A post–peace process security crisis on the West Bank?

Tony Karon writes: “We have to fight terror as if there were no peace talks,” former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously said in the early ’90s, “and we have to pursue peace as if there were no terror.” That statement may have defined the relationship between Israel and the then-nascent Palestinian Authority, established in 1994 as an interim administrative arrangement to prepare the way for Palestinian statehood. But events of the past few weeks have served up a morbid reminder that 20 years after the Oslo Accord, the peace process remains in long-term paralysis while a new wave of violence threatens to spiral out of control. Moreover, Rabin’s premise that Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the same goal has become difficult for either side to sustain.

Israeli outrage over the killing of three teenage settlers abducted near Hebron has translated into a wave of citizen attacks on Palestinians on the back of a widespread Israeli crackdown, and the discovery of the body of a Palestinian teenager said to have been abducted in Jerusalem on Tuesday prompted fresh clashes as Palestinian protesters blamed Israeli settlers for the death.

Today, of course, there are no peace talks, nor is their absence temporary: Israel and the Palestinian leadership failed to agree on terms for a political solution to their conflict at the Camp David talks in 2000, and since then — periodic attempts to revive the conversation notwithstanding — if anything, the gulf between them has widened. Israel’s political median has moved steadily to the right since Rabin signed the Oslo Accord, while the political standing of PLO chairman and PA President Mahmoud Abbas has steadily diminished in the face of challenges from Hamas and from the fact that settlements have continued to grow despite his peace efforts. [Continue reading…]

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