The terrifying thought about the middle east conflict is that terrorism might actually work. Israel is not doing that well - the nation is being asked to tighten its belt and there are fairly draconian (almost European!) budget-saving bills in the Knesset, including freezing of government salaries, raising the VAT (to 18%), taxation on savings, and more. The battle in the Knesset is subject to the political forces within Israel, especially the religious parties, who will fight tooth and nail against cuts in the budgets of their pet projects and religious schools. The Arab minority is understandably wary of proposed cuts in child allowances for households without a family member who has served in the army - which would disproportionately affect them.

The huge military operation was called a success by Sharon, but this is hardly a universal opinion - even in US media analysis:

"We dismantled the infrastructure of suicide bombers," Sharon proclaimed.

However, many Israeli experts have acknowledged failures and holes in the operation that allowed some militants to escape. They admitted the effect on terrorist operations is likely to be short-lived and said those who were eliminated can soon be replaced.

Palestinians went further. They said the destruction and death from Israel's attacks will produce a groundswell of volunteers seeking revenge and ready to die in the effort. "Did they get some key players? Yes," said an activist from Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization who asked not to be named. "Will it stop the bombings? No. It will only bring more."

"We know that it's very, very simple to prepare a suicide bomb," acknowledged Lt. Col. Adir Haruvi, a spokesman for the Israeli army. "The day after we pull out, they can do it."

So what does the future hold for Israel? Keep spending vast sums on enormous military operations, draining the budget, squelching the economy, using up the reserves? An endless sucession of givernment coalitions, each handcuffed to promises of security they cannot deliver upon, every increasing Sisyphean military operations, and spiraling deficits and breakdown of social infrastructure within Israel proper? In the end, a cost-benefit analysis might conclude that this conflict is not being won, but rather lost.

Israel never offerred a fair deal at Camp David because of the seemingly obvious perception, that Israel holds the upper hand. But if and when this cycle of violence dies down and gives future negitiations a chance, I think the intifada - both the immoral one waged by terrorist homicide bombers, and the moral one waged by the everyday residents of the refugee camps who defend their homes against IDF incursions, will have given the Palestinian people a real currency.

If, in the balance, we are rid of Arafat, Sharon, and Netanyahu, so much the better. Marwan Barghouti can make peace with Shimon Peres.

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