The kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach has put an end to Palestinian statehood as a viable diplomatic option in the foreseeable future, regardless of the insistence by the Obama administration that negotiations will continue. The attack highlighted both the brutality and the basic incompetence of the Palestinian Authority to police itself or to control its new Hamas governing partner.
In the midst of the crisis, President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, Martin Indyk, resigned. He is the second Obama envoy to do so, after former Sen. George Mitchell–a veteran of the Northern Ireland peace process–gave up during Obama’s first term. In both cases, Palestinian intransigence–encouraged, in part, by new U.S. pressure on Israel–prevented negotiations from moving forward in any substantive way.
The kidnappings were the final blow. They took place just days after the Palestinian Authority (PA) formed a unity government with the Hamas terror organization. And though the “moderate” Fatah wing grumbled in private that Hamas was ruining its relations with the west, in public forums Fatah was brazen in its support for the atrocity. Cartoons supporting the kidnappings ran on Fatah’s Facebook page, and in the PA’s official daily.
A leaked recording of the emergency call by one of the teens–believed to be Gilad Shaar–included never-before-released footage of the executions, along with the voices of Palestinian perpetrators celebrating. Israelis were disgusted–both by the official Palestinian celebrations of a crime against civilians, and by the perceived failure of the PA to provide meaningful assistance in finding the missing teens or punishing the perpetrators.
An apparent revenge attack against an Arab teen who was abducted and killed Wednesday underlined the rage the incident has triggered–but also brought universal condemnation from Israeli leaders, as well as a pledge to find and punish the perpetrators. Israeli leaders stressed the importance of preserving a “nation of laws,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as opposed to the PA terrorist state seeking international recognition.
In recent days, Netanyahu also stressed–implicitly–the contrast between the Palestinians and the Kurds, whose independence in Iraq he supported in a speech on Sunday. The Kurds, he said, were ” a warrior nation that is politically moderate, has proven they can be politically committed, and is worthy of statehood.” The obvious contrast is to the Palestinians–who, while “warriors,” are ideologically extreme and unable to self-govern.
Netanyahu also proposed building a border fence along Israel’s entire eastern frontier, from Eilat on the Red Sea to the Golan Heights. Currently, that part of the border, mostly shared with Jordan, is largely unfenced. However, the threat of ISIS infiltration via Jordan is one the Israeli government can no longer ignore–and it cares less and less about whatever territorial claims of the Palestinians might interfere with its security needs.
The kidnappings could have been an opportunity–however morbid–for the Palestinian leadership to show that it could be a partner for security, and that it was willing to discourage incitement. Instead, it proved–to most Israelis, and most reasonable observers–that, as one Israeli minister said, there is little difference between the Palestinian Authority and the rabid murderers of ISIS. Statehood is out for the moment–and perhaps forever.