Only three political-diplomatic milestones are engraved in the memory in the time frame between the Oslo Accords and yesterday: the signing of the agreement itself, in September 1993; the Camp David understandings ("the best offer we ever made the Palestinians"), in July 2000; and the start of the current Intifada, at the end of September 2000.
Between those three dates, and in particular since September 2000, day-by-day - or, in the best case, monthly - reckoning is being made, in which each side examines its achievements and failures. Not in absolute terms, but relative to the other side, as in a zero-sum game.
Israel can claim several achievements, based on a monthly calculation. Israeli intelligence can certainly take pride in knowing well the location of Hamas or Islamic Jihad activists, thus enabling missiles to be fired at them from helicopters at the right time and place. The Air Force is as accurate as ever, hitting not only the right floor of the building but also the window behind which the activists are hiding. The two children killed in the attack are, after all, only what's known in statistics as a standard deviation.
Israel is also on the plus side in the reckoning of the miracles. The bus driver who last Thursday prevented the horrific blast that could have occurred deserves high praise for his vigilance. In addition, an explosive device did not go off in the basement of a house in Pisgat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem; a can of beer that did explode in a Jerusalem supermarket did not cause any casualties; a bomb thrown onto the street next to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station was dealt with safely; and dozens of mortars have also missed the mark; and there are a few more attempts at terrorist attacks that have been foiled.
In the political sphere, too, Israel can seemingly say that July was a month of achievements. The Arab states are unwilling to convene a special summit meeting in honor of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat; only 13 of 22 countries attended the conference on the Arab boycott of Israel that was held in Syria; no boycott has as yet been announced of the economic conference scheduled to be held in Qatar this November; the events on the Temple Mount on the Tisha b'Av day of mourning and fast passed relatively quietly; and last Thursday, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa published a commentary condemning the continued terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
Not a bad monthly summation. Now the reckoning will begin for a new month, August, and then for September - when the first anniversary of the Intifada will be marked - and soon we will enter a new year, 2002, which will make it possible to sum up the year 2001, make comparisons of the number of killed and injured, consider the number of preventive operations, and hope that 2002 won't be any worse than 2001.
Nothing else remains apart from this daily reckoning, which has about the same effect on the security situation and on people's sense of security as the daily report on the events in the stock market has on the situation of the economy.
The point is that the IDF knows how to fire missiles accurately, but what it doesn't know is how many more missiles it is going to need. The Arab states don't want a summit conference but are exerting an increasingly powerful influence on the United States administration. The economic conference may go ahead in Qatar as planned, but Israel's relations with Egypt and Jordan are at their nadir.
The closures are preventing some terrorist attacks from being carried out but a European closure on the State of Israel is starting to take shape. The would-be devastating attack on the supermarket in Jerusalem produced no casualties, but there a lot fewer visitors in shopping malls.
If it were possible to measure the fear level, we would probably find that its level in Nablus and Hebron is about the same as that in Ramat Aviv or Kfar Sava, because suicide bombers can also be accurate. It would become quickly apparent that not only the Palestinians are in need of an Israeli political plan that will enable them to switch gears, but that Israel, too, needs such a plan so it can extricate itself from what is turning into the "Palestinian mire."
In the absence of a political goal, and with the maximum currently on the table being the recommendations of Central Intelligence Agency director George Tent for a cease-fire, which are supposed to lead to the implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission, which is supposed to set in motion some sort of diplomatic negotiations that will put a stop to the fighting - no meaning or significance attaches to missiles over Nablus.
After 10 months, Israel has gone through most of the means and methods available to it, and all it can do is toy with the fantastic notion that only seizing parts of the territories under Palestinian control or disposing of Arafat will bring salvation. That's what the Russians thought, too when they captured Grozny, though in the meantime Russians continue to be killed there; and that's what Israel thought when it invaded Lebanon.
The wise men of military strategy like to say that only a severe escalation will bring a turning point, so there is no reason why political daring cannot bring about a similar result. Maybe in August.
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