Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A sad ending, with little hope in sight

Shortly after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by terrorists in the West Bank I wrote a blog post about how this act was not only a personal tragedy for the families involved, but likely to further damage (if such a thing is possible) any prospects of a real peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Despite hope that they would be found alive and well, tragically, the three young men were found murdered, probably shot very soon after their abduction. 

This senseless act of brutality is already fueling unrest and violence in Israel, with riots breaking out in in Eastern Jerusalem following the discovery of a murdered Palestinian teenager and many Arab residents blaming Israel for his death. As of this writing it's not clear if there is any connection between this death and the murder of the three Israeli teens, but it would clearly be in the best interest of everyone involved, from the families of these murdered children, to the Palestinian Authority  and the government of Israel, to catch those responsible as swiftly as possible. 

I think even by the standards of the region and recent history that things are at a low point right now, and I'm not the only one. In an article on the Foreign Policy website, author and former diplomat Aaron David Miller writes:

"As for the impact of the murders on the formal peace process, the question has been pretty conclusively answered: The notion that violence and terror could provide a clarifying moment and lead to a breakthrough is as illusory as using a prayer summit to produce a two-state solution. Netanyahu's recent statements after the murders, hardening Israeli security requirements in the Jordan Valley, strongly suggest that this process is closed for the season."

Miller's assessment is not optimistic, but I believe it is realistic. The chance of any major breakthrough or even movement when it comes the peace process feel very far away, and with political turmoil and ideological violence on the rise across the Middle East, there are any number of other regional conflicts that could easily force Israel to turn its attention to more pressing issues. The advance of ISIL and the possibility that the group could cause problems on Israel's doorstep in Jordan, and spillover from the Syrian Civil War in the north, are just two examples of threats that may end up drawing Israeli attention and resources away from peace talks with the Palestinians. And these are just two threats we can identify today- unfortunately we have no way of knowing what tomorrow may bring.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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