Foreign Policy Blogs

Taking a Deeper Look at the Dimona Suicide Bombing

palestinian.jpgWhen the Rafah border was broken open by Hamas, food and goods were certainly not the only items brought back into the Gaza Strip. It's more than likely that weapons, normally snuck into the territory through underground tunnels, were also brought over. This is particularly troubling after Hamas claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Dimona, which killed one elderly woman and injured eleven others.

Suicide bombings in Israel were drastically reduced over the last couple of years. In fact, 2007 witnessed but one suicide bombing, a significant statistic. While critics might argue tactics shifted towards launching Qassam rockets into Israel as a mean of fighting the occupation, I would counter that suicide bombings are deadlier and have a greater psychological effect. To this point, anyone concerned about the peace-process should fear renewed violence and repeated suicide bombing attacks. One may not necessarily be cause for concern, but two would drastically diminish prospects for peace.

The suicide bombing may have been a response to the Israeli offensive in Gaza during January. The ever-increasing tit-for-tat responses can eventually boil over into a much more serious conflict, as has happened before between Israelis and Palestinians. However, my fears may simply be overblown. Hamas is not involved in the peace-process, and negotiations largely concern the West Bank and its citizens.

If one looks at events in two months since the Annapolis Conference, Israel has pursued two tracks. They have bolstered Abbas by continuing negotiations, while maintaining a strong stance against Hamas, as I previously noted the IDF offensive in Gaza. The latter part of the track may inhibit the former. Could Hamas have re-supplied itself with arms while the border with Egypt was open? Could the IDF find itself in another battle in Gaza? Will Hamas retaliate with another suicide bombing? These questions remain worrisome for observers of the peace-process.

Additionally, the events which have transpired in the last few weeks have helped win support for Hamas, although slightly. This survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that Hamas' popularity increased in both the West Bank and Gaza, while Fatah's popularity slightly dropped. Despite the slight increase in support, the survey also shows that most Palestinians still favor Fatah over Hamas.

Meanwhile, the United States needs to stay focused on the diplomatic track. Now is not the time to step back from the omnipotent final-status issues. That said, if relations deteriorate, and Israel finds itself against a serious challenge (as it has with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 and the second intifada), the United States is inclined to step-back and allow Israel to launch offensives or defend itself. This is a precarious time for the peace-process and it is imperative for the United States to be aware of what's happening on the ground.