Israel has reacted to the Tel Aviv bombing this weekend by suspending planned prisoner releases, one of the key demands of the militant groups, Reuters reports:
Israel will reconsider whether to free 400 Palestinian prisoners as it had promised before a suicide bombing that killed four Israelis in Tel Aviv, Israel Radio said Sunday.
The radio quoted Justice Minister Tsipi Livni as saying Israel may not release these prisoners that were to have been freed in addition to 500 released last week, following a promise to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a Feb. 8 summit.
Israeli leader Ariel Sharon demanded Sunday the Palestinians smash militant groups after the bombing Friday, saying he would freeze peace efforts and take military action if they did not heed his call.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad had already criticized the planned releases as too modest for their tastes, demanding the immediate release of all 8,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails before considering a formal cease-fire. Now that Sharon has frozen even the preliminary releases, the militants have all the excuse they need to declare open season on Israeli citizens again, and Abbas can blame the intransigence of the Israelis for the collapse of the cease fire. Abbas may make some preliminary noise about taking action against the militants, but in a short period of time he will lay the blame against Sharon for undermining Fatah’s credibility among the militants.
Some of you think I’m being far too skeptical. I hope to be proven wrong. So far, however, events have played out exactly as expected, and exactly as they have in the past. Only when the Palestinians start electing peacemakers rather than bombthrowers will peace truly come to the West Bank and Gaza.