by its own reckoning, the attack has resurrected Hamas as a political player in the West Bank. In its attacks on settlers on two consecutive nights in different parts of the West Bank, Hamas demonstrated its reach despite a three-year, US-backed PA military campaign and exposed the fallacy of the PA’s claims to have established security control in the West Bank. “It’s not muqawama (resistance) against Israel,” says ‘Adnan Dumayri, a Fatah Revolutionary Council member and PA security force general. “It’s muqawama against Abbas.” It also enabled the Islamists to catch seeping popular disaffection across the political spectrum toward a process of negotiations that appeared to Palestinians to be leading into a blind alley of continued Israeli control. Should Abbas fail to negotiate a halt to settlement growth, Hamas in its armed attacks against settlers would emerge from its three-year political wasteland to offer Palestinians an alternative.
In contrast to the international media, where the attack was roundly condemned, in Palestine the attack earned plaudits not only from Hamas’ core constituency, but also from a broad swathe of Fatah and secular activists, including some senior actors, disillusioned by 19 years of negotiations based on an ever flimsier framework. Unlike the Annapolis process or the “road map,” the twin Bush administration initiatives that the Obama administration chose to ditch, the current negotiations lack any terms of reference or agreed-upon script. Palestinians ask why Abbas agreed to meet Netanyahu given that none of the Arab targets required to turn proximity talks into direct ones were reached prior to the Obama administration’s announcement of the meeting. When American elder statesman George Mitchell presented the parties with 16 identical questions on the core issues requiring yes or no answers, Israel responded to each with a question of its own. In his August 31 press briefing before the White House meeting, Mitchell again declined to specify if Israel had agreed even to extend its (partially honored) settlement freeze past the September 26 expiration date.