By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM — A Palestinian teenager fatally stabbed a 19-year-old Israeli soldier on a bus in northern Israel on Wednesday, according to the police, shocking Israelis who have grown unused to such killings in their cities and further clouding a peace process that was already severely strained by Israeli settlement plans in the West Bank.
Infuriated by news of long-term planning for more settlement housing, the Palestinian leadership is expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the future of the American-backed negotiations, which began this summer and were supposed to continue for nine months.
The latest crisis was set off by reports on Tuesday that Israel’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, had initiated planning for about 20,000 new settlement homes. But some officials suggested that talk of a possible collapse of the negotiations amounted to posturing, especially after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Mr. Ariel to “reconsider” his new settlement plans, essentially putting them on hold.
“If the Palestinians want to create an artificial crisis, that’s unfortunate,” a senior Israeli official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the peace talks in public. Dismissing Mr. Ariel’s plans as having no legal standing or practical significance, the Israeli official said the Palestinians were “going through the motions.”
Arik Ben-Shimon, an aide to Mr. Ariel, said on Wednesday that the new settlement planning was “frozen” but not canceled. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, who offered his resignation two weeks ago, said Mr. Ariel “needs to revoke the orders,” indicating that the issue was far from resolved.
The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, confirmed in an interview with Egyptian CBC television this week that the Palestinian negotiating team had resigned. He said he was trying to convince the negotiators to continue, adding, “If they don’t accept, I will form another team.” The interview was recorded two days before the Palestinians learned of the new settlement plans, according to Mr. Erekat.
The stabbing of the soldier on Wednesday also prompted calls for a rethinking on the Israeli side. Right-wing Israeli politicians have demanded a re-examination of Israel’s agreement to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons in four batches as part of a deal to resume peace talks. Two of the four groups have already been released.
In a post on her Facebook page, Tzipi Livni, the minister leading the negotiations for the Israeli government, wrote: “I wrote here earlier and harshly criticized the damage in announcing settlement construction, but I took the post off because the profound political debate about the future of our life here will certainly continue, but not now. Now I would like to pay my respects to the memory of the soldier and express sorrow to the family and to clarify one more thing: violence will not bring political achievements. And we will fight terrorism and extremists decisively and without compromise.”
The stabbing took place when the bus, traveling from upper Nazareth to Tel Aviv, pulled into a station in the northern town of Afula.
The Israeli military said that the recently conscripted soldier, Eden Atias, 19, was in uniform at the time of the attack and that he had been on his way to an army base. He was stabbed several times in the upper body, according to Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the police. Mr. Rosenfeld said that a 16-year-old Palestinian, from the Jenin area of the West Bank, was apprehended at the scene and that he told security personnel under questioning that he had acted to avenge at least one relative serving time an Israeli prison.
The Palestinian news media identified the suspect as Hussein Ghwadreh and said he had two cousins serving terms in Israeli prisons, one of them a life term.
The attack came after a string of violent episodes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in recent months that ended a period of relative calm. Since September, an Israeli soldier has been killed in Hebron, apparently by a Palestinian sniper; an off-duty soldier has been killed by a Palestinian acquaintance who had lured him to the West Bank; and a retired colonel has been bludgeoned to death outside his home in the Jordan Valley.
In the last week, an Israeli couple escaped from a burning car after it was hit by a firebomb on a West Bank road and a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli soldiers after he opened fire at a bus stop with a homemade handgun.
Israeli security officials have attributed the rise in attacks to unrelated individuals rather than an orchestrated campaign backed by militant groups. A number of Palestinians have also been killed recently in clashes with Israeli soldiers. Three were killed in one arrest raidthat turned violent in August.
Mr. Netanyahu and several of his ministers have blamed incitement against Israelis and Jews in the Palestinian Authority-sponsored news media and schools for the violence. Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli minister of strategic affairs, said Wednesday that the main obstacle to peace was “a culture of hatred sponsored by the government, sponsored by the Palestinian Authority.”
“Israelis find it more and more difficult to believe that even if they will make concessions what they will get in return is a genuine peace,” he added.
A Palestinian official involved in the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss them publicly, accused the Israeli government of “playing games.” The attack on the soldier was “an isolated incident by an individual,” he said, adding, “Those trying to torpedo the negotiations on the Israeli side are in the government.”
Jodi Rudoren and Said Ghazali contributed reporting.
Jodi Rudoren and Said Ghazali contributed reporting.