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 DC on Wednesday.
The attack sends a clear message that the peace talks are not accepted by all of the different 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 also from taking place.
Secondly, the attack demonstrates that despite the unquestionably improved effectiveness of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank over the past two years, they are still far from being able to receive complete control of the territory and that terrorist infrastructure is still being built in the territory.
The timing of the attack – the night before the opening of a new round of 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 Bank. 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 reconciliatory 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.
These security forces – stationed also in Jenin, Nablus, Jericho and
Bethlehem – have done impressive work over the past year in preventing
Hamas from gaining strength in the West Bank like it is in Gaza and IDF
officers readily admit that the lull in terrorism is partially due to
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
is likely to pressure Netanyahu to make concessions along these lines
during the talks in Washington this week.
The Israeli negotiating team will also likely hear in Washington about
the proposed deployment of a multi-national 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 President Barack Obama’s National Security
Advisor Gen. James Jones, a former NATO commander and envoy to Israel
under the Bush administration.
Israel is reluctant to agree to the deployment of such a force. Firstly,
in light of the failures in southern Lebanon, it does not have much
faith in multi-national forces. Secondly, by agreeing to such a
deployment, Israel is basically accepting that the Palestinians are not
prepared for their own state. If they are not prepared, then why
establish a state and not wait until they can do it on their own.