And what of the national Israeli policies that created the occupation — this most damaging aspect of the conflict — and then inserted three teenagers onto its front lines?
There has always been, and there remains, plenty of culpability to go around in this conflict, plenty of individuals and groups that squandered peace and perpetuated suffering many times over. Everyone is complicit and no one is pure. The crisis over the kidnapped students shows all this. But it is also highlights what has become perhaps the most essential truth of the Israel-Palestine conflict: for all the complexity of how it came to be and why it's continued, for all the shared responsibility for this week's crisis and everything that led up to it, the conflict predominantly matters for the human suffering it causes. And today the vast majority of that suffering comes from Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Today, the suffering has become so disproportionately administered by the occupation and so disproportionately felt by Palestinians that, in a conflict famous for its complexity and its gray areas, this is an issue that looks less gray all the time: the occupation is wrong, it is the problem, and Israel is responsible.Conclusion:
Of course, as American columnists and American diplomats frequently say, the occupation is a potentially mortal threat to Israel as well. If it continues long enough then as the Palestinian population grows to outnumber Jews, Israel will lose its claim to democracy, to a Jewish national identity, or both. But that's not the argument that should matter. The argument that should matter is that the occupation is now the primary driver of the Israel-Palestine conflict, it is illegal under international law, and it is a cause of tremendous human suffering. And for what?