The tension and turmoil spreading in Palestinian territories and Israel after the killing of three Israeli teens and a Palestinian by rival groups have begun to trigger worries about the start of a third intifada. There are calls for restraint from all sides; but the atmosphere is so charged that sanity is in short supply and emotions are setting the agenda. If Israelis were appalled, and rightly so, at the tragedy that befell three teenagers, resulting in a national outpouring of grief spearheaded by the government, Palestinians were equally justified in their expression of anger and grief at the killing of a Palestinian teenager. According to reports, the Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khudair, met a more inhuman end. The Palestinian attorney general said that the boy was burnt alive after suffering a head injury. His statement is based on initial postmortem findings that discovered soot deposits in his lungs suggesting he was still breathing when he was set on fire. The shocking details, if confirmed, would seem likely to exacerbate already toxic tensions. The Israeli authorities have failed to arrest the culprits in this case, and the revenge killing has shown the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in poor light. Moreover,, the government failed to control the public rage; several Palestinians have been attacked by right-wing Israelis who are meting out their own punishment, while Netanyahu has unleashed his military on Palestinian territories, ratcheting up tension.
The latest spate of violence and revenge killings is the result of Netanyahu’s hawkish policies and his support for right-wing groups. He has been comfortable with his thinking that suppression of Palestinians and denial of their rights would bring peace, and status quo is an alternative for peace, which is not true. But ironically, this hawkish, right-wing prime minister has been forced to do exactly the opposite of what his image suggests: restrain the right-wingers. The level of hatred and outrage among the Israeli public is reprehensible, which is not suitable for a state like Israel which prides itself on its law and order. A prominent rabbi declared that “the disgrace will be paid for with the blood of the enemy, not with our tears”.
There will be no winners in the current chaos. Netanyahu will strive to inflict more pain on Palestinians, and punish them for the unity between Hamas and Fatah, but that will only serve to harden positions. There is pressure on him from the public to avenge the killings of the teens, but doing so would weaken his position before the international community which has been calling for restraint.
Both Israelis and Palestinians, especially the former, must step back from the brink to avoid an escalation of crisis. The law must take its course to bring the culprits before justice•