Tension is escalating between Israel and Palestinians after the disappearance of three Israeli teens. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Hamas of kidnapping the teens, and held Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the whole incident. Israeli troops have launched a search on a war footing for the three boys, with thousands of troops fanning out. Already, scores of Palestinians have been arrested; troops scouring a West Bank city for the teens blew down the door of a home with explosives after residents did not admit them, and house-to-house searches were being conducted. Tension will escalate further; some Palestinians are expected to die as Netanyahu tries to act tough and condemnations are likely to flow from world leaders against the alleged kidnapping.
The disappearance of Israeli teens has dealt another blow to peace prospects. It comes at a wrong time – when Hamas and Fatah are trying to work out the shape of a unity government. It’s also likely to strain the relationship between Hamas and Fatah. It’s not clear who has kidnapped the Israelis, if at all they have been kidnapped, but the finger of blame has already been pointed at Hamas. The Islamist group denied it was behind the incident, despite some members welcoming it. But if the incident had happened before the unity deal, Hamas would have taken the entire punishment from Israel, but after the deal, Tel Aviv is likely to punish the Palestinian Authority too. And this comes as a golden opportunity for Israel to punish the PA for refusing to listen to its advice against joining hands with Hamas to form a government.
The kidnapping of Israeli citizens cannot be justified and is against international laws. It will backfire if such a crime has been committed by Palestinians. It will also adversely impact the support for the Palestinian cause. Israel is already reeling under an international fury directed at it due to its recalcitrant attitude towards peace and its reckless settlement expansion. The international boycott of Israel is gaining momentum in the West, and even the unity government has won huge support, including from the US, despite warnings by Israel. This goodwill and support which Palestinians currently enjoy are likely to be tarnished by the latest developments. For example, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, has condemned the kidnapping of the boys, issuing a statement calling for their release, apparently backing Israeli claims of Hamas involvement. “As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organisation known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past,” Kerry said.
Israel too must learn the right lesson from the alleged kidnapping – that the safety of its citizens can only be guaranteed through the creation of an independent Palestinian state.