The West Asia peace process can at best be described as one step forward and two steps backward — and this time it appears to be only steps backward.
After the West Asia peace talks, initiated by United States secretary of state John Kerry, failed in April, both Israel and Palestine have been extremely jumpy when it comes to each other. Tensions broke out on June 12 after three Israeli teens were kidnapped.
Their bodies were found in Hebron on June 30. Two days later, on Wednesday, a Palestinian teen was kidnapped and a burnt body believed to be of the boy was found later in the day.
Clashes broke out between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem, which has been held by Israel since the 1967 Mideast War. Following the abduction of the three teens, calls for ‘revenge’, like the one from Israel’s Kfir brigade, have vitiated the atmosphere further.
At a time when much of the Arab world was witnessing unrest — from Syria to Egypt to Iraq — Israel and Palestine were relatively calm.
The recent abductions and killings are set to change things for the worse if reasonable reactions and policies do not prevail. With violence growing over the past two days there are fears that it might lead to a third Palestinian intifada.
As a first step towards easing tensions between the two, Israel must refuse to go down the road of collective punishment as it has done often in the past. The massive Israeli search exercise for the three teens led to hundreds of arrests and the death of five Palestinians.
To worsen this volatile climate, earlier this week Israel announced a wave of new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — Israel’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, has called this move a “proper Zionist response” to Palestine’s new unity government.
This is not a step in the right direction. This will not help the cause of peace or bring stability to the region. The Palestinian authorities, on their part, must rein in the extremist groups on their side.