The bloodshed on the Gaza beachfront late last week was not the result of a tragic error. It was clear to everyone that in the exchanges of fire in the narrow Gaza Strip, where the population density is among the highest in the world, it was just a matter of time before an entire family was hit. The Palestinian response was also known in advance. More and more attacks - and the number of Israeli victims that can be expected in the near future - will only be determined by luck, for better or worse.
It is a known fact that there is no military solution to the overall Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But now it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no military solution for putting an end to the Qassam rocket attacks. The Israel Defense Forces has struck at the rocket-launching crews and their commanders; it has destroyed the bridges and the roads leading to the launching areas; it has carried out what it calls "exposure" activities and has destroyed farmland; it has bombed the launching sites, over and over. The army has dispersed fliers warning the population and threatening to destroy entire neighborhoods and towns. And let us also remember the IDF's "war on the lathes" that targeted the metalworking shops in Gaza. Dozens of Palestinian lathes were bombed and destroyed due to the suspicion that they were being used to manufacture rockets.
None of this helped. On the contrary: There are many more rockets and missiles in Gaza today than in the past. The know-how, the means and the capabilities to launch them against targets in Israel have only improved and become more sophisticated. And there is no doubt that the continued deterioration of the security situation will only sharpen Palestinian martial skills and broaden their activity in this area. We can even assume that sooner or later, in the absence of a diplomatic option, the motivation, the means and the know-how for launching missiles will also reach the West Bank.
Since Mahmoud Abbas was elected Palestinian Authority chairman, a year and a half ago, barely a day has gone by during which he has not called for negotiations. It is true that he is not fighting the Hamas and terrorism with particular determination, but this is no excuse for not talking with him. It has already been four years since the Arab initiative was presented at the Beirut summit, which called for normalization with Israel. The terms are obviously difficult to meet, but Israeli statesmen have not even bothered to relate to the initiative. On the agenda now stands the so-called prisoners' document, which has met only with rejection and derogatory responses from the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his spokesmen. And there are also the decisions of the Hamas government to permit contacts with the Israeli government on practical matters - economics, finance, agriculture, electricity, health, tourism.
The Palestinians' demands are tough, obviously. It would have been a lot simpler if they accepted ours: for example, that greater Jerusalem in its entirety - with Ma'aleh Adumim in the east, Givat Ze'ev in the north and Betar in the south - officially become the capital, solely, of Israel. Among the Palestinians, across the board, the general view is that the Israelis know quite well that the Palestinians would never accept such a demand.
It is therefore in Israel's clear interest not to start any talks with any Palestinians - not with moderates and particularly not with the radicals. On the contrary, it is best that the Palestinians remain extremists because then no one will ask the government of Israel to negotiate with them. How do we ensure that the Palestinians remain radical? We simply strike at them, over and over, via assassinations and incessant bombings, until they drive any thought of supporting a peace policy out of their minds.
It is possible that this is mistaken, distorted thinking. However, whoever follows the mood in the territories, the press, the statements of various spokesmen and the interviews on local radio and Arab television stations - will quickly conclude that this is the overwhelming thinking among Palestinians from Rafah in southern Gaza to Jenin in the northern West Bank. And until Israel does not announce a change of policy, a desire for a complete cease-fire and a genuine willingness for dialogue - this is how the situation will continue.
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