“Troop deaths put strain on Mideast peace talks.” So states a Washington Post headline (print edition) this morning. The headline refers to the fact that Palestinians killed two Israeli troops this weekend, including an unarmed 20-year old whose dead body was tossed into a well by his murderer.
The armed wing of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party has claimed responsibility for both killings. Its actual responsibility, if any, is less significant, politically speaking, than its eagerness to make the claim. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority — Israel’s “peace partner” — has not yet condemned the murders. So, yes, you can see how the murders might put a damper on “peace talks.”
And, indeed, they sparked an outburst of sound thinking in Israel about the foolishness of trying to negotiate peace with Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an order allowing Jewish families to move into a contested house in a Palestinian neighborhood of Hebron, where one of the Israeli soldiers was killed.
Those who try to uproot us from the City of the Patriarchs will achieve the opposite. We will continue to fight terrorism and strike at terrorists on the one hand and strengthen settlement with the other.
Members of Netanyahu’s government echoed his hard-line was echoed by members of his government. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of Economy and Commerce, wrote:
Twenty years after the Oslo Accords, our partner has not changed. We cannot make peace with terrorists who the bodies of soldiers into pits; we must fight them without mercy.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who had recently called on Israel to annul the Oslo Accords, blamed the Palestinian leadership for the murders:
Incitement of the Palestinian leadership continues 20 years after Oslo.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said:
The murder of soldier Tomer Hazan is a terrible reminder of what Israel faces every day dealing with murderous animal-like terrorists.
The counter-argument is that the actions of a few terrorists don’t negate the possibility of peace between two peoples. But that argument fails, and not just because the political arm of Israel’s “peace partner” hasn’t condemned the terrorism.
As Evelyn Gordon points out, the peace talks have virtually no support among ordinary Palestinians. Not a single Palestinian faction favored resuming the negotiations to begin with. And over the weekend, several Palestinian groups launched a public campaign to demand an end to the talks while also opposing any Palestinian concessions whatsoever as part of a deal.
Even with the weekend murders, Israeli opposition to the peace talks has a long way to go before it catches up with Palestinian opposition. And the recent terrorism is best viewed as a symptom of the hatred that fuels broad Palestinian opposition to making peace with Israel.