Now is the time to repeat the immortal words of Israel's former finance minister, Yigal Horowitz, for the benefit of the Palestinians: "Get down from the roof, you crazies!" What is the matter with these people? Why, every time the door opens a crack for some Israeli compromise or concession, do they suddenly have this urge to maim and kill?
Why, after the Oslo Accords, which Israel went through hell and high water to approve, did they unleash a campaign of bloody terror, blowing up buses, shopping malls, cafes, restaurants and markets? Why did they go on an indiscriminate murder spree, butchering citizens of all ages? Why did they launch another wave of terror at the split second that another opportunity arose for a settlement brokered by President Clinton at Camp David? Why is every senior American peacemaker sent here to tie up the loose ends of some deal always greeted by a terror attack that sabotages the mission even before it begins?
None of this is any clearer today. Why, when the patriarch of the settlements decides in his old age to disengage from Gaza - when he makes up his mind to clear out all inhabitants, businesses and military posts, and on top of that, evacuate four West Bank settlements to get the ball rolling - have the Palestinians gone on a rampage? Why are they attacking, ambushing, and wildly shooting Qassam rockets at Sderot? I say Palestinians, and not Hamas, because the Palestinian Authority has more power and say-so than we think. If the PA didn't want Sderot bombarded, it wouldn't be.
What is the point of all this violence in the Gaza Strip? The accepted theory is that Hamas wants to take credit for expelling Israel, which it needs for internal political purposes. But Hamas doesn't need to kill women and children now that the prime minister has decided on his own to pull out of Gaza. Everyone knows Israel is taking the first step because it hasn't been able to eradicate terror by force. Israel withdrew unilaterally and unconditionally from Lebanon for the same reason. So Hamas and the Palestinian Authority can boast just as well about kicking us out of Gaza without starting a new cycle of bloodshed.
With all due respect for the Palestinians' right to an independent state, there's a screw loose somewhere. Colin Powell was right on the ball when he said the intifada has done nothing for the Palestinian cause and the time has come to call it quits. But the Palestinians never caught on. They know nothing about the workings of democratic procedure in Israel. They don't get it. They don't understand that the process of leaving Gaza, like the process of implementing the Oslo Accords, requires national consensus, a government decision, a parliamentary majority - all of which take time.
Another thing they don't get is that their impatience and embrace of violence have turned the tables politically in this country. Peaceniks have gone over to the far right. Every time public opinion tilts in the direction of concession and compromise - for example, the overwhelming majority in favor of Sharon's disengagement plan - the Palestinians do something that ends up helping the opponents of evacuation.
I say Palestinians, and not Hamas, because if the PA wants to, it can stop Hamas. But as Abba Eban liked to say, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Don't they see that no Israeli government, not even one headed by Peres or Sarid, would allow a town in Israel, devoid of any connection to the fighting, to be fired on day and night for the simple reason that it happens to be within the range of a Qassam? Don't they realize that there are people in the government and the party on top who are looking for an excuse to sabotage the disengagement plan, grab hold of the Gaza Strip and show the Palestinians what's what?
Arafat recently declared his willingness to sacrifice a million shaheeds. This man - who after the funerals in Sderot, claimed that Qassams don't kill children, they only make noise - seems to have lost his marbles. But the Palestinians are the ones who should be settling the score with him. Israel needs to exercise military restraint, and most importantly, put its mind to moving ahead on the disengagement plan, lest it sink in the muck of Gaza - the worst hellhole of all.