"The Bloody Shrapnel" -- new article by Peace Now's Yariv Oppenheimer

The following article by Peace Now's Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer, headlined The Bloody Shrapnel, was published in today's edition of the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth:

We had good reason to keep our fingers crossed during the negotiations in hope of a breakthrough; we had good reason to pull our hair out when the minister of housing kept issuing tenders for settlement construction; we had good reason to be angry when we saw the footage of the unjustified shooting in Bituniya; we had good reason to become angrier when the government ignored the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike. It was obvious that the despair, the hate, the hostility and the anger on the Palestinian side would find their way out.

We knew that time is not on our side, and that this was a matter of crucial decisions and human lives.  Seven years of quiet, in which we could have improved our relations with the Palestinians and achieved a peace agreement, had been wasted.

When the Palestinian government fought Hamas, that was not enough for Netanyahu –  and he found excuses not to make progress; when the Palestinians requested a settlement freeze, the government preferred the option of releasing prisoners; and when Minister Livni was still trying to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough, Minister Bennett summarized the debate on the Palestinian issue as a piece of shrapnel in the backside.

Now that piece of shrapnel is starting to bleed, and the wound poses a threat to the entire region.  What is left for the prime minister to do now is to go deeper into the blame game and capitalize on the incident to gain public support. A better future – for us and for the Palestinians – is not something the prime minister is interested in working toward.

There is no justification for acts of violence, certainly not for the kidnapping teenagers and the harassment of their dear families.  Everyone who believes in two states and a peace treaty wants that to happen in order to prevent events like these in the future.

The terrorists behind the act must be caught and punished.  There is no and will be no a justification for kidnapping and targeting innocent teenagers.  But in order to understand how to deal with the problem and prevent it from deteriorating, we also have to examine reality from a Palestinian perspective.

When from every Palestinian window you can see bulldozers building more settlements and leaving no space for the Palestinian state, the area roils and that sense of powerlessness and frustration is going to seek an outlet. 

When in recent years dozens of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with IDF troops, it was impossible not to expect for there to be extremists on the other side who would seek revenge.  The terrorists do not need incitement in the Palestinian media or textbooks—the harsh and humiliating reality in which the Palestinians live is stronger any television broadcast or sermon at a mosque. 

What did we expect, that all the Palestinians would sit back quietly and cave in as the Israeli occupation grew stronger?  What were we thinking, that the quiet would be preserved forever and that the Etzion Bloc would become a pastoral touristic site with no memory of the Palestinians?  The other side’s loss of hope and the Israeli arrogance and unwillingness to compromise have blown up in our faces.

Neither the children who hitchhike are to blame, nor the Palestinian Authority's incitement or the establishment of the Palestinian unity government. Responsibility for the situation rests with those who chose to ignore the Palestinian problem and to let the vacuum and frustration rear their heads. 

Israel needs to do everything in order to save the teenagers and bring them home, through military action if possible or through a painful deal if there is no other way out.  But the day after, Israel must go back to the same critical juncture and ask itself what chance and what kind of future there are for the Israeli presence in the heart of the territories.  Without a drastic change of the reality on the ground and a restart of the peace process, the stage will remain in the hands of terrorist organizations, and the next terrorist attacks will be only a matter of time.