On Tuesday evening, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to avenge the June 12 abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers. Since then, the Israeli public has not heard another word from the prime minister about which concrete steps he actually intends to take.
His security cabinet has met three times since the bodies of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel were found Monday — eighteen days after they were snatched from a hitchhiking post south of Jerusalem — discussing for hours on end how Israel should respond to their deaths. Many different measures were raised: from expanding settlement construction to expelling Hamas terrorists from the West Bank to Gaza. Some top ministers called for an extensive military campaign, including targeted killing of terrorists and toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza. But no decisions have been announced.
In his statement Tuesday, Netanyahu hinted at a relatively moderate response, while many Israelis – including senior ministers in his security cabinet – called for harsher measures. But then something happened that may have changed Israel’s game plan, whatever it might have been. (After a fierce disagreement among ministers over how to respond to the killings, leaked after the first cabinet meeting Monday, Netanyahu instructed them to maintain absolute radio silence over the debate. It’s rare that nothing leaks out from a cabinet meeting, but so far the ministers have been keeping their mouths shut.)
Early Wednesday morning, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old teenager from East Jerusalem, was kidnapped and slain. Even though Israeli police have yet to conclude their investigation, many in Israel and abroad suspect the killers were Jews out to avenge the Israeli teens. International condemnations started pouring in almost immediately after the news of Abu Khdeir’s death broke.
The many statements – from the White House and the State Department, the United Nations and the European Union — all came with calls for restraint appended to expressions of condolence, a more-or-less explicit warning aimed at Jerusalem. The situation is tense enough, the world’s leaders appeared to be telling Netanyahu; do not add fuel to the fire.
“Those who undertake acts of vengeance only destabilize an already explosive and emotional situation,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said. “The world has too often learned the hard way that violence only leads to more …read more