Victims of Pre-conceptions

Israel's leaders want the Palestinians to believe that nobody took into account the possibility that a ton of explosives dropped from a plane into a crowded residential neighborhood would harm only the bomb's target.

Israel's political and military commanders want the Palestinians, including the parents of the children killed and wounded in Gaza, to believe that nobody took into account the possibility that a ton of explosives dropped from a plane into a crowded residential neighborhood would harm only the bomb's target, no matter how deserving he was.

Those same politicians and generals mock those who believe in the possibility that a few hours before the bombing, a Palestinian declaration for a general cease-fire against Israeli civilians had been finalized. No wonder Israel's propaganda effort is trying so hard to minimize the reports about a dramatic change in the thinking of the Palestinian leadership, the Tanzim, and even the Hamas. If they were to admit the process is serious, in the worst case it would be confirmation of Hosmi Mubarak's conspiracy theory that the bomb was meant to disrupt the cease-fire. In the best case, it would be a slap in the face to the concept that there's nobody to talk with on the Palestinian side about "painful concessions."

According to European and Palestinian sources involved in the cease-fire plan from the start, there's a good chance it will survive the Gaza bombing. Therefore, analyzing it is not a post-mortem autopsy, but an attempt to measure the credibility of the change in Palestinian approaches that might justify a profound change in the Israeli approach. The open letter that the Tanzim was going to publish for Israelis to read last Tuesday, said, "There are those, in both of our societies, who will say that this statement is simply a tactical political maneuver: that we hope to gain political points to gain political leverage. And they are right. We hope that you will reciprocate the historic declaration that we here make, and acknowledge the truth of the statement that `peace cannot be built on a platform of violence against innocents.'"

The Tanzim says that peace cannot go hand in hand with occupation and that Israel must "must cease strangling our cities, killing our youths, taking our land for your settlements, ripping up our orchards, humiliating our women and children, detaining our young men in your squalid camps and demonizing those we choose to lead us. You have done all of these things and continue to do them, and you know it.

"Your occupation is illegitimate and we will resist it - your soldiers are occupiers and will be treated as such." In other words, says the statement, the Tanzim is not surrendering, nor is the statement an invitation to Israel to maintain the occupation forever. On one hand they promise that "whether you stop these practices, or not, we will not shift our declaration. The rivers of blood that have so embittered our peoples will be stanched. The suicide bombings will be brought an end. By us. Now."

On the other hand, the Tanzim's leaders ask the Israeli public to understand that "there are those in our society who will attempt to undermine and deter our efforts. Some of them, unfortunately, may succeed. But we will now have the weight of public opinion on our side. So too, there are those in your society and even at the very top of your government who may attempt to provoke us. They will try to underestimate this declaration. They have done so before. These people are our enemies, they must also be yours. They are the enemies of peace."

You may say it's all talk, who can guarantee that Yasser Arafat himself isn't behind it, a desperate trick to save his regime? It's impossible to disprove that. But it should can be noted that taking such positions comes with a price in Palestinian society. Less moderate statements have cost Palestinian leaders dearly. Yet at the same time, when Palestinian Legislative Council Ziad Abu Zayad publishes (in Hebrew and Arabic) a document that includes giving up the right of return into Israel, he assumes it won't backfire on him when he runs for reelection in the coming Palestinian elections.

Either way, what would we lose if the execution of yet another Hamas terrorist had been postponed and we put the test to Tanzim and Hamas? In the worst case, if the Tanzim attacks, the world would see that the statement was nothing more than a public relations exercise, and listen to the argument that the IDF presence in the territories was absolutely necessary. Perhaps, a cease-fire would have held for a few days and 17 Jewish childrens' lives wouldn't have collapsed around them. And maybe, an appropriate Israeli response to the Tanzim initiative could save the lives of the next victims and pull the peace process out of the freezer.