The shooting attack on Tuesday night, which killed four Israelis near Kiryat Arba is first and foremost aimed at torpedoing the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks set to kick off in Washington.
The attack sends a clear message that the
peace talks are not accepted by all of the players in the region and that some –
particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad, under direction from Iran – will do their
best to prevent them not only from succeeding, but from taking place at
Secondly, the attack demonstrates that despite the unquestionably
improved effectiveness of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank over
the past two years, they are still far from being able to take complete control
of the territory and that terrorist infrastructures are still being built
The timing of the attack – the night before the opening of direct
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – presents PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a dilemma.
The attack is obviously bad
for the Palestinians, who will look like they do not have control over the West
Netanyahu will be left to decide how to use the attack to his
advantage. He will likely not call off the talks, but might try to possibly
leverage some conciliatory talk out of Abbas.
It was not surprising that
the attack took place near Hebron, one of the remaining cities in the West Bank
that still has a strong Hamas presence, despite the deployment there last year
of PA security forces trained by the United States in Jordan.
security forces – stationed in Jenin, Nablus, Jericho and Bethlehem as well –
have done impressive work over the past year in preventing Hamas from gaining
the strength in the West Bank that it has in Gaza. IDF officers readily admit
that the lull in terrorism is partially due to their efforts.
At the same
time, the attack underscores Israel’s argument that the Palestinians are still
not prepared to receive full control of West Bank cities.
The problem is
that the Americans think the PA is prepared, and they are likely to pressure
Netanyahu to make concessions along these lines.
The Israeli negotiating
team will also likely hear in Washington about the proposed deployment of a
multinational force, like NATO, in the West Bank following an Israeli
withdrawal, and until the Palestinians are fully prepared to independently take
control of the evacuated territory.
A proponent of this idea is US
President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, a
NATO commander and envoy to Israel under the Bush administration.
is reluctant to agree to the deployment of such a force. First, in light
failures in southern Lebanon, it does not have much faith in
Second, by agreeing to such a deployment, Israel is basically
accepting that the Palestinians are not prepared for their own state. If
are not prepared, then why establish a state now, rather than waiting
really can manage on their own?