Today, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus in Jerusalem. 21 people were injured, two severely. Two buses were destroyed by the blast and resulting fire.
But, as always, the context is important. In the background of this tragedy, negotiations were ongoing to move Israeli troops out of Area A of the West Bank. Such negotiation were reportedly close to completion but was opposed by the Shin Bet security service. Shin Bet feared that the such a withdrawal would limited their ability to stop terrorism coming from the territories. Attacks that would look a lot like the one today.
Israeli forces withdrew from West Bank cities as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords. In 2002 Israeli troops moved back into the cities in the wake of the Second Intifada. Ever since then IDF has been able to move throughout Palestinian cities freely. And, while this has security advantages for Israel, it also means that an occupying force is constantly moving in and out of Palestinian territory in violation of the agreement made at Oslo. The result has been increased tensions and little progress on peace.
If the pullout where to get through it could have huge consequences for the peace process. An Israeli withdrawal would reduce tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and pave the way for further negotiations regarding other sections on the West Bank. A successful pullout could also reduce anger and a key cause of violence in the region.
Israel has been burned before by failed attempts at peace. After a unilateral pullout of Gaza in 2005, Hamas took over the territory and turned it into a terror enclave. Hamas has been conducting attacks from the territory ever since. Thousands or rockets have been fired and dozens of tunnels dug into Israeli territory for the purpose of infiltration and murder. Israel’s fear is that if it withdraws from the West Bank it could become a terror state like the Gaza strip. The difference would be that the West Bank is much bigger and terrorism would be much harder to manage.
When the bomber blew himself up today he was not just attacking the citizens of Israel, he was attacking peace itself. He was using Israel’s greatest fear against the peace process. The Attack was targeted civilians across the Green Line at a time when Abbas really needs to prove that he can manage the security of the Palestinian territories without Israeli assistance.
In 2002, tactics like bus bombings led to Israeli troops coming back into the cities of the West Bank. In a sick, somewhat poetic fashion a bus bombing in 2016 might keep Israeli troops in Palestinian cities.
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