Plenty going on in the region – Yemen’s president is making overtures to a longtime opposition leader (though not to the protesters in the street), Oman’s Sultan is enacting substantial reforms to the country’s political structure, and Bahraini and Saudi security forces have begun using force against the protesters in the streets of Bahrain. Furthermore, the tragic events in Japan have drawn the attention of the world (and the bulk of the mainstream news coverage) away from the Middle East, while highlighting the world’s limited options for assuaging its endlessly growing need for energy.
As much as I’d like to address all of these issues I can only do so much in the time I have. In this post from two weeks ago I tried to get at some of what the “Arab Spring” might mean for the state of Israel. I hadn’t planned on returning to the topic right away, but circumstances have drawn me back.
Over the past several days the “boycott-Israel week” has swung into action, and Israel’s anti-propaganda propaganda has hit back, both parties behaving in predictable fashion. The usual exchange of vitriol and rhetoric was horribly interrupted three days ago when five members of an Israeli family (including a 3-month old baby and a 4 year-old child) living on a settlement in Itamar were horribly stabbed to death by currently unidentified attackers (two Palestinian suspects are in custody, many others have been detained for questioning). The intimate savagery of the act is of a different magnitude than the usual anonymous rockets and bombs but the Japanese earthquake seems to have drowned it out on the global stage.
Regardless, the impact of the event cannot be underestimated. Unless it is the isolated act of a crazy person, (which seems unlikely at this point) this is what is known as a “spoiler” in the field of conflict resolution – a violent act intended to spur retaliation with the goal of restarting a cycle of reprisals and revenge. It’s too well timed (tomorrow was designated as Palestine’s “Day of Rage” weeks ago), it is horrifyingly calculated, and it will most likely be successful in its goal.