinians the false notion that they would gain more by waiting Israel out, than by honestly seeking peaceful coexistence.
In Psalms 122:6, King David wrote, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
We should work for peace here and now. But we should also remember that, ultimately, to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” means to pray for the return of Jesus.