Analysis: Hamas has more cards to play

Group still has a lot more it could do if it really wanted to push Israel up against a wall and torpedo the talks.

hamas man 311 (photo credit: AP)
hamas man 311
(photo credit: AP)
The statistics speak for themselves. In May, there were 17 terror attacks in the West Bank.One of them was a shooting and the rest involved the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails. The trend kept up in June and July, those months ending with 21 and 22 terror attacks, respectively, and each with only one shooting.
August was the same and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) even recorded a drop in terror attacks to 20. In August, there was also only one shooting attack but this one, which took place on Tuesday night, ended with four dead Israelis near Kiryat Arba. The next day, already September though, another shooting took place, wounding two Israelis near Rimonim.
As one security official explained on Thursday, though the terrorist shooting that killed four Israelis on Tuesday night could have happened in any of the previous months – which were also marked by a single terrorist shooting – those, however, all ended miraculously without casualties.
The point of all of these numbers is that from a statistical perspective it is still premature to declare that Israel is facing a heightened wave of terrorist attacks like it did following the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000.
Then, the Palestinian tactic was to infiltrate Israeli towns with suicide bombers and booby-trapped cars. Now, with the near-completion of the security barrier and the increased Palestinian security efforts and continued IDF presence, it is extremely difficult to carry out an attack within the Green Line. For that reason, the attacks will continue to focus on settlers in the West Bank.
This does not mean, though, that Hamas is incapable of launching a new wave of terror throughout the West Bank streets. The question is whether it will want to.
Several weeks ago, when the White House announced the peace summit, the IDF Central Command began to consider the possibility that Hamas would try to ignite the territories. One school of thought argued that Hamas would immediately carry out attacks to torpedo the talks and remind the world that it too is a player in the region and should not be left on the sidelines. After all, it, and not the PA, is in control of the Gaza Strip.
The other school of thought argued that Hamas would not immediately attack Israelis since it would not want to be perceived as torpedoing the talks, particularly in light of the pessimism on both sides that they will anyhow collapse.
While the first theory seems to be correct, it is interesting that Hamas, which has taken responsibility for the two shooting attacks this week, has only attacked in the West Bank and has not fired rockets from the Gaza Strip.
This is even more peculiar considering that it is far easier for Hamas to launch attacks from within Gaza, which it controls, than from the West Bank, where it has to worry about IDF and PA patrols.
Hamas’s decision to attack in the West Bank is likely aimed at embarrassing the Palestinian Authority, which has thousands of security personnel deployed throughout the area, and showing that the PA is incapable of stopping the terrorists.
What this means is that Hamas still has a lot more it could do if it really wanted to push Israel up against a wall and torpedo the talks. If it were, for example, to fire dozens of rockets into the Negev, Israel would be forced to respond, even at the expense of the success of the peace talks.