Today’s violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories contains some uncomfortable truths for Israel’s detractors, but also serves as a helpful microcosm of the larger conflict. A 30-year-old Israeli man, Eviatar Borovsky, was stabbed to death at a bus stop at Tapuach Junction by a Palestinian man, who was captured by border guards and taken into custody. A few hours later in Gaza, Haitham al-Mishal, a Palestinian involved in the production of rockets, was killed in a targeted strike by the IDF.
But the details that fill in the rest of the picture are a useful guide to the behavior of both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
Who was killed? The Israeli victim was a father of five waiting at a bus stop. The Palestinian victim was reportedly a manufacturer of rockets for use against Israeli civilians and employed by Hamas, according to the terrorist group itself. He was, according to the press here and in Israel, involved in the recent rocket attacks against the Israeli city of Eilat.
Who carried out the violence? The Palestinian perpetrator at Tapuach Junction is reportedly a repeat offender of acts of violence against civilians, having been released from prison in Israel about six months ago. On the Israeli side, the military was employed to take out a military target in Gaza.
Why did they do it? The IDF was responding to rocket attacks from enemy territory against its own civilian population. The Palestinian attacker at Tapuach Junction has a history of violence against Israeli civilians, and his brother is apparently in a Palestinian prison, having been accused of cooperating with Israeli authorities.
How did they do it? The IDF carried out a targeted strike designed to kill an active terrorist and avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties. The Palestinian assailant at Tapuach Junction carried a knife unchecked to the bus stop after the Israeli government removed a checkpoint near the area to allow Palestinians in the West Bank more freedom of movement. This was not the first such attack on an Israeli civilian at that location since the checkpoint was removed; an Israeli teenager was stabbed by a Palestinian at the junction in January.
What happened next? The Palestinian assailant at Tapuach Junction tried to kill Israeli border police, but was apprehended. Hamas promised more violence from Gaza. Israeli settlers gathered at Tapuach Junction and threw stones at a Palestinian bus, and reportedly set a field on fire. Israeli police arrested the settlers and put out the fire.
What does all this tell us about the official policy of the respective governments? The Israeli government’s policy is very clearly demonstrated here: it will not initiate hostilities, but it will respond to them and protect Israeli civilians from terror campaigns. It will also protect Palestinian civilians by not only shielding them from Israeli strikes but also by arresting Israelis who attempt to harm them or their property. The Israeli government will remove checkpoints over the objection of settlers to enable Palestinian freedom of movement despite the fact that Palestinians respond by exploiting the openings to commit acts of terrorism, which is why the checkpoints were established to begin with.
The Palestinians here are represented by two governments: Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. Hamas’s policy, as demonstrated here, is to target Israeli civilians indiscriminately and deliberately put their own citizens in harm’s way. Fatah’s policy is to arrest and target Palestinians they suspect of working together with Israelis, and to enable the violence perpetrated at Tapuach Junction which was claimed, according to one report, by Fatah.
What will the media learn from this? Almost certainly nothing they don’t already know and ignore in order to further the false narrative of Israeli culpability for the diplomatic impasse.
What will Secretary of State John Kerry learn from this? See previous answer.
Where do we go from here? Most likely, around and around in a circle of Israeli concessions, Palestinian violence, and pressure from the “international community” on Israel to give in to the extortion.