It's just a question of dosage. Had the members of the Atamna family and their neighbors been killed over the course of two or three days, and had a "most wanted man" been killed along with them, no one would have blinked. Was anyone upset when dozens of people were killed in the Gaza Strip before that artillery shell? Did anyone think it necessary to stop the random shooting? Did anyone apologize for those innocents who were killed cumulatively, one by one?

Because all that is needed is the right excuse, and everything is sorted out. "Anyone who hides terrorists near his home, or terrorists who operate near residences, should know the consequences," asserts the Israeli position, as though it were an advertisement for those slaughter films.

But in Gaza there is no place that isn't near residences, that is free of children and mothers, of unemployed people who fill the alleys and of young people without hope. Everyone sees everyone else, everyone helps everyone else to the best of his ability. Because there is no other way out.

There is no alternative for someone who does not want to participate in this struggle, no jobs, no studies and no possibility of medical care. Therefore, there is also no point in getting angry at the bandits destroying the possibility of living in an independent state. Because there is no one who is promising such a state. The only dilemma is whether to roam the alleys in groups in the hope that an Israeli artillery shell will slaughter a large number at once and them there will be a bit of an uproar, or to walk alone, to try to survive another day.

But we withdrew from Gaza so the Palestinians would start a diplomatic process, explained the popular Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in a radio interview on Thursday, in case the first slogan was not sufficiently impressive.

She, Livni, has a special intonation when she complains about the Palestinians, like the one heard from children when they say "he started it." This is a common and distorting Israeli assertion. The Israel Defense Forces withdrew from Gaza in order to preserve the assets in the West Bank.

But let us suppose that the withdrawal was accompanied by an aspiration for a diplomatic process . A kind of Gaza first - and let's see what happens. Did the occupation end? Did anyone in Jerusalem remember that Gaza and the West Bank are the two parts of one and the same problem, and that Israel has signed an agreement that binds these two areas into a single solution?

Here is another little deception that is usually annexed to any tragedy that happens with the Palestinians. If we just open the Rafah crossing point, if we give a few more workplaces or permits to study, maybe we will release a little bit of money and a few prisoners and everything will sort itself out.

The Palestinian national struggle has already known wonderful days of freedom of movement, work in Israel with almost no restrictions and open bridges to Jordan, but those ingrates want only an independent state.

I have a suspicion that even if a few more prisoners are released and even if Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas meets with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he will not relinquish this aspiration. Neither he nor Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh nor any senior or rank-and-file Palestinian is prepared to be content with a gentle and considerate occupation. If any sort of agreement develops between Israel and the Palestinians, it will be on the way to achieving that goal, and not on the goal itself.

Gaza cannot be "first," since the struggle in Gaza also represents the West Bank, which at the moment is just waiting. And, therefore, if Israel is sticking to its assertion that there is no partner, it behooves it to negotiate with its own citizens rather than take the temperature of the mood in Washington every morning. In these negotiations the government is obligated to present the state's borders, to reposition withdrawal as a strategic goal, with or without dialogue with the Palestinians, to adopt the Arab initiative from 2002 and to begin to reawaken the discourse that accompanied the withdrawal from Gaza. Less than this will be considered mere tactics in the best case and duplicity in the usual case. Not toward the Palestinians, but rather toward the citizens of Israel.