Mohammed Abu Khdeir is seen in this undated family handout picture.
The brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the 16-year-old Palestinian from Shuafat, epitomizes the worstcase scenario drawn by Israeli security services of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. This is the realization of a tribal and communal war waged by hatred and revenge, which can get out of control and create havoc and scorch the Earth.
The Israeli-Palestinian rift started as, and has been rooted in, a territorial, political and military struggle between two communities and political entities aspiring for the same piece of land. As long as it remained as such, there was hope for a solution based on rationality and territorial and diplomatic compromise.
At a certain point it started to be shaped into a mold of religious dimensions. This expressed itself in the 1980s by the efforts of the Jewish terrorist underground (right-wing settlers) to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount to make room for construction of the Third Temple and the establishment of a Jewish theocracy and monarchy. Fortunately, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), backed by the government, foiled these attempts and broke the terrorist network, and its members were punished.
In recent years, the religious dimension has manifested itself in young right-wing terrorists and thugs from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, wrongly known as the Hillside Youth. They burned and desecrated Arab mosques and cemeteries. Unfortunately, the Shin Bet, police and other law enforcement agencies, including the courts, have responded by either turning a blind eye or not acting harshly enough. This is at least partially caused by the refusal of the government to declare their cells as a terrorist organization and to impose on them the same anti-terrorist laws and regulations that are used against Palestinian terrorists.
Instead, the government settled for the softer definition of “unlawful association.”
Now, with the murder of the Palestinian boy, we may embark on the most dangerous stage, which is the nightmarish scenario of the Shin Bet. This may be the era in which local gangs, incited by politicians or poisoned by anti-Arab sentiments and atmosphere, turn into vigilantes and take the law into their own hands. We have sporadically witnessed such events in the past. Israeli Jews decided to avenge the deaths of their fellow Jews at the hands of Palestinian terrorists and killed innocent Palestinians.
Yet the murder last week of Abu Khdeir is beyond imagination because of its brutality and cold-bloodedness: the burning alive of the victim.
The only consolation for the Shin Bet and the police is that the suspects are not members of any political organization or any hierarchal structure. They do not have any known track record in this area. They just participated in the past in anti-Arab demonstrations in Jerusalem, inhaled in the streets hatred and racist ideology motivated by the murder of the three Israeli teens, and decided to carry out their satanic plan.
But this fact is also a double- edged sword. For the security services, terrorist and violent acts committed by organizations are easier to prevent than those committed by individuals or a small group that operates “under the radar.” In that sense this murder resembles the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by Yigal Amir, a right-wing Jewish zealot who acted as a “lone wolf” who was inspired and incited by the atmosphere and mood in rightwing circles.
The quick and smooth action by the police and the Shin Bet in solving this crime within four days hopefully will cool off the tension.
In the last four weeks since the abduction and murder of the three Jewish teens near Hebron, the Israeli-Palestinian flames have been rising.
The Shin Bet and IDF are battling to disrupt Hamas cells and infrastructure in the West Bank. Hamas retaliates by either launching rockets against the South or sanctioning renegade terrorist groups to do so. Israel retaliates every night with air strikes against Hamas bases, launchers and depots in Gaza. If in a matter of days a cease-fire is not reinstated, most probably Israel will invade Gaza.
In the meantime the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir sparked violent demonstrations in the West Bank threatening to turn into a third Palestinian intifada.
And as if the situation was not explosive enough, Israeli-Arab youth have joined the fray by throwing stones at police and blocking central road junctions.
If peace and tranquility are not soon restored at all fronts, the already fragile Israeli democratic fabric will disintegrate and the country will sink further into a third-world, lawless condition.
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