It's not exactly the story of Sisyphus, with Israel always pushing a stone but never getting it to the top of the hill, but it's close. Some say that Israel deserves the fate, insofar as it has never been sufficiently forthcoming to the Palestinians. Others say that Israel has been wise not to commit suicide, which it would have done if it provided the Palestinians what they and the worthies of the world demand.

 
Currently we're at another of the upticks in violence. We've lost count as to how many of these have occurred in the last century or more, or when we should start counting.
 
We've seen violence organized by the ostensible heads of the Palestinians, but this one seems at least a bit different. It's not easy to define. 
 
We hear from some of the experts that it is almost all individual actions, lots of them by teenagers or even pre-teens. They are said to be excited by the Internet, preachers in the mosques, kids at school, or what they hear in the family about a relative who was killed, imprisoned, or otherwise ill-treated by Israelis.
 
Mahmoud Abbas is said by some to be an Israeli asset, insofar as he has instructed his security forces to work against the violence.
 
On the other hand, he leads the chorus of Palestinians by accusing Israel of murdering people, who just happened to have been attacking Jews with knives, guns, or cars. He has delivered public speeches of shrill incitement, and he has repeated the practice of celebrating Palestinian martyrs (who Israelis call murderers) by naming streets, traffic circles, and other public sites for them.
 
There is also an organized effort to incite violence by Palestinians opposed to Abbas and his Fatah party. Most prominent among them is Hamas, and the various Jihad gangs with their nuclei in Gaza but also with supporters they are nurturing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
 
Whatever the nuances cited by those considered to be experts, one is hard pressed to accuse government ministers of acting unwisely when they rejected Kerry's demands  and the advice of senior security personnel to make concessions to Abbas with more weapons for his security forces, prisoner releases, and approvals of construction for Palestinian homes in areas of the West Bank controlled by Israel.
 
Among the good reasons for rejecting those ideas is the very shaky status of Abbas and his colleagues as leaders of Palestine. Public opinion polls suggest that his people have lost confidence in him and his political party. 
 
We can pity a people who feel lost, without awarding them in a time when lots are trying to kill us.
 
What to do?
 
Here is the point where Sisyphus is relevant.
 
We'll never get the stone to the top of the hill. 
 
In other words, there is no solution for the problem of the Palestinians. Or no solution as long as their leadership persists in rejecting proposals, and makes no counter proposal other than repeating the mantra of demanding everything they have always demanded.
 
So we'll keep pushing the stone, hoping that enough Palestinians will get enough of the message so this uptick in violence will peter out.
 
This means acting firmly, but not losing control of ourselves and overreacting. That would inflame things more, as well as invite those always prepared to see Israel as a primary source of the world's problems.
 
It's a nice recipe, but we can quarrel about the details.
 
The IDF, police, and other security services have been tough. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed, either at the point of their attacks or during demonstrations when Israeli personnel escalated from crowd control to deadly fire. Arabs and an Israeli civil rights groups complains about non-judicial killings, but others see the deaths as similar to those on a battlefield.
 
West Bank radio stations that have broadcast incitement have been closed and their equipment seized. Also taken into custody are buses used to transport Palestinians to points of demonstration. The number of Palestinians arrested and locked up may have reached 1,000. The IDF and other security services make nightly sweeps in the West Bank after individuals involved in incitement  or violence, and bring a few more to interrogation and detention.
 
On the other hand, security personnel are saying that they are making efforts to reduce the number of Palestinians killed, for the sake of minimizing the spiraling upward of hatred and incitement.
 
Other efforts are meant to control points of vulnerability where there has been violence, in order to minimize Israeli casualties.
 
Deaths so far they are running about four to one, with Palestinians suffering more, in proportions that we have seen during past waves of violence  since 1948.
 
We expect to get through this, and hope for some quiet. Until the next time. The stone won't get to the top of the hill, but anyone thinking that our's is one of the more serious problems in the world ought to look elsewhere.
 

As always, comments welcome
-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
irashark@gmail.com
 
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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