Following the deadly attack near the Lebanese border, Israel finds itself in complicated circumstances that lead it to cautiously weigh its steps. It does not respond with anger to the infuriating violation of international law.
On Tuesday, it almost happened: a major flare-up on the northern border with the potential for a confrontation with the Syrian army and a threat to the Israeli home front as far back as Haifa.
This happy occasion, on which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has dropped his demand for seven days of quiet prior to negotiations about a cease-fire, is not the time to settle accounts with him.
Two nights ago, after the prime minister's decision to significantly intensify military action against the Palestinians, one cabinet member explained that this move was made possible by the Bush administration's total backing for Sharon's policy.
As they confront the state's daily worries and problems, Israel's leaders are not thinking about how the operational steps they are implementing will influence the future of the dispute, and ways of resolving it.
On October 30, 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak and public security minister Shlomo Ben-Ami visited the northern district police headquarters. All around, things were aflame.
In order to assess soberly the new "buffer zones" operational scheme improvised by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his speech to the nation late last week, it is worth reviewing previous initiatives he devised and carried out in the campaign against Palestinian terror.
When dealing with Palestinian terror, the IDF wants to say, the lives of the soldiers are its uppermost consideration. This, of course, is a heart-warming attitude, which no one disputes, yet it also incorporates a hidden state of mind: Israeli society is not willing to sacrifice itself for the sake of keeping a hold on the territories.
Whatever sympathy the Bush administration has toward Israel's agonies offers little consolation, since the administration is neither removing nor easing those woes.
There is room to wonder whether there was any point to the prime minister's conferring last week with Yasser Arafat's top advisers. Sharon's true intentions are difficult to fathom.