The tragic murder of Ari Fuld, 45, who was stabbed in the back by a Palestinian teenager at a shopping mall near Fuld’s home in the West Bank Jewish community of Efrat on Sunday, hit home for many of us. For many in the community, he was one of us.
A dual American-Israeli citizen, Fuld was a native of New York and product of religious Zionist day schools and summer camps here. His father, Rabbi Yonah Fuld, was principal at SAR Academy in Riverdale before the family made aliyah. The younger Fuld was the father of four and worked for Standing Together, a nonprofit providing support for Israeli soldiers. He was active on social media in defending Israel’s military, traveled in the U.S. on speaking tours and had planned to start an Israel advocacy website in English.
Despite his wounds, Fuld, who had served in an elite IDF paratroopers unit, gave chase and shot his assailant before collapsing.
The sad irony of Ari Fuld’s murder just after the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords is profound. Signed on the White House lawn amidst an air of hope and pledges to end the bloodshed, the agreement is now viewed as a bitter failure by Israelis and Palestinians alike. Palestinians believed Oslo would lead to a state of their own, and Israelis allowed themselves to dream of living in peace with their neighbors.
But while Yasir Arafat, the PLO leader and president of the new Palestinian Authority, talked peace to the West, he preached jihad at home, and the terror attacks continued. Fury at home over Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s willingness to go forward with the peace process led to his assassination by a religious zealot in 1995. Five years later, after Arafat rejected a more generous peace proposal from Israel with no counter-offer, the horrific second intifada began. Suicide bombings on buses, in restaurants and on busy streets lasted years, killed hundreds of civilians and convinced the majority of Israelis that their dream had become a nightmare.
The response was to elect a government that emphasized security and took measures like building a security barrier to protect its citizens from attacks.
Over these last 25 years there have been numerous peace initiatives, discussions, conferences and debates about how to best promote a two-state solution. But in more recent times, there is an increasing sense of hopelessness; the bitter gap between the parties has widened, with proponents on each side now talking about a one-state — all-or-nothing — solution.
The Trump administration, citing the fact that past efforts have failed, has put aside “honest broker” attempts to bring the parties to the table. Rather, it has made clear that it favors the Israelis and is seeking to pressure the Palestinian Authority enough — moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, cutting off funds for the UN agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, closing the PA office in Washington, etc. — to convince PA leaders that “the deal” isn’t going to get any better, only worse.
Will it work?
There is a certain emotional satisfaction in seeing the Palestinians held accountable for their many years of intractable diplomatic stands, refusal to acknowledge the right of the Jewish people to a state in the region, and the impulse to lash out violently against Israeli men, women and children. But the reality is that leaders who favor victimhood over the welfare of their people are not likely to bend to the will of the White House. And the deepening despair among Palestinians may lead to more violence, like the cruel murder of Ari Fuld.
In a new Jewish year he witnessed for less than a week, we mourn his death and the death of hopefulness. May 5779 restore the prospect of a brighter future.