The death of three Israeli teenagers murdered following their kidnap over two weeks ago has quite naturally outraged and horrified Israelis. It is a crime and those responsible must be held accountable.
Israeli authorities believe this was a Hamas operation though the group has denied it. If so, it was most likely from elements within Hamas who reject April’s deal between Fatah and Hamas and want to weaken Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. As ever spoilers on either side have plenty of scope to knock back any steps forward.
How will the Israeli authorities react?
A grieving Israeli public demand action and Israeli politicians, far from calming the situation, have ratcheted up the language. Militarily, Israeli forces have started bombing Gaza in part in response to rocket fire but also as part of the “we will make Hamas pay” strategy articulated by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Revenge is openly stated as a motivation. The Israeli cabinet displays all its usual cracks and divisions. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, has advocated a full-scale invasion of Gaza, others a more limited response.
Over the last few weeks, there have been over 400 arrests including use of administrative detention and the demolition of homes belonging to the families of two suspects. “Operation My Brothers Keeper” has seen five Palestinians killed and many injured. Human rights groups point to a lack of due process and abuse of legal processes.
Many institutions throughout the West Bank have been raided including some who clearly could have little or no connection to the murders. Despite these arrests and investigations, Israeli authorities have released very little detail on exactly who and how the killers carried out their attack.
Politically, Netanyahu has every intention of ending all chances of the Fatah-Hamas deal reaching fruition. Sadly for peace, he may succeed given the frailty of ties between the two Palestinian groups. Building yet more settlements in the West Bank is touted as a serious option, moves the international community will almost certainly condemn as a wrong and inappropriate response.
For Palestinians, President Abbas looks weaker, helpless to limit Israel’s crackdown. The Hamas leadership fears losing the unity deal it worked hard for at a time when it had lost many of its regional patrons. It risks being blamed by many Palestinians for triggering Israel’s actions. Internationally
Hamas’s failure to condemn the killings will not improve its standing.
From a Palestinian perspective this round of events never started with the kidnappings. The Israeli use of live fire against Palestinians has increased according to the UN, Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups. The killing of two Palestinian teenagers at Ofer in May 2014 was as painful to Palestinians as the killings of these three teenagers. Israeli forces and settlers have killed six Palestinian children so far in 2014. When Palestinians are rounded up and detained without trial they are seen as kidnap victims. Palestinians wonder why a US President and British Prime Minister comment on three murdered Israelis and not on murdered Palestinians.
The end result is that the extremists win and the peace camp, such as it is, loses.
The cycle of violence and revenge continues with Israel able to inflict by far the greater harm to Palestinians.
Why is all this so predictable – simply because it has happened time and time again? Israel will be no more secure. Palestinians will collectively suffer for the actions of its violent minority. No doubt Hamas leaders will be assassinated but this has only ever been a temporary setback.
Either side can seek vengeance and retribution but it will not bring security, rights, justice or peace. The sad thing is that it not clear just who is fighting for that right now.
Chris Doyle is director of the Council for Advancing Arab-British Relations.