On Thursday, two Israeli settlers were killed in the occupied West Bank.
Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot dead in their car as they traveled between Itamar and Elon Moreh, two Jewish-only colonies built on land Israel violently seized from Palestinians in violation of international law.
Their four young children were left unharmed by the assailants who reportedly fled in their own vehicle.
The killers remain unknown, though Israeli occupation forces are carrying out widespread raids in the Nablus area.
Palestinians have been defending their communities against ongoing settler retribution.
The Israeli army and settler assault against Palestinians following yesterday’s killings are in sharp and depressingly predictable contrast to the situation in August, after Israeli settlers burned alive the Dawabsha family in the village of Dura.
Israel’s defense minister Moshe Yaalon recently admitted that occupation authorities know who the killers of baby Ali Dawabsha and his mother Riham and father Saad are, but has decided not to arrest them.
It seems entirely plausible that the killing of the Henkins was intended as a revenge attack. Their children, like Ali’s severely injured 4-year-old brother Ahmed, are now orphans.
Israel remains responsible for all these horrific and avoidable deaths; its occupation constitutes brutal and systematic round-the-clock violence and terror against every Palestinian man, woman and child.
As for the Henkins, they and other settler families are, in the eyes of Israeli top officials like Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, “the bullet-proof vest of the State of Israel” – fodder to be used for land grabs.
The systematic impunity and protection Israel affords settlers who destroy and steal Palestinian land and property and who burn Palestinians alive, sends the chilling message that Palestinians have no protection from a regime of occupation whose ministers and clerics incite genocide against them.
Lethal attacks on settlers are relatively rare compared to Israel’s routine murders of Palestinians. But in the brutal and lawless reality of settler-colonialism and occupation, such violence takes on a grim logic of its own, as the long and bloody conflict in Northern Ireland also showed. There, only a political settlement that enjoyed broad legitimacy could bring the violence to an end.
Many have warned that the gradual escalation in violence – especially in Jerusalem – provoked by Israel’s aggressive colonization and attempts to takeover al-Aqsa mosque, risks exploding into something even worse than we’ve already seen.
Yet as Israel’s behavior becomes more brazen and unrestrained, international neglect seems only to harden.
A case in point is the statement issued by the so-called Quartet, the ad hoc group of representatives of the UN, EU, the United States and Russia that purports to manage the “peace process.”
Its most senior officials met in New York this week, at the margins of the UN General Assembly.
The statement they issued is so replete with empty clichés it could have been machine-generated.
“The Quartet reaffirmed its steadfast commitment to achieving a two-state outcome that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967 and resolves all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict,” it says.
This is a steadfast and delusional commitment to ignore the reality that if a “two-state solution” were ever possible, Israel has made it impossible with its relentless colonization.
Moreoever, Israel’s top diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, recently admitted openly what everyone knows: Israel has no intention ever of withdrawing from one inch of the West Bank, which Israel calls “Judea and Samaria.”
“[Handovers of] Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians,” Hotovely said.
The Quartet did express its “serious concern that current trends on the ground – including continued acts of violence against Palestinians and Israelis, ongoing settlement activity, and the high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures – are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.”
It said absolutely nothing, though, about following up on the independent UN inquiry that called for perpetrators of war crimes in Gaza to be brought to justice.
But what about any other action? The statement makes clear in masterful diplospeak that there will be absolutely none:
“The Quartet envoys will engage directly with the parties in order to explore concrete actions both sides can take to demonstrate their genuine commitment to pursuing a two-state solution, including encouraging efforts to agree on significant steps, consistent with prior agreements, that benefit Israelis and Palestinians.”
The phrase “both sides” appears throughout the statement, perpetuating the fiction that Palestinians and Israelis are equal in power and therefore in responsibility and ability to act.
The result is to absolve Israel, the occupying power, and the violator of dozens of UN resolutions, of any accountability.
When you peel away the nonsense, the Quartet statement amounts to a firm resolve to watch from the sidelines as Palestine burns.
That is remarkably reckless because as Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov observed in a UN press conference this week, the situation in Palestine remains one of the key factors fueling violence and extremism across the region.
But while attention is focused elsewhere, Israel will continue to occupy, colonize and terrorize Palestinians, with the certain and tragic result that more families – Palestinian and Israeli – will be mourning their loved ones.