In less than a month three Israelis have been murdered and a girl wounded in the West Bank. All the incidents are suspected terror attacks, although in two of them criminal motivation has yet to be ruled out. As has often been the case in Israeli-Palestinian relations, the line separating security offenses from other kinds isn’t always clear; it often corresponds to the Green Line, but it’s not identical to it. But to soberly assess the situation, it’s worth relating to these separate incidents as a meaningful cluster and examining their diplomatic significance.
A quarter of a century after the start of the first intifada and two decades after the Oslo Accords, those Israel Defense Forces officers who say there is no sense that we’re on the verge of another intifada are justified. The Palestinian Authority and its security forces are gaining increasingly effective control of the area, because they have an incentive to do so. Under American pressure, talks have resumed between representatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Despite the numerous warnings about terror cells organizing to commit attacks, the IDF and Shin Bet security service have foiled almost all the plans they’ve exposed. The assumption is that the attacks that were not intercepted were conducted by individuals, perhaps inspired by organizations, but not directly sent by them.
But even as the professionals are trying to analyze the source of the recent murders and the motivation behind them, right-wing elements are hurrying to make political capital out of these events. Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin has already managed to determine that “Palestinian terror is raising its head, encouraged by incitement that’s backed by the PA and its leaders.” He was echoed by Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who demanded, “that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately halt the diplomatic negotiations that aren’t bringing anything except the spilling of Jewish blood.” Ariel also demanded that “the release of terrorists be stopped and that the decision to release them be urgently reexamined by the cabinet.”
Particularly at a time when the components of a potential outbreak of violence do exist and there is a real need to keep things calm, it would behoove Elkin, Ariel and the other instigators to stop their inflammatory rhetoric and act responsibly. If the diplomatic option collapses as a result of Netanyahu capitulating to right-wing pressures from within his party and elsewhere, there is indeed liable to be another flare-up. It’s important that the Israeli government understand the magnitude of its responsibility and do its utmost to fulfill its obligations to the Palestinians and avoid unnecessary provocations.
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