Here’s the good news: Despite the cynical speculation of some, the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers was neither a hoax nor a Mossad plot. Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel were murdered shortly after being abducted and then buried under rocks in an open field. The killers remain at large, but they are not unknown.

The bad news is that if debunking a shameful myth is the very best news to arise out of this barbaric incident, then there really is no good news. It’s just the latest reminder of what passes for diplomacy in a region far richer in terrorism than oil, and offers yet further reasons for Israelis to be suspicious of peace. Worse still, it supplies more evidence that a people who throw candy in celebration of kidnapped children have something on their mind other than nation building.

The Israeli government has vowed retaliation against Hamas. The unity government that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas established with Hamas is now in shambles. Surely peace negotiations will not resume if an unrepentant Hamas remains a partner.

Yet, West Bank Palestinians wonder why they must pay the price for the misdeeds of Hamas, who are based in Gaza. For them the 18-day search for the Israeli teens and the manhunt for their captors was tantamount to collective punishment. Thousands of homes were searched and 400 Palestinians—most with Hamas affiliations—were arrested. Meanwhile, in response to 18 rockets fired by Hamas into southern Israel, resulting in no casualties, Israel retaliated with 34 airstrikes inside Gaza, killing three militants.

Even before the dead Israeli teenagers were discovered, it was widely reported that Israeli soldiers killed five rock-throwing Palestinians (some of whom were teenagers) in the West Bank. They, too, should be factored into the ledgers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where the books are never closed and audits are always postponed without a final reckoning.

After all, the shortening of the lives of these Palestinian teenagers constitutes the tit-for-tat endgame of unmeasured suffering on both sides. Under the ancient laws of retaliation, the lex talionis, the lives of five Palestinians should cancel the debt created by Hamas in murdering three Israeli teenagers.

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