The terror attack south of Hebron took place a few hours after I filed my curtain-raiser on the Washington peace talks for the American Prospect. Besides my pain at hearing of the deaths, I also had a tinge of professional self-criticism: Without intending to, I’d made a prediction of quiet in the West Bank, simply by describing, in present tense, the quiet that had existed in recent months. And I’d forgotten the iron rule of Israeli-Palestinian negotiating: The people who regard any compromise as betrayal will do their best – or rather, their worst – to stop diplomacy by igniting a new cycle of attack, crackdowns, rage and more terror.
In this case, the killers seek to discredit the Palestinian Authority and its extenisve efforts to prevent violence. Most Israelis and Palestinians already appear pessimistic about the talks, but hard-liners are desperately afraid that the negotiations might just bring a peace agreement. If the Israeli public can be convinced that the PA is either soft on terror or complicit in it, the fragile foundation for negotiations might crumble.
Despite Hamas’s latest attacks, the real problem in the negotiations is the imbalance that I described in my article:
On one hand, the Palestinian Authority is keeping its obligation under the 2003 road map “to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.” Not only have Abbas and Fayyad declared a policy of negotiations instead of violence to achieve independence, the American-trained PA security forces are in fact enforcing a ceasefire….
On the other hand, the most important requirement that the road map placed upon Israel has not been met. The growth of West Bank settlements hasn’t stopped. The moratorium of recent months has barely brought a slowdown in construction, since it exempted 3,000 homes that had already been built when it came into force. Settler leaders and supportive officials are ready to make up for any lost time the moment the supposed moratorium ends.
Let’s be morally and politically precise here: Building settlements and blowing people up are not equivalent offenses. Settlements can be taken down or given up; the dead will not return to life. Violence against Palestinians has often been a consequence of settlement activity, but bloodshed is not written in the plans.
Nonetheless, from 1967 till today settlements have been part of a strategy of thwarting Palestinian political aspirations. A series of master plans drawn up by government officials and settlement leaders since the right-wing Likud took power in 1977 are more specific in their goals: To create strips of settlement-controlled land that run the length and breadth of the West Bank, restricting the Palestinians to shrinking enclaves. If construction resumes at full speed on Sept. 27, it will conform to this strategy.
This means that the renewed peace talks will be conducted under conditions of a one-sided ceasefire….
The full article is here.