Hope turned to heartbreak on Monday as the bodies of kidnapped Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel were found beneath a pile of rocks outside Hebron.
Now comes the agonising question: what next? As every Israeli parent holds their children a little closer tonight and asks: who next?
Thoughts and prayers are with the boys’ families and a grief-stricken nation crying out for justice.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s blood is boiling, but his response – so far – has been calm and considered. He may be quick to anger but he is not quick to act.
There is much to be said for experience at a time like this. Consider how Ehud Olmert clumsily stumbled into the second Lebanon war in 2006.
Then consider 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defence, when Netanyahu mobilised 30,000 troops and tanks on the Gaza border in response to rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and near Jerusalem – but did not invade.
He knows only too well that sometimes the best way to avoid war is to talk war; to ramp up the pressure; to turn up the volume; to consider every option.
The prime minster’s restraint to this point proves he is the right leader for this crisis. He has let his head rule his broken heart.
Israel’s next move could depend on Mahmoud Abbas.
Last month the Fatah leader signed a unity deal with Hamas, which heralded the end of meaningful peace talks. If this deal with the devil remains in place it could turn angry words into angry actions.
The Israeli government’s prime responsibility is to protect its population. This may yet be best achieved by giving Abbas, who to his credit condemned the kidnappings, one last chance to prove himself worthy of President Shimon Peres’s praise that he is “a man of his word” and “the best partner Israel has had”.
If Peres’s faith in Abbas is proved right, a fraction of light may yet emerge at the end of the darkest of weeks.
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