The murder of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar, a settlement on the West Bank, has sparked outrage in Israel. The government’s decision to release disturbing images of the attack has fuelled public anger.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his condemnation on Israel radio but the massacre has already altered Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s approach toward a possible peace agreement, Haaretz reports:
“I hear Abu Mazen [Abbas] condemn the murder in Itamar on Israel Radio this morning,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud faction at the Knesset. “His words hold great importance in my eyes, but it is more important that he say these things on Palestinian radio, not just Israel.”
Netanyahu added that at the same time Abbas spoke with Israel Radio, a Palestinian minister indicated that the murder seemed to have been “carried out by settlers and the State of Israel to evade commitment to the peace process.”
Yet, many in Israel have warned against a tough stance by the government. In an editorial, Haaretz argues for government restraint:
In recent weeks, under pressure from visitors from Washington, Berlin and other foreign capitals, Netanyahu seems to be signaling he intends to unveil a more moderate policy in about two months. Moreover, he and his partner, defence Minister Ehud Barak, have explained that the moderation will not be a favour to the Palestinians, but rather what Israel needs. They have also promised to evacuate settlements built on privately owned land stolen from Palestinians. For a moment it appeared that the government, to develop a moderate image, was heading for a clash with the settlers.
Now, a single cell of murderers has come and changed the trend of Netanyahu and Barak’s actions to a toughening of positions and the decision to build 500 new housing units in the settlements. This is a terrible decision that will neither placate the settlers nor prevent a revenge attack by the lawless among them. In addition, it is making things difficult for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, angering Obama and feeding the unrest in the territories in advance of tomorrow, a day of planned demonstrations.
A responsible government would act now to calm and not to escalate, to pursue a diplomatic solution and not a belligerent confrontation. But in Jerusalem we don’t have a government like that.
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