The brutality of Tuesday night’s shooting remains difficult to grasp, even after years of bitter experience.

Kochava Even-Haim, Avishai Shindler, Yitzhak Ames and his wife, Talia, who was pregnant with her seventh child, were shot as they drove along Route 60 outside Kiryat Arba. According to the security services, the vile Hamas terrorists who perpetrated this horrible murder maintained their fire from extremely close range, to make sure that the four were dead.

On Wednesday night, terrorists struck again, shooting Moshe Moreno and his wife, Shira, near Ramallah.

Mercifully, this time, Hamas failed to kill. The Morenos escaped with light-to-moderate wounds.

In the wake of these attacks, senior IDF officials warned that we may be on the brink of a new wave of terror after a period of relative quiet.

PRIMARILY OUT of its desire not to be ousted from the West Bank by Hamas, as it was from Gaza in June 2007, the Palestinian Authority has beefed up its security cooperation with Israel in the past two and a half years. It has been cracking down on Hamas-affiliated imams, teachers and leaders. Coordination with the IDF is no longer hidden. The PA has hosted senior Israeli security officials in Jenin, Tulkarm and Jericho.

Greater mobility as a result of the removal of dozens of checkpoints, along with generous foreign aid, contributed to the 8.5 percent growth in the West Bank’s economy in 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund. Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, told Army Radio on Thursday that the security situation on the West Bank was much better than two years ago despite the steep reduction in checkpoints.

Nonetheless, even amid this relative calm, F.-Sgt.

Yehoshua “Shuki” Sofer was murdered and three other police officers were wounded in June when they were ambushed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunmen while driving on Route 60 in the Hebron Hills. In February, a senior PA police officer stabbed to death IDF Sgt. Ihad Khatib at the Tapuah junction. Last December, Fatah’s Al-Aksa Brigades were responsible for the fatal shooting of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai, a father of seven, near Shavei Shomron, a settlement in northern Samaria.

These acts of terror, seen together with this week’s violence and the estimates regarding future attacks, drive home the fragility of security for Israelis in the West Bank, particularly in those parts located on the “wrong” side of the security barrier.

It was encouraging to hear the PA’s President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at the US State Departmenthosted resumption of direct talks on Thursday, assure Israel of his commitment to security arrangements.

Encouraging, but not decisively persuasive. After all, this is the same Abbas who recited the opening sura of the Koran for the “elevation” of the soul of Amin al- Hindi, one of the masterminds of the September 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 athletes and coaches, when he who was laid to rest two weeks ago. It is the same Abbas who in March agreed to name a square in al-Bireh after Dalal Mughrabi, a female terrorist who led the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in which 37 Israeli civilians and an American photographer were killed, and 71 were wounded.

In this context, it was telling to hear Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stress, at the same venue, that security was one of the two pillars of any peace agreement with the Palestinians (along with legitimacy for the sovereignty of Israel as a Jewish state). As the prime minister noted, there can be no reconciliation without security. “Security is a must,” he said, even as he warmly reached out to Abbas as his “partner.”

Until Israelis, whether they live in Tel Aviv or in Kiryat Arba, can be assured that their negotiating partner is fighting terror – not committing it, fostering it, or legitimizing it as a means of obtaining political objectives – there will not be peace.

Nor should Palestinian terrorists think that by targeting residents of Judea and Samaria they can somehow drive a wedge between Israelis living inside the Green Line and those living beyond it. There are sharp differences of opinion that split Israeli society. The proposed boycott of Ariel’s cultural institutions by academics and artists is the latest example of such internal dissent.

But divisions over the settlement project in Judea and Samaria by no means extend to indulgence for loathsome acts of terrorism like the one perpetrated on Tuesday night against four innocent people.

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