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Israel and the Palestinians' response risks

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Israel and the Palestinians' response risks


A few hundred extreme right wing Israelis in Jerusalem called for vengeance against Arabs; the demonstrators condemned as ‘weak’ their government’s response to the country’s teen murders.

One protester said: “I want the government to get together, get the army together and to crush Hamas now!”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had this to say: “We must strike hard at the people of Hamas and its infrastructure in the West Bank. We won’t rest till we get the last of them, wherever they try to hide, no matter how long it takes.”

The looming question is ‘how far will the Israeli authorities go?’ The army’s operations within hours of the teens’ abduction did not win much public approval.

Many Israelis back their government’s demand that the reconciliation agreement between the Fatah Party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over in the West Bank and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip be dropped.

The Hamas party is branded a terrorist organisation by Israel and its allies.

But revoking the Fatah-Hamas deal would risk Abbas appearing to turn his back on a part of his own people and kowtowing to the Israelis. Many Palestinians already hold him in low regard, not least because he spoke out against the teens’ abduction.

Abbas said: “We hope they find them alive because we are human beings; we do not shoot people in cold blood. We will not do it and we do not accept that an innocent should be abducted or killed.” For this, his opponents called him a traitor.

Hamas, for its part, has kept up its non-condemnation of the abduction-murders. If it had spoken out like Abbas did, the Israeli authorities might have taken it into account in deciding their actions.

Against a backdrop of Israel’s resumption of destroying suspected militants’ homes — a practice suspended as counterproductive in 2005 — Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “We warn the occupation from waging any war or wide-scale aggression against our Palestinian people. The price the occupation will pay for any aggression will be even bigger.”

Many people feel this limits Israel’s room for manoeuvre. Israelis expect clear and robust counter-moves, although a blood-for-blood policy, in its turn, could inflame the whole region.

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