Kerry's new outline for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was greeted with both praise and trepidation by the IDF and Shin Bet. The army and internal security service welcomed the development because the renewal of negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials creates in the Palestinian street a sense that there is a diplomatic horizon. This feeling stabilizes and bolsters the PA under Abbas' leadership.
The fear stems from the fact that every round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians has led to a wave of attempts by Islamist and jihadist elements among the Palestinians to undermine the negotiations as soon as they commence by way of firing rockets and carrying out terror attacks. This obligates the IDF and Shin Bet to double their level of alertness in the West Bank and along the border with Gaza.
The issue of strengthening the PA by resuming negotiations is critical. Over the past few years, as a result of the shake-up in the Arab world, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other so-called "rebellious" armed Palestinian factions have gained strength. There was a sense that the PA, which is based on the mostly-secular Fatah movement, has weakened over the past two years and is incapable of calming the street.
On the other hand, the wave of political Islam is gaining steam. As a result, the Palestinian security forces' efforts against Hamas' activities in the West Bank have diminished, with Israel bearing most of the brunt. However, a senior IDF official said, the PA is still fulfilling an important role in calming the street. Progress in the peace negotiations will bolster the PA and encourage its officials to stop calling for a "popular uprising," at least initially.
Therefore, we can expect a drop in the number of incidents involving the throwing of stones and firebombs, which are meant to support the diplomatic delegitimization campaign waged by the PA against Israel.
The IDF is working intensively in the West Bank to thwart stone-throwing and other methods associated with a popular uprising. This activity has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of these incidents. This success is also the result of the nightly arrests conducted by the IDF and Shin Bet, which thwart terrorists' plans to carry out shooting attacks along the West Bank's roads. However, the IDF's activity is a source of friction which may ignite the entire area. An IDF arrest operation gone wrong or soldiers opening fire on civilians – many scenarios can lead to an eruption of violence throughout all of the West Bank.
Such incidents, apart from the fact that they can ignite the region and lead to "price tag" attacks on the part of Jewish terrorists, may also stop the peace negotiations. To be precise, the may give the Palestinians an excuse to leave the negotiation table and lay the blame on Israel. Therefore, the IDF must act with added caution to provide the Israeli political establishment with the maximum freedom to operate.
We must remember that easing restrictions on Palestinian travel in the West Bank and allowing more Palestinian workers to enter Israel – both concessions Israeli will likely make during the talks as part of the efforts to build trust – pose a security risk. They create many new opportunities to carry out attacks in Israeli territory or in the territories.
The IDF and Shin Bet will have to make certain that Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and even extremists from Fatah, do not take advantage of these breaches.
In general, we can say that the motivation of Hamas and the rebellious groups in Gaza is increasing, but the Israeli and Egyptian deterrence against Hamas has also intensified. It is safe to assume that at least in the first stage of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations we will not witness serious attempts by the terror groups to thwart the talks. However, if progress is made, we must prepare for numerous, sophisticated attempts by terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank to bring about the collapse of the negotiations.