Two men who just took turns talking about and blaming each other in speeches before the U.N. General Assembly now must work together or see their New York rhetoric explode into West Bank warfare.
As we prepared to go to press on Tuesday afternoon, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas again asserted his governmental authority, pushing his security forces to quell the violent protests that have spread from Jerusalem throughout the West Bank and led inevitably to the deaths of young men challenging the Israel Defense Forces.
Yet when he spoke to the United Nations on Sept. 30, Abbas did his best impression of Pontius Pilate, washing his hands of all responsibility for his people and their actions while declaring the 1993 Oslo peace accords to be null and void.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is again focusing on Judaea and Samaria and the areas nominally controlled by the PA while weighing the angry recommendations of his coalition partners and security advisers. He has cleared the way for the homes of Palestinian terrorists to be bulldozed but has shown restraint and, we dare say, leadership in not unleashing the IDF to attack.
Yet when he spoke to the United Nations on Oct. 1, Netanyahu treated the Palestinians like an afterthought, issuing a less-than-convincing call for peace talks as a rebuttal to Abbas after aiming most of his speech and all of his passion at the international bogeyman of Iran.
Can anyone be surprised that Palestinian gunmen killed a couple driving home with their four children within a day of Abbas’ nullification of the agreement that was supposed to end terrorism as a Palestinian tool? Especially after Abbas incited Temple Mount rioters the past month and continued to deny Jewish roots in Israel?
Can anyone be shocked that Palestinians, already frustrated at seeing the world’s attention on Syrian refugees and the violence and chaos elsewhere in the Middle East, would respond to Netanyahu’s Iran obsession with a wave of violence designed to grab his attention?
Netanyahu and Abbas now face the ultimate test of leadership. The easy path for each is to let the hawks sway them to escalate the violence into war — a war that, because of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, would be far messier, deadlier and harder to disengage from than last year’s fighting in Gaza.
Since at least the failure of President Bill Clinton’s last-ditch bid to be a peace broker in 2000 and the resulting murderous violence of the Second Intifada, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have preferred the blame game to the adult business of making peace with people you fear and perhaps hate. If we’re to avoid a Third Intifada — one that could destroy the national dreams of two peoples — Netanyahu and Abbas must take the ultimate leap of faith.
If they commit to their peoples’ future and their personal places in history over their grasp on contemporary political power, we’ll perhaps look back at this month’s terrorist killings as the terrible but final price paid for peace. Otherwise, the names of Rabbi Eitam and Naama Hankin, Nehemia Levi, and Aharon Benet might be lost in the bottomless pool of blood spilled on both sides.