The Israeli-Palestinian situation is approaching the point where the United States and other countries must ask how long can this destructive course continue before intervention is needed.
Talks between the Israelis and Palestinians were underway, launched by President Barack Obama in his first year in office, then halted on the basis of different views on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The talks were resumed in his second term with a burst of energy from new Secretary of State John Kerry, then torpedoed again by the participants a few months ago. That time the Israelis again were full steam ahead on settlements in the West Bank, reneged on a pledge to free Palestinian prisoners and took offense at Palestinian efforts to form a unity government between Fatah and Hamas to face the Israelis across the table, which prompted the Palestinians to insist on their right to do so, ending the Kerry round of talks.
Things are getting really nasty now. Three Israeli teenagers, including one with dual U.S. citizenship, were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank. Although the killers have yet to be caught or identified, some Israelis assume and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims they were identified with Hamas. A Palestinian teenager was subsequently captured and burned alive, and three Israeli suspects confessed to the crime on Monday. Mr. Netanyahu has promised they will face “the fullest extent of the law.”
The killings of the Israeli and Palestinian teenagers has been followed by, most recently, 20 rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, and Israeli air strikes on 14 sites in Gaza, killing seven Palestinians.
Matters are at a sorry state when two groups are reduced to killing each other’s children. Some might argue that relations between them would be better if peace talks were underway. Others would argue that it is better to let them fight until the bloodshed and losses drive them back to the table with a will to make negotiations succeed.
For now, Washington is deploring the killing, but not stepping up an effort to relaunch the talks. The risk is that the situation will deteriorate into a third intifada, extended violent street confrontation between the Israelis and Palestinians, as began in 1987 and 2000.