Israeli official: Planned Hamas attack and Jewish extremism threatening peace talks

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Pastor Dale Morgan

Nov 15, 2010, 10:50:49 PM11/15/10
Perilous Times

aeli official: Planned Hamas attack and Jewish extremism threatening peace talks

Hopes for a Middle East peace deal are being threatened by a rise in Jewish extremism and a planned Hamas terror campaign in the West Bank, a senior Israeli intelligence official has warned.

The emergence of twin dangers from opposite ends of the political spectrum comes at a rare moment of guarded optimism for the peace process after the Israeli cabinet was presented with a US proposal to defuse a row over Jewish settlement building.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, has rapidly expanded its infrastructure in the West Bank in the past three months with the intention of using the territory to strike at Israel, the official said.

"This is a very dangerous development we are facing today," he told western correspondents in a rare briefing. "They are planning a wave of very big attacks on Israel. They want to foil peace plans."

Hamas has largely confined its operations to launching rockets from Gaza, but the group claimed responsibility for the killing of four Jewish settlers in the West Bank at the beginning of September. The attack was timed to coincide with the launch of direct peace talks between Israel and the moderate Palestinian leadership.

The official said that interrogations of Hamas operatives suspected of involvement in the attack indicated that it was merely the first salvo in a prolonged campaign that is already in its advanced planning stages.

Hamas, which still refuses formally to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, is bitterly opposed to the peace talks, but the official said the movement was also using its campaign to attempt to take control of the West Bank, which is controlled by the moderate Fatah faction.

Israel's intelligence services are equally worried by growing settler extremism in the West Bank. Radical Jews in the territory, which has been under Israeli occupation for 43 years, have carried out acts of violence against both Palestinians and the Israeli security forces.

"Till now there has been no terror but we know this can quickly become terror attacks, which is why we want to put them in jail straight away," the official said.

He also sounded a stark warning to the Israeli leadership, saying that continued delays in peace talks could cause a collapse of the Palestinian leadership and security services, which have played a vital role in restoring stability in the West Bank.

Right-wing Israeli opposition to Palestinian demands that settlement construction in the West Bank has repeatedly held up peace talks, and the official warned that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, was becoming increasingly "tired and fed up" as a result.

If he continued to feel "humiliated", Mr Abbas could carry out a threat to resign, creating a dangerous security vacuum.

"In order to keep the legitimacy and functions of the Palestinian security system we need real progress in the peace process," he said.

The Israeli cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday when it is expected narrowly to approve a US proposal offering substantial security incentives in exchange for a new 90-day moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership suspended its role in peace talks when Mr Netanyahu refused to extend a previous moratorium that lapsed in September.

Even if the Israelis agree to a new settlement freeze it is unclear whether it will be enough to persuade the Palestinians to return to talks because the moratorium would not apply mainly Arab East Jerusalem.

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