After years of relative calm in Israel and the West Bank, terrorism has regained its primacy in the peace process equation: freezing attacks is once again being cited as a condition for freezing settlement building.
High-level Israeli security officials have told U.S. and European security experts that the Palestinians' efforts to counter Hamas, and the Fayyad government's cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service, have been worthy of plaudits. Calm on the security front also took the bite out of many of the settlers' arguments for remaining in the West Bank.
In an instant, Tuesday's deadly attack returned the terror threat to the front pages and the political discourse, and to the slogans of the Yesha Council of settlements.
Considering this environment, it's hard to believe Netanyahu will promise the U.S. government to renew the settlement freeze set to expire on the 26th of this month.
Netanyahu as well as the decision-makers in Washington know who controls the roads on which Tuesday's terror attack took place. The IDF is deployed along the West Bank's main roadways, and the Shin Bet watches over the details, so it's difficult to accuse the Palestinian Authority of not doing enough to prevent the attack. The PA's security apparatus detains dozens of Hamas operatives and shouldn't be punished by renewing settlement building (only partially frozen in any case ) across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Even without this week's transparent attempt by Hamas to sabotage the summit, U.S. President Barack Obama and his staff have indicated that that this week's diplomatic meeting focus on more "hardcore" issues than whether to enact another partial freeze on settlement building. Before the first phase of the freeze expires, they hope Netanyahu offers Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at least one achievement in relation to the core issues. But it won't be easy for the Arab leaders in attendance to settle for a new road map that doesn't include East Jerusalem.
At this stage, with both Israelis and Palestinians focused primarily on domestic political concerns, images of terror victims and remarks made to the media carry more weight than broader strategic considerations. The only question is whether Barack Obama is similarly limited.
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