Yeshiva killings change the peace equation

After Israel’s recent Gaza incursion and the terrorist attack at Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva, one would think enough blood had been shed for one week.

Apparently Hamas has not satisfied its bloodlust.

Earlier this week, rockets fell in Ashkelon, even as Hamas’ killer-in-chief Ismail Haniyah made noise about a temporary truce. Hezbollah threatened Israel with retaliation for the assassination of criminal mastermind Imad Mugniyah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke of peace talks while openly musing about a return to armed resistance.

The United States and others have pressured Israel to reopen those talks. That’s because many in the international community want a Palestinian state by year’s end, come hell or high water.

Yet if Israel does not deal a mortal blow to Hamas, then hell will surely come. For the families of the murdered yeshiva boys at Mercaz Harav, hell has already come.

Hamas continues to upgrade its arms. Hezbollah readies 30,000 Katyusha rockets for launch into the heart of Israel. The Palestinian Authority remains unwilling or unable to rein in terrorists.

With whom, then, does Israel make peace?

This remains a fair question, even if it sounds like déjà vu all over again.

That’s not to say that Israel should forego efforts at dialogue. Nor that Israel should wink at acts of vengeance on the part of its citizens. This week, reports surfaced of a retaliation plot hatched by Mercaz Harav students to kill an Arab leader in a mosque. The students even got a blessing from rabbis.

Israelis — we Jews — are better than that. We need not sink to the level of common killers to claim justice for our victims.

One good sign: Serving as a go-between, Egypt has tried to organize a cease-fire and Gaza border security plan acceptable to all sides. It would leave forces loyal to Abbas in charge of guarding those borders.

No plan is perfect if it leaves Hamas free to fester. But perhaps this behind-the-scenes dealing buys Israel some time.

If only Mercaz Harav were the last massacre. If only this latest attempt at cobbling some quiet were the one to stick.

Sadly we know the ways of terrorists. They will continue to operate in civilian areas and they will never stop trying to kill.

Israel fights on, wearisome as that fight may be. Is there such a thing as victory? These days, the word seems almost quaint. But we will certainly know what victory looks like: when Israelis live in permanent peace, security and prosperity.

After the murders in the yeshiva, it’s hard to imagine.