Since the latest iteration of Israeli-Palestinian peace began, several Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were killed, and on each side politicians quickly declared the deaths as proof that the other side isn’t really interested in making peace.
Really? Or are they just looking for excuses to scuttle the talks?
Earlier this week an Israeli soldier was lured to the West Bank and murdered by a Palestinian who had intended to swap the body for release of his brother who was being held in an Israeli prison. The suspect, Nidal Omar, has since been arrested and confessed; his brother remains in jail.
On Sunday, an Israeli soldier was shot and killed by a sniper on Sunday near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron; the assailant has not been identified.
The kidnapping-murder prompted several Israeli ministers and politicians, particularly on the right, to say the incident proves that the Palestinians don’t want peace.
Similar words came from the other side last week as well. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, noted that “seven Palestinians have been killed so far” in clashes with Israeli security forces since the talks began. Erekat sees that as part of a pattern – which includes settlement construction – to undermine the chances for peace.
If the “pattern” continues Palestinians might quit the talks, he warned. Other Palestinian officials have made similar charges.
“Somebody needs to tell the Israelis: ‘Give this peace process a chance, because if your pattern is to prevent Palestinians from coming to the negotiating table, you’re about to succeed,'” Erekat said.
Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett tried to lay responsibility for the kidnap-murder of Tomer Hazan at the feet of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“The murder meant to free a terrorist, to free a soldier of Abu Mazen (Abbas), once again shows who our partner is,” he said. “You don’t make peace with terrorists who throw the bodies of soldiers into a pit; you fight them mercilessly.”
Avigdor Lieberman, the former foreign minister, also claimed evidence of a link to Abbas. His picture, along with that of Yasser Arafat, hangs at the entrance to the killer’s West Bank home. Furthermore, the failure of Palestinian leadership to “explicitly denounce” the killing is proof enough for Lieberman that “They have no real intention of reaching an agreement with Israel and continue to encourage and support the murder of Israelis.”
Abbas and PA officials have not yet commented but one of the alleged killer’s brothers, Mahmoud Omar, who was not arrested or involved in the incident, said, “I condemn what he did a million times. He ruined our lives.”
Bennett, Lieberman and others who oppose Palestinian statehood and the peace talks will keep trying to pull the plug, but it won’t happen any more than Abbas and Erekat will walk out. The bombastic rhetoric and threats will continue to spew, but too much is at stake for both sides to pull the plug.