A Tragedy Should Not Beget Another: Israeli Seven Decades-old Debilitating Conflict
04 July 2014
By Alon Ben-Meir
There are no words that can adequately condemn the
tragic death of the three Israeli teenagers, Naftali,
Gilad and Eyal, who have become the latest victims of
the long and bloody Israeli-Palestinian struggle. The
abduction of any person, be that for exacting ransom
or for the purpose of a prisoner exchange, must be
vehemently opposed and condemned in the strongest
words. To summarily execute the three kidnapped
innocent boys, however, is beastly and transcends the
most awful crime that one can commit against another.
The unfathomable murders should now hopefully serve
only the opposite of what the criminal perpetrators
intended. If they meant to inflict tremendous pain and
agony on all Israelis, and especially the families of
the victims, they have succeeded, but they also have
miserably failed as they set back the prospect of a
solution to the agonizing conflict from which many
Palestinians young and old will dreadfully suffer.
The lives of these brave teenagers that were
mercilessly cut short must not be in vain. They must
be the catalyst for peace and not the cause that
perpetuates the self-consuming conflict that will only
poison another generation of Israelis and
Prime Minister Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for the
atrocious murders without producing as yet any
compelling evidence. The mere fact, however, that
Hamas' leadership extolled the abductions and
subsequently condoned the cold-blooded killing
strongly suggests that Hamas' leadership is incapable
of changing its stripes.
Following the establishment of the unity government I
advocated that the Israeli government should give
Hamas a chance to prove that it has finally
subscribed, albeit indirectly, to a negotiated
settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is now obvious, and to my chagrin, that Hamas
joining the unity government was designed only to
strengthen its foothold in the West Bank and benefit
economically from the merger.
That said, I am convinced that Hamas' leadership does
not represent the vast majority of the Palestinians in
Gaza who are captives of these ruthless leaders and
are fed up with their unending precarious status quo.
Although Hamas' leaders deny culpability in the
horrific murders, and even if their claim proves to be
true, Hamas has forfeited any chance to redeem itself
while subjecting the Palestinians in Gaza to greater
suffering and despondency.
Meanwhile Hamas' leadership has severely undermined
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who
genuinely seeks a negotiated peace agreement to bring
an end to the seven decades-old debilitating conflict.
Those in and outside the Israeli government who are
calling for massive retaliation to indiscriminately
punish the Palestinians, including the Economy and
Defense Ministers Naftali Bennett and Moshe Ya'alon
respectively, have lost their bearing as they seek
revenge and retribution. They are clearly shortsighted
because they seem to have no idea where the escalation
of violence could lead to.
Capturing and punishing the culprits behind the
murders is one thing, but destroying the prospect of a
peace agreement is as harmful to the Israelis as to
the Palestinians. Uncompromising Israeli and
Palestinian zealots are only paving the way for more
tragedies on both sides, which sadly has already led
to the death of at least six Palestinian youth.
The Netanyahu government is clearly split over the
scope of the Israeli retaliatory measures and what the
ultimate objective is. Obviously deliberating in such
a painful and emotionally charged atmosphere often
leaves little room for rational discourse.
That said, there are still wise men and women in the
Israeli government, including Finance Minister Yair
Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who for good
reason counsel restraint.
They, like many other Israelis, know that there is no
escaping the reality of Israeli-Palestinian
coexistence in one form or another. Every action or
reaction taken today will have a lasting impact,
either deeply damaging or benefiting their bilateral
The ultimate gain belongs to those Israelis and
Palestinians who share the vision of peaceful
coexistence and remain focused on the larger picture
regardless of how awful the current circumstances are.
Every crisis, regardless of its magnitude, presents an
opportunity for a new breakthrough. The US' call for
restraint while consoling the Israelis and sharing
their grief is certainly the right first step. But
more is needed to be done by the US to prevent the
fallout from a major violent conflagration.
Given the sweeping turmoil throughout the region and
the danger that every state in the area faces, another
major Israeli-Palestinian flareup will only play into
the hands of the jihadists, especially the Islamic
State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who would exploit every
opening to promote their menacing agenda, which will
pose a direct danger to Israel, Jordan and the
President Obama must spare no effort to calm the
situation first by immediately dispatching Secretary
of State John Kerry to the region and make a personal
appeal to the Israeli government and the PA to do
everything in their power to preserve their security
He should also urge them to further strengthen their
collaboration and defy those who are bent on
destroying the last vestiges of peaceful negotiations
now or in the not-too-distant future.
President Abbas in particular needs all the support
and help he can get to hold onto his position and
remain the voice of reason. No other leader but the US
President can give Abbas the helping hands he now
The President should also invite both Netanyahu and
Abbas to the White House and remind them of the perils
of not achieving peace and ask them to publicly
reaffirm their commitment to resume negotiations in
The Israeli and Palestinian public needs to see the
two leaders working hand in hand toward that end and
that the tragic events have only strengthened their
No Israeli or Palestinian child should die in a
conflict that could have been resolved decades ago.
They deserve and have the right to live in peace and a
promising future. The precious loss of life of Naftali,
Gilad and Eyal should not be in vain--may their
victimhood be the catalyst for peace.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international
relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He
teaches courses on international negotiation and
Middle Eastern studies. email@example.com Web: