Much as already been said across the political spectrum regarding the kidnapping of the Israeli youths nearly a week ago (disclaimer: as far as I am aware, I bear no relation to the youngest victim, Naftali Frenkel); as such I feel that angry declarations about the injustice of the kidnapping, or the fact that such acts may be in fact a symptom of a larger problem, would simply be repeating ad naseum what has already been said over the last week.
Instead, I’d like to focus on the worrying and entirely predictable trend of the government’s cynical exploitation of the kidnappings, culminating with the earmarking of another large sum of money devoted to the settlements, ostensibly in the name of security. Perhaps, due to sheer exhaustion, I find it difficult to feel outraged at such actions which have become commonplace over the years–the song and dance of the Israeli government’s “fitting Zionist response” in the wake of another bombing, another soldier’s death, another attack on a Jewish institution in the Diaspora. Nor, of course, do I think it fair to lay blame entirely at the feet of the government for the public mood. Whoever carried out this operation, whether they be Hamas or a splinter group whose actions have escaped their control, was well aware that the kidnapping would radicalize the public mood and destroy whatever is left of the already faltering (or faltered) peace process.
In the past, however, it was always much easier to justify a sense of outrage, even such outrage that ultimately benefited right-wing elements in Israeli society. When the 1975 General Assembly at the UN deemed Zionism a form of racism, we could find solace in the fact that the world was indeed against us for geopolitical reasons like ideology and the OPEC crisis, noting that the majority of those voting in favor of such an obscene resolution were non-democratic, serial human rights violators. The suicide bombings of the Oslo period were offset by an interim process that many genuinely believed would lead to a final status agreement. Today, however, there is no safety net, no source to turn to that might offer self-satisfaction; the current Netanyahu government, as well as the last, has done everything and anything in order to avoid, stymie or destroy any semblance of a peace process. The right has no right to decry attempts by the kidnappers to derail negotiations that they themselves derailed long ago.
It is likely that, following the end of this ordeal (which, I pray, will end with the recovery and return of the victims to their homes, alive and well), we will see a barrage of statements and bills submitted by the right aiming, once again for annexation of all or part of the West Bank, along with other anti-democratic measures and ugly statements about the Palestinian Authority, et al. Mahmoud Abbas’ recent denouncements of the kidnappings (at the risk of his own, waning popularity) will, unsurprisingly, go unnoticed, just like every other moderate gesture made by the Palestinian leadership in the past few years. The far-right and its allies have an agenda, after all, and anything that helps spur forward the demise of the two-state solution must be fully exploited without fail.
The Israeli center and left, while calling for a swift recovery of the victims, must not stay silent in the wake of this expected campaign; Tzipi Livni must, as in the past, do everything in her power to prevent and discourage the passing of annexation-themed bills. Yair Lapid, who, for so long, has stayed silent regarding the diplomatic process, must follow his recent statements about defining borders with one that encourages the political center not to despair. And Zahava Gal-On, often the most outspoken critic of the government, must continue to sound the alarm against its cynical and anti-democratic tendencies.
The kidnappers’ intent was no doubt in part to inflame the passions of the Israeli public, and the right in particular, to the breaking point. It is of the utmost importance that the ‘responsible adults’ in the room remain vigilant and prevent those elements uninterested in peace from exploiting this crisis for their own twisted ends.