By Mick Krever, CNN
The latest airstrikes Monday night between Hamas and Israel may presage a serious escalation in violence between the two sides, Ari Shavit, senior correspondent for Ha'aretz, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“This is a very dramatic evening. I do not want to over-dramatize, but the last few hours may have been, God forbid, the tipping point.”
Tensions have already been high, with tit-for-tat violence; a 16-year-old Palestinian was kidnapped and burned alive, itself a possible act of retaliation for the deaths of three Israeli teenagers.
“For the last few days we’ve seen extraordinary attempts to stop the escalation. We’ve seen remarkable restraint on the behalf of the Israeli government – quite surprisingly for many, a right-wing, conservative government led by Benjamin Netanyahu did everything possible not to get into another war or cycle of violence. The same applies to President Abbas.”
“But Hamas – that kept on saying it wants to stop escalation – fired dozens of rockets into Israel in the last few hours, and Israel will not be able to be restrained anymore.”
“The danger, the great danger tonight, is that after the Israeli action that must come now, we will have more rockets shooting into Israel and a real escalation.”
“No one is holy here,” Shavit said of current tensions. “There are no angels here.”
“We didn’t have American leadership; we didn’t have Israeli courage; we didn’t have moderate Palestinian strength. And the result is that all of the above are responsible for this escalation, with extremists on both sides are leading the way and might create major, major violence in the coming days.”
Both the Israeli and Palestinians have “wasted five precious years” of calm, he said, scuttling any real attempts at reaching peace.
“The extremists have taken the lead and might dictate their will and their way to the moderates.”
Shavit praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for preventing violence, but “he should be criticized, very much so, for not controlling the extremists in his government.”
He has not cracked down on “extreme Jewish nationalists, who have been acting in a very violent way for years.”
“The fact that the Israeli government failed to be very tough with these extremists is now making that very government a victim to that extremism.”
As for the Americans, Shavit said that they have taken a hands-off approach to Israel ever since Secretary of State John Kerry’s much-lauded push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians fell apart earlier this year.
“The moment you try to have peace in this land, the way Secretary Kerry did in a courageous way, you cannot step back.”
“And from the moment that negotiations collapsed in this late March, this illusion that you can go back to Washington, deal with China and Ukraine and ignore the Middle East, was a dangerous illusion.”