Israeli artillery on the Gaza border - AP
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires from a position outside the Gaza Strip, near the Karni crossing between Israel and Gaza in March 2008. Photo by AP
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Sooner or later, and not very much later, the cycle of bloodshed will return. Maybe it already has. We haven't managed to break it, and maybe we didn't really try.

Years of relative quiet lulled Israeli diplomacy into complacency, and it refuses to be aroused. If things are quiet, why take the initiative to disturb the calm? Our politicians refused to wade into the quiet prequel. It's like a sauna. They can sweat without exerting themselves, and they refuse to see the approaching storm.

What smarts and responsibility won't accomplish, experience should have. Indeed, both a long- and short-term view of history teach that the status quo is always followed by the status quo ante. The wheel of fortune always comes back to where it started, and what was is what will be. Is the illusion of quiet being shattered? Is the nightmare of terrorism resuming? And what form will a third intifada take?

The moderation of the Palestinian Authority was not reciprocated and its battle against murderers was not rewarded. Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad decided to build their Palestinian state from the bottom up and not with blood. They talked and they acted, but the situation remained hopeless. They could not quench the popular thirst for an end to the occupation and for independence. They had little chance of overpowering the evil-doers because their hands were empty and they had no accomplishments to show for themselves, in the face of rising frustration and disappointment.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been following recent events and cannot believe their good fortune - that the Israelis are doing their bidding by strengthening Israel's enemies and weakening its partners. Benjamin Netanyahu boasted how quiet the country has been over the past two years, to his great pride. Up to this point, however, he has benefited more from what he hasn't done than what he has. The realities of life and death have been and remain fleeting and fragile rather than something sustainable achieved in exchange for something given in return. Netanyahu hasn't lifted a finger to create that.

And now suddenly, but not surprisingly, Gaza has returned to its evil ways and the communities in the south are tethered to their shelters in fear of attack. Who knows which way the wind will blow? We do, however, know the path of a bad wind, and it is on its way here right now.

Just look, yesterday's terrorist attack returned to the same spot, the same kiosk. Even when prisoners are not released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, there is no shortage of candidates ready to demonstrate their ability to commit slaughter in Itamar or set off an explosion in Jerusalem. When the politicians march in place, the terrorists step forward.

And who knows, maybe other bad news will be coming from the north when Hezbollah operatives, in the service of their masters, heat up things on the Israeli border in order to save the Syrian leader from those arising to overthrow him. A ring of fire still surrounds Israel, and a moment's calm does not mean that the fire has been extinguished. Where is that American firefighting supertanker airplane when we need it?

Each side has its own battle traditions, and memories of Cast Lead and a Second Lebanon War are beginning to fade for them as well as for us. Accounts to settle are long, memories are short and deterrence is fading. The sides are poised and prepared for the next round, and even if it tarries, it will come.

It's a shame. A shame that we have wasted and are still wasting time. It's a shame that we have wasted opportunities that won't necessarily return. And whom will Netanyahu complain to now and take to task for incitement? We've been left with all the troubles but without any address for our complaints, who would be ready to listen and give them some thought.