The Corner

The beginning of the end of the peace process

Some important things have been happening in Israel: Yesterday, Hamas affiliates in Gaza fired a Katyusha rocket at Israel, accomplishing a serious escalation in the rocket campaign. Until yesterday, terror groups in Gaza had only been using Kassams, a significantly shorter-range and less deadly missile. The use of a Katyusha came in response to Israel’s success over the past two weeks in its targeted killings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives — these groups would like to demonstrate that their ability to pursue “resistance” has not been diminished.

There are other theories, though, as to what inspired the escalation. The Jerusalem Post reports that

A senior PA representative accused Iran and Syria of working to torpedo US President George W. Bush’s visit to the region next week. He pointed out that all four groups that claimed responsibility for the firing of the Katyusha were closely affiliated with Syria and Iran. “The instructions for firing the Katyusha rocket came from Damascus and Teheran,” he said. “The timing of the rocket attack is no coincidence and is mainly aimed at disrupting Bush’s visit.”

There is probably a great deal of truth to this as well, but in a way it doesn’t matter. Gaza has always been the obvious first means by which the Annapolis-based peace process — such as those two words are applicable to the past year’s superficial rapprochement between the Olmert and Abbas governments — would be scuttled. The Katyusha fired yesterday landed some 11 miles away, in Ashkelon, a medium-sized Israeli city, and provoked an Israeli response in which for the first time in recent memory the IDF destroyed a Palestinian house that was being employed by Islamic Jihad fighters to fire on the IDF. A few civilian casualties resulted, giving Fatah officials an opening to denounce Israel, souring much of the fragile comity that has been recently built up between Fatah and the Olmert government.

Israel today has too effective a security presence in the West Bank for the breakdown of this iteration of the peace process to result in another intifada. But the breakdown is happening nonetheless, and exactly as predicted, with Hamas dragging Israel into hostilities that are arousing the sense of jihadist solidarity of all the Palestinians. President Bush will be in the region in just a few days to witness this process in person. More here.

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