GAZA CITY – The resumption of direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis has broken 20 months of stalemate, and marked the entry of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into this round of diplomacy. But these difficult talks face significant challenges from outside the negotiating room, particularly from Hamas, which is intent on ensuring that nothing happens without its approval.
Hamas refuses all direct peace negotiations with Israel, and has vowed to derail the current talks through violence. Their first blow came on the eve of the talks, when the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, carried out an ambush on Israeli settlers in Hebron, killing four people.
Hamas has vowed to continue launching its attacks from inside the West Bank, but not from Gaza. This follows from Hamas leaders’ frequent statements since the 2008 Gaza war that they do not want to provoke another Israeli attack, which could cost them their governing position.
Israel does not recognize a distinction between Hamas-planned attacks from the West Bank and from Gaza. However, a large-scale Israeli assault on Hamas’s Gaza redoubt in response to the West Bank killings could bring the negotiations to a halt.