Analysis: An attempt to torpedo peace talks

The attack sends a clear message that peace talks aren't accepted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, under direction from Iran.

Obama Netanyahu Abbas 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Obama Netanyahu Abbas 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
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 all.
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 there.
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 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 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.
These 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 former NATO commander and envoy to Israel under the Bush administration.
Israel is reluctant to agree to the deployment of such a force. First, in light of the failures in southern Lebanon, it does not have much faith in multinational forces.
Second, 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 now, rather than waiting until they really can manage on their own?