On March 21, 2011, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into the southern Israeli town of Ashdod. The Islamic Jihad’s militant wing, the Al Quds Brigades, is believed to be responsible. The day before, a bomb exploded in a suitcase near the Jerusalem central bus station, killing one woman and injuring 30 others.
On March 13, 2011, a family of five—including three small children—was murdered in their home outside the West Bank city of Nablus, a city known as a hotbed of violence and resistance to the Israeli occupation.
After the Fogel family tragedy, Israeli leaders vowed retribution and promised to continue building settlements in the West Bank, continuing a policy that will result in more terrorism.
It’s a vicious cycle. One reason the Israelis continue building is because of the violence done against them, and one reason the Palestinians continue the violence is because of the settlement expansion.
In true opportunistic fashion, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), House Majority Leader and the only Jewish House member of the Republican Party, used the Fogel family tragedy as a reason to criticize President Obama. He insinuated Obama was partly to blame because he asked Israel to make too many concessions.
But the Fogel murders just prove Obama’s point—that settlement growth is bad news for everyone. Expansion encroaches on land Palestinians want as a future state, and life on the settlements is dangerous for Jewish families (no matter how faithful they are) who are surrounded by people willing to slit the throats of children.
Cantor’s comments come as no surprise, though. This is the same man who told Prime Minister Netanyahu when they met last year that he would “serve as a check” on Obama’s foreign policy concerning Israel.
This is a member of the U.S. Congress telling the leader of another country he would be willing to subvert his own President’s foreign policy.
If Cantor wants to stand behind Netanyahu, he has the right as a Jew to make Aliyah and join the Israeli government, but he hasn’t made Aliyah. Instead of serving Israel, he merely uses events there–in this case, a tragedy—to criticize his political opponents.
Nonetheless, the Palestinian leadership is fractured and incompetent, but even if there was a strong central figure—a Palestinian Ariel Sharon—or a unified governing body that controlled and spoke for every faction, it would still be unreasonable to expect them to effectively squash all terrorist activities.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas did not sanction this recent violence; he was as helpless to stop the attacks as the victims were. As long as Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and its settlements continue to expand, there will be factions that use violence to convey their message of resistance.
By hastily constructing more settlements, Israel is just playing into the hands of its own hardliners, as well as the Palestinians who prefer a perpetual state of conflict rather than a state of their own. The hardliners on the Israeli side are religiously motivated and see land expansion as a divine right. They play an influential role in Netanyahu’s coalition; to stay in power, he must appease them.
This recent violence will justify Netanyahu in expanding settlements, delighting the hardliners on both sides and continuing the cycle of frustration. After all, it is easier to maintain the status quo and avoid any serious concessions than be the Prime Minister who gave up Prime Biblical Real Estate.