JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday there was a "reasonable chance" that direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority could begin this month.
The prime minister's remarks coincided with increased rocket attacks over the weekend by Hamas-affiliated Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Some believe the weekend assault was in response to increasing pressure on PA President Mahmoud Abbas by the U.S. and the European Union to begin direct talks with Netanyahu.
Even Arab League leaders who met in Cairo on Thursday advised Abbas to enter face-to-face negotiations with Israel.
Some analysts have predicted that progress between Israel and the PA will foment an increase in terror attacks by Hamas and affiliated Islamic terror groups in Gaza to coerce Israel into responding, thereby torpedoing negotiations.
Since Israel's three-week military incursion in the Gaza Strip that ended in January 2009, rocket attacks have diminished dramatically. Some of the decrease had to do with the IDF's consistent response to the attacks: air strikes targeting the arms smuggling tunnels.
For a time, rebuilding the tunnels destroyed during Operation Cast Lead took precedent over rocket attacks. Hamas found it expedient to rein in the rocket launching cells to avoid retaliatory air strikes on its tunnel infrastructure.
But now that the U.S., European Union and even the Arab League have advised Abbas to enter direct negotiations with Israel, Hamas is finding itself more isolated than it would like to be.
While Abbas alludes intermittently to reconciling with Hamas, even talking about an official visit to Gaza, the trip has yet to materialize.
The Fatah-Hamas unity government, formed in March 2007 after Saudi King Abdullah convinced both factions to sign the Mecca Accords, lasted a paltry three months.
In June 2007, Hamas gunmen attacked PA security forces in Gaza, defeating them in a bloody military coup. In less than a week, Hamas wrested control of the coastal enclave and began a process of conforming the population to strict Islamic lifestyle.
In the year and half since Operation Cast Lead, Hamas has focused much of its resources on rebuilding and fortifying its military infrastructure in preparation for the next confrontation with Israel.
It seems Hamas has no plans for peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state, which exists in territory destined in its view to come back under Islamic rule.
To Hamas, Israelis are the interlopers - the "Zionist occupiers." That's what the Koran teaches and that's what Islamists believe.