Collecting One’s Thoughts

Collecting One’s Thoughts

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The kidnapping and murder of the three teenage Yeshiva students has torn into the deep fabric of Israeli society. It has united the country in grief. At the same time the people of Israel are confused as to how and where to respond to this senseless inhuman crime. In addition, it is now beginning to appear that Hamas was not directly involved in organizing and perpetrating this crime; yet it is similarly clear that when radical groups like Hamas create a climate in which this type of behavior is lauded, and praised, individual terrorists will opt to seek glory by effecting the horror such as was enacted against these three innocent teenagers.

Americans know all too well through their own history how slavery, prejudice, racism, etc., created an environment in parts of the U.S. where criminal actions against African Americans were acceptable and tolerated for generations. Justice ignored hangings, cold-blooded murders, and killings. Perpetrators were not prosecuted or blithely dismissed. This deep-seated hostility and the climate of bigotry took years to begin to eradicate.

Similarly, it is clear that vigilante justice from probable Israeli extremists allegedly murdering a teenage Arab is equally unacceptable and similarly senseless. Regardless of the grief, pain, and suffering that Israelis have endured over the past few days, democratic societies must be governed by the rule of law. In addition, Jewish values do not consider this type of response to be within the normative views of Judaism.    

On a political level—and there is always a political level as well even in a moment of tragedy—there is an entire array of issues which are currently on the table. Bibi pounced on the tragedy to assert that Hamas was directly responsible and Fatah was equally so by virtue of its re-uniting with Hamas into a single political entity. The IDF response to Hamas in Gaza was forthcoming in retaliation to the rocket barrages launched against Southern Israel; but the spin or mis-interpretation by many in the media, was that this was Israel’s direct response to the alleged direct involvement of Hamas in the kidnapping.

Israeli opposition to the PA’s effort to unite with Hamas may be legitimate, but it is not the motivation for the rockets being launched from Gaza nor the kidnapping of the three teenagers near Gush Etzion. At the moment it seems that the Israeli Government is controlling its response, but this could change dramatically should a third intifada actually break-out across the West Bank.

Politically speaking, Israel has too much on its plate to lose any type of edge that a sympathetic West might have given it in the last few days. The BDS debate is continuing to gain steam, anti-settlement voices are intensifying, the Iranian talks in Vienna have less than three weeks to go, the Sunni-Shiite-ISIS rampage continue in Iraq, and Syria continues on its merry way killing its minions.

Netanyahu has a very hard-right coalition to govern. He needs to manage it as well as his own Likud Party effectively and calmly, despite calls for blood in some circles. It will require statesmanship and diplomatic skill in a domestic environment which is ripe for a confrontation. 

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