— Alan Elsner and Jennifer Packer
(The Israel Project) A terrorist attack that killed four Israeli civilians including a pregnant woman on Tuesday (Aug. 31) will not sabotage this week’s direct peace negotiations in Washington, Israeli Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled said.
In a telephone conference call for The Israel Project, Peled said the attack near the West Bank city of Kiryat Arba was deliberately intended to sabotage the talks, which will convene at the U.S. State Department on Thursday after a 20-month delay.
More after the jump.
“It (the attack) impacts, but it shouldn’t derail the talks that are coming to fruition this week,” Peled said. “This terror act is a clear sign of the imperative need for us to ensure that if Israel’s security needs are not addressed, it’s going to be very, very difficult to begin making concessions in the West Bank.”
“The timing of this is deliberate to try and derail the Palestinians and all those who seek peace in the region from coming and sitting down at the table with Israel,” he said.
Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, congratulated the attackers saying the attack was a normal reaction to what he called “the crime of occupation.” Hamas, which controls Gaza, opposes direct talks and the continued existence of Israel.
The attack appeared to be carefully planned. The gunmen opened fire on the car at short range, leaving the vehicle riddled with bullet holes and killing all its occupants. Israeli security forces launched a hunt for the perpetrators.
Peled said Iran and its Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah proxies were intent on sabotaging the peace process but Israel was ready, on coming to the table, to make “painful concessions” for a secure peace. He said 70 percent of the Israeli public supported such concessions, including withdrawing from parts of the West Bank so that a Palestinian state could be established.
The attack took place shortly before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington. He and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet separately at the White House with President Barack Obama on Wednesday before Thursday’s direct talks.
Peled said the main goal of the meeting, which Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah also will attend, is to set up a timetable for further face-to-face negotiations in the region.