There is a pleasant fiction in the United States and parts of Israel that the Israel-Palestine conflict exists in a sort of suspended animation, on pause and simply awaiting diplomatic resolution. But the truth is that the conflict, which over the decades has included several wars, countless terrorist attacks, and two Palestinian uprisings, never really goes away for most of the 12 million people in Israel and the Palestinian territories. And periodically it will escalate so rapidly, with such relatively slight provocation, and to such a level of severity, that the rest of us can’t ignore what every Palestinian and many Israelis already know: the conflict may be quieter today than in the past, but it is still active, still destroying lives and communities, still scarring these two societies, every day.
One of these escalations is happening right now. On Friday, Israel discovered that three of its citizens, teenagers studying at a yeshiva in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank, had been kidnapped overnight. By whom is yet unknown; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists it was the Palestinian group Hamas, Israeli intelligence officials say it was likely a few local Palestinians acting on their own. Hamas has denied responsibility.
In a sense, it matters a great deal who did this; Hamas is both an anti-Israel terrorist group and a political party that participates in official governance, so if it ordered this kidnapping it could set back peace talks badly. But in another sense it hardly matters at all, because this uncertainty has not prevented Israel from escalating the conflict aggressively.