Second Hamas attack could change focus of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
Hamas attacked Israeli settlers again Wednesday, vowing a wave of violence that could shift today's Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from settlements to security.
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But this week's attacks expose Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's vulnerability to Hamas cells in the West Bank. Hamas's military wing vowed on its website this week to initiate a string of attacks in the West Bank.Skip to next paragraph
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The resumption of violence narrows the possibility for a deal to come out of the talks between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas. It also offers a stark reminder that Hamas, which opposes the talks, could play a spoiler role.
"It makes it that much more difficult for Netanyahu and Abbas to compromise on anything," says Yossi Alpher, coeditor of the online Israeli-Palestinian journal Bitterlemons.org. "This was entirely expected. Hamas was not part of this process. Hamas does not agree with this process.''
New tensions between Netanyahu, settlers
On the Israeli side, the attack has increased tensions between Netanyahu and Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Settler leaders on Wednesday pledged to renew building in defiance of the 10-month Israeli settlement freeze set to expire later this month.
Targeting settlers will stoke Israeli sympathy and make it more difficult for Netanyahu to consider compromises on Palestinian demands that the building freeze be extended.
It also ratchets up the potential for new settler vigilante attacks. The "price tag'' policy of extreme settler groups, which have vowed to take revenge on Palestinians for both Palestinian attacks as well as Israeli government acts against settlers, could in turn spark fresh violence from the Palestinians.
On Wednesday, a group of Jewish mourners broke off from a funeral procession near the settlement of Beit Haggai and rioted in a Palestinian neighborhood of Hebron.
"[Settlers] will be tempted to hit back hard,'' said one Western diplomat who requested anonymity. "That will set up a chain reaction.''