There’s been no calm in Israel for the last 18 days as the country waited for word about the fate of three kidnapped teenagers. And there’s certainly been no calm in the West Bank which has been the scene of a massive IDF security operation which has mixed search for the three missing teens and massive strike at Hamas which Israel holds responsible for the abductions. News earlier today that the bodies of the three teens were recovered just north of Hebron sets the stage for some massive Israeli strike/operation and one the US will inevitably need to address.
First, the initial evidence is that the teens were shot not long after they were abducted. In other words, they’ve been dead more or less the whole time. This of course makes some sense of the utter lack of demands, claims of responsibility, let alone proof of life messages. It also raises some question about the aim about the killings. Hamas and Hezbollah have had some success abducting IDF soldiers to exchange for imprisoned Palestinians. That obviously wasn’t the aim in this case. It makes me wonder whether abduction for exchange was the original idea, whether the abduction was more a matter of opportunity rather than a plot that carried with it a clear plan of what would happen post-abduction or whether this was simply a killing from the start that the Israelis saw through the prism of abduction based on earlier incidents.
In any case, all issues of the settlements, the Fatah-Hamas rapprochement and all the rest aside, there’s no question that Netanyahu government will not only feel empowered but face a virtual demand from the Israeli public to strike hard against whoever it holds responsible. At least notionally that will be Hamas, though these operations, even at their most generous interpretation, hit hard at the entire civilian population in the West Bank.
Here’s a taste of part of the response from the Israeli right …
“This tragic ending must also be the end of Hamas! The nation is strong and ready to absorb [attacks] for the sake of striking a mortal blow against Hamas,” said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud).
“[W]e have to destroy the homes of Hamas activists, wipe out their arsenals everywhere, and stop the flow of money that directly or indirectly keeps terror alive,” Danon added.
Danon is extremely right-wing, even in the context of Likud. That said, I would not expect much division among Jewish Israelis on this subject, though Danon’s comments are likely more totalizing than what you’d hear at different points on the ideological spectrum.
For the US, already struggling to deal with the rapid collapse of state authority across much of western Syria and Sunni Iraq, this will be another blow up it will have no choice but to get involved in – even if only passively, as Israel’s chief ally, which many see as having ultimately responsibility for Israel’s actions.
Postscript: J.J. Goldberg, at The Forward, has a good run down of the split revealing itself tonight in Israel between politicians calling for maximalist military responses and members of the Israeli security establishment who are recommending caution and noting that there is no clear evidence that the killings were done on the orders of Hamas higher ups.