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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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It’s time for true leaders

Tags: Columnists

Cyclical futility rules the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the core of the larger Arab-Israeli impasse. If leaders of both sides continue to ignore the need for good-faith paradigm shifts, there’s no hope for a peaceful future between Israel and all its Arab neighbours.

Many Israelis simply don’t care. They believe relations with our neighbours no longer have an impact on their future, that what happens in Judea and Samaria won’t affect them.

They’re wrong. Continued inaction will lead to collective comeuppance. And it will be ugly – not only for the Arabs.

A case study: in January, the Shin Bet (Israel’s General Security Services) published its annual report for 2012. The data it provided shows a significant rise in Palestinian terrorist acts in the West Bank during 2012, but also that not a single Israeli was killed during that year by terrorist actions originating from those territories, not in Israel proper and not in the areas administered/occupied/liberated (choose whichever term you prefer) by the Israel Defence Forces in 1967. In fact, no Israeli had been killed by actions originating in the West Bank since September 2011.

That run came to an abrupt end on April 30, when Evyatar Borovsky, a 32-year-old father of five from Yitzhar, was stabbed to death while waiting for a lift from a friend at the Tapuah junction, situated in the heart of Samaria. He had recently sold his car and planned to purchase a new one the next day.

His murderer was Salam As’ad Zaghal, a Palestinian from Shweikeh, a town in the district of Tulkarem.

According to reports published after the incident, Borovsky grew up in Kfar Hassidim, an Orthodox moshav not far from Haifa. He became more fervently religious after studying at a yeshiva in Safed. To his parents chagrin, he moved to Yitzhar, a settlement in Samaria known for its residents’ militancy. Evyatar and his wife, Tzofia, lived in prefab housing for several years, but had recently moved into a more spacious permanent home. Their kids are aged one to seven.

Evyatar was an actor who was also studying to become a medical clown. He hoped to bring his new talent into uncharted waters – to expose haredi hospital patients to the special therapeutic benefits of his hoped-for vocation.

After repeatedly stabbing Borovsky, Zaghal grabbed the latter’s pistol and shot rounds at border police in the vicinity, until the pistol jammed. Fortunately, he didn’t hit anyone. He was arrested after being shot and was hospitalized with moderate to serious injuries.

Later reports noted that Zaghal, a 24-year-old with ties to Fatah, was released a couple of months ago after spending 3-1/2 years in Israeli prisons. He hadn’t found work since his release.

Reuters interviewed members of Zaghal’s family and discovered his brother had been convicted of spying for Israel by a Palestinian court and had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, but his sentence was reduced dramatically because the family was destitute. Apparently, Zaghal, who acted alone, stabbed Borovsky to clear the blemish on his family’s name, placed there by his brother’s alleged collaboration with Israel.

Ali Zaghel, the murderer’s father, told Reuters his son’s attack “was destiny, and we take pride in him as a family. What he did is a duty for all Palestinians living with the aggression of the army and settlers.”

Soon after Borovsky’s slaying, settlers across the West Bank took out their rage on other Palestinians. Trees and fields were torched, vehicles were vandalized and buses and cars driving near settlements were stoned. In one incident, several young Palestinian schoolgirls on a field trip were injured when their bus was stoned.

A new outpost, named Evyatar, was established near the Tapuah junction where the murder occurred, only to be dismantled by the IDF. A handful of settlers were arrested.

This cycle of violence is unrelenting.

U.S. President Barack Obama has tasked his secretary of state, John Kerry, with resolving what appears to be an unsolvable conflict. And while Israel’s “new” justice minister, Tzipi Livni, demanded and got the job of re-igniting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the latter appear fixed to inflexible positions.

It’s time for true leaders and real leadership. I’m not certain either Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have the necessary courage or the earnest desire to break this inexorable cycle of violence. If they don’t, we’ll all continue paying an ever-increasing price.

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