Over the past couple of weeks, everyone from the World Bank to the International Monetary Fund and UN Mideast envoy Robert Serry has come out with reports declaring that Palestinian institutions are about ready for statehood.

“The PA is above the threshold for a functioning state in key sectors,” the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – also known as the Donors Conference – said in a statement it released last week in Brussels after a meeting it held to assess the economic and institutional capacity of the Palestinian Authority.

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But after the arrest of the Awad cousins from Awarta for the brutal, blood-chilling murder of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar – a mother, father, 11- and four-year-old boys, and a three-month-old baby girl – one might ask whether Palestinian society has moved beyond the threshold needed to become a functioning society.

And not only because of the murders – every society, including our own, has its sadistic murderers, though the hacking of a baby is particularly vicious and gruesome. Rather, it’s the way Palestinian society dealt with the murders and the murderers.

True, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad unequivocally condemned the killings. But no sooner had Abbas done so, then Palestinian voices were heard claiming it couldn’t be a Palestinian who killed the family. A Palestinian couldn’t murder in cold blood like that – it must have been a disgruntled Thai worker who didn’t get his wages.

Even on Sunday, when reporters went to the village of Awarta, some residents on camera denied that the murders in neighboring Itamar even took place. It was all an Israeli lie, a giant conspiracy. What murders?

For the Palestinians to say that their people could not carry out such a deed is simply to avoid any and all responsibility. And that degree of denial does not bode well for a functioning state.

What is incumbent upon Palestinian society now – after having received various stamps of approval for statehood – is to do some soul-searching and finally, finally start taking responsibility and owning up to the actions of its people.

If, indeed, the Palestinians aspire to statehood, they need to look in the mirror and grapple with what it is in their society, in their education system, in their media, in their religion, in their culture, that sets a pair of teenagers on such a vicious, blood-curdling murder spree, and then leads an entire nation into denial?

Their answer, of course, will be “the occupation,” the Palestinian justification for every atrocity – from sending pregnant women out as suicide bombers, to firing antitank missiles at school buses, to hacking a three-month-old baby to death. But there have been a lot of occupied people throughout history, and they didn’t necessarily go out and cut up four-year-old, cherub-faced boys.

What do the murders and, even more so, the reactions to them or the fact that one-third of Palestinians, according to a Palestinian poll, support the Itamar attack, indicate about the Palestinian zeitgeist, that nation’s cultural, intellectual, spiritual and political climate? Is this a statehood-ready zeitgeist?


It’s clear that the arrest of the Awad cousins should set the Palestinians on a path of some serious soul-searching. But the world should also conduct some intense introspection of its own – asking whether all it takes for statehood is to have institutions working above the threshold “in key sectors.”

Is there not a threshold of moral and behavioral standards that needs to be crossed as well? And have the Palestinians crossed it?

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