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In this Israeli-Palestinian standoff, rift is deeper

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What separates the latest escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis from previous bouts may be how it started: with inter-community violence. Three Israeli youth were kidnapped and later found dead – a crime that the government has blamed on Palestinian group Hamas. A Palestinian boy was swiftly abducted and burned alive in apparent retaliation. Then, in an incident caught on camera, the boy’s cousin (an American citizen) was allegedly beat by Israeli police.

Air strikes and rocket bombardments are now wreaking havoc, but it is this deteriorating relationship between the two communities that may prove the most devastating, long-term effect of recent weeks. Distrust between the sides could make political compromise more difficult – and communities less willing to give their leaders the leeway to negotiate.

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“The tensions are very high, the worst they have been since the second intifada, by most accounts,” says our correspondent covering the conflict. “There is deep fear and suspicion among Israelis and Palestinians, fueled by further reports of attempted kidnappings on both sides. There is quite a bit of anger as well, and we’re seeing that in violent protests and some stone-throwing incidents. And it’s not something Palestinian leaders, in East Jerusalem at least, seem able to control.”

Even before the trigger kidnapping incidents, tensions were on a downward spiral. Both sides were losing hope that renewed US-brokered peace talks could bring about any result.

“The failure of negotiations this spring has left many feeling like there is nothing to hold out for, and Palestinians increasingly seem to feel that nonviolent resistance is not going to get them anywhere,” our reporter explains. “That’s particularly true among the 20-somethings, even those who participated in Oslo-era peacebuilding groups with Israelis, but have since become disillusioned by the failure of 20 years of negotiations to produce any meaningful changes on the ground.”

Perception can be a powerful thing in politics, which means hopes for a serious resolution to the crisis would have to be in the medium or long term. For Israeli business, that will mean more of the same: The only certainty is the political uncertainty of the region. The Gazan economy is far more likely to take a permanent hit, as it is reliant on goods carried through the border from Israel – a border now closed to conflict.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook.