It was not clear who fired first. It may have been the cluster of young Palestinian men hidden in chest-high undergrowth near the Nezarim junction in Gaza. It may have been the Israeli soldiers at their outpost. Within a few seconds it no longer mattered. The crowd of 200 Palestinians, who had gathered for the daily protest, frantically sought cover. Bullets cracked and whizzed through the air.

The shooting was another fleeting and largely unheeded incident in the new Palestinian intifada. This conflict bears increasingly little resemblance to the one that took place from 1987 to 1993 and ended with the Oslo peace accords, which set up the framework for Palestinian interim self-government in the West Bank and Gaza. Each shot at Nezarim was another round fired into the carcass of the accords. The battle against the Israeli occupation is becoming an intercommunal war, one that could go on for months, perhaps years. What is happening harks back to the 1930s, when armed bands of Zionist settlers and Arabs took potshots at each other in a battle of attrition that culminated with the 1948 war over Israel's founding.

The new intifada is reverberating throughout the Middle East, rattling the dusty and inefficient Arab regimes in Cairo and Damascus, emboldening extremist Arab states such as Iraq, and weakening the power of Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Most important, it foreshadows a day of reckoning for Israel when it will have to decide between the swift establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state including in some manner East Jerusalem, and a prolonged, debilitating conflict.

The empty highway where the Nezarim gunfight took place was littered with the usual detritus—rocks, smashed bottles, brass bullet casings, trash, pieces of wood, and lumps of blackened rubber from tires that had been set afire. The Palestinian police had set up a table a few hundred yards down the road and had watched the clashes from the shade of a small porch. War and death have become a form of street theater here, as is common in such upheavals.

Young men carrying plastic bags filled with gasoline bombs sprinted from sand pile to sand pile, laid there for this purpose by the Palestinian police the night before. They worked their way toward a concrete wall around which they could hurl the bombs at an Israeli military outpost. The bottles, licked by bright red flame, arched skyward and then crashed, sending up voluminous clouds of inky black smoke. When the shooting became heavy, the demonstrators chanted Islamic slogans.

There were several sharp cracks—the signature sound of sniper rifles. Marwan Shamalekh, 22, a bottle in his hand, collapsed dead in a lump on the ground. His companions scooped him up, each taking an arm or a leg, and ran to the back of a waiting ambulance near the Palestinian police. The white van, its pulsating siren and red light providing a brief distraction, roared away.

The Palestinians had another martyr, more fuel for the insurrection. The next morning Shamalekh was carried on a bier through the streets of Gaza, his body wrapped in a Palestinian flag, a prop to whip up angry, vengeful crowds. After laying him in a shallow pit in the sandy cemetery at the edge of the city, groups of young men left to confront the Israelis and exact their revenge. The cycle continued.

seeking martyrdom

Gaza, like Kosovo's capital of Pristina, is a derelict, concrete slum where car exhaust mingles with the stench of raw sewage. One million Palestinians—70 percent of whom are either refugees from what is now Israel or the descendents of refugees—live crammed into this dusty, flat, coastal area twice the size of Washington, D.C. Most are stateless and have never left the Palestinian territories and Israel. Families are piled in boxy, concrete rooms capped with corrugated tin roofs weighed down by rocks. They have little furniture. Water and electricity come sporadically. The population growth rate is one of the highest on the planet—a 3.7 percent annual birthrate compared with 1.7 percent in Israel. Donkey carts crowd the streets and orange garbage bins, donated by the European Union, overflow with pungent heaps of refuse.

Rabah el-Loh, 23, stood one afternoon in front of the grave of his brother, Raid, killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers. The funeral had taken all morning and thousands of angry mourners still milled around the barren cemetery in Gaza.

"Goodbye brother," el-Loh said. "Say hello to the other martyrs."

The walls of Gaza are plastered with poster-sized photographs of "martyrs" shot by the Israelis. Many are pictured holding a weapon in front of the gold-topped al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. These are in fact studio photos taken long before the current unrest. The gun was a prop and the glittering mosque a carefully chosen backdrop. All that was real in these photos, apparently, was the desire of these young men to fight against Israel and for a Palestinian state—and to die in the process if need be. And now, at least until the pictures fade or peel away, the slain youths will have their heroism recognized.

Raid's decision to become a martyr was a conscious one, his family said, based on his despair at life in the Gaza Strip, hatred toward Israel, and a belief that to not sacrifice himself was to dishonor those who had gone before him.

Only 28,000 Gazan workers receive permits to work in Israel. Nearly all who do are middle-aged men who are considered less of a security threat. The young therefore have nothing to do and nowhere to escape to. They cannot get married because they cannot afford housing. They cannot leave Gaza, even for Israel. Martyrdom is the only route offered to those who want to achieve a measure, however brief, of recognition and glory.

"He spoke only of this, of being a martyr for the last four or five days," said Raid's mother, Fatma. "I asked him not to go. But once his younger brother was wounded he felt that it was his duty. When he left I said, 'God be with you.' I knew he would never come back."

Palestinians like Raid have been nurtured on bitter accounts of abuse, despair, and injustice. Families tell and retell stories of being thrown off their land and of relatives killed or exiled. All can tick off the names of martyrs within their own clan who died for the elusive Palestinian state. The only framed paper in many Palestinians' homes is a sepia land deed from the time of the British mandate. Some elderly men still keep the keys to houses that have long since vanished. From infancy, Palestinians are inculcated with the virus of nationalism and the burden of revenge. And, as in Bosnia, such resentment seeps into the roots of society for generations until it resurfaces or is finally rectified, often after much bloodletting.

"Tell the man what you want to be," said Hyam Temraz to her two-year-old son, Abed, as she peeped out of the slit of a black veil.

"A martyr," the child answered.

"We were in Jordan when my son Baraa was four," she said. "He saw a Jordanian soldier and ran and hugged him. He asked him if it was he who would liberate Palestine. He has always told me that he would be a martyr and that one day I would dig his grave."

Nezar Rayyan, her husband, is a theology professor at Islamic University in Gaza. He is a large man with a thick black beard and the quiet, soft-spoken manner of someone who has spent much of his life reading. On the walls of his office, black and white photographs illustrate the history of Palestinians over the last five decades. They show lines of trucks carrying refugees from their villages in 1948, after the United Nations created Israel and its Arab neighbors attacked the new state. They show the hovels of new refugee camps built after the 1967 war. And they show the gutted remains of Palestinian villages in what is now Israel.

Rayyan's grandfather and great-uncle were killed in the 1948 war. His grandmother died shortly after she and her son, Rayyan's father, were forced from their village. His father was passed among relatives and grew up with the bitterness of the dispossessed—a bitterness the father passed on to the son and the son has assiduously passed on to the grandchildren.

"There was not a single night that we did not think and talk about Palestine," Rayyan said, his eyes growing moist. "We were taught that our lives must be devoted to reclaiming our land."

Rayyan spent 12 years in an Israeli jail. His brother-in-law blew himself up in a suicide-bomb attack on an Israeli bus in 1998. One of his brothers had been shot dead by Israelis in street protests five years earlier. Another brother was expelled to Lebanon and several more were wounded in clashes.

Today, his three sons—ages 12, 15, and 16—daily join the youths who throw rocks at Israeli checkpoints. All three, according to their father, strive to be one thing: martyrs for Palestine.

"I pray only that God will choose them," he said.

A few days after I had watched Marwan Shamalekh drop dead at Nezarim, I went to call on his parents. They pulled up a chair on the cement patio outside their tiny, concrete house and served plates of dates and demitasse cups of bitter coffee. Mrs. Shamalekh was unable to speak, sobbing softly into a kerchief.

Abdel Razaq Shamalekh, Marwan's father, clutched his nine-year-old son, Bilal, who stared at me vacantly.

"I had to carry Bilal to his bed after I told him his brother had been killed," the father said. "He collapsed. Later I found him leaving the house with a knife he had taken from the kitchen. He told me he was going to Nezarim to kill Israelis."

Economic Warfare

Gaza and the West Bank have become the Middle East's version of the South African townships during the apartheid regime. Nearly all the indignities visited on South African blacks—the lack of electoral representation, the dependence on work and travel permits, the curfews, the land confiscations, the arbitrary arrests, and the marginalization from the growing economy—are also part of Israel's relationship with the Palestinians.

On Israeli orders in October, travel between Palestinian towns on the West Bank ended, the borders with Egypt and Jordan were sealed, and all trade with those countries stopped. (Israeli authorities later amended this ruling to allow some agricultural imports into Israel.) All commercial trade between the Palestinian Authority and Israel was also cut off, although Israel did pledge to somewhat ease the restrictions for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began in late November. Shortages in food and cooking fuel resulted from a halt in Israeli deliveries of basic goods into Gaza, and some 120,000 Palestinians lost access to their jobs in Israel. In addition, because the Israelis control the principal sources of electricity, fuel, and water, they can choose to compound the shortages by cutting basic services or communications with the outside world. Indeed, Israeli authorities have already threatened to turn off the power because of late payments. Fuel, telephone service, and water could be next. Even the currency is Israeli: in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians pay for goods in Israeli shekels.

Arafat has called the economic blockade an act of war, little different from "rockets, planes, and tanks." Indeed, the United Nations estimates that the blockade withholds $3.4 million from the territories each day. Salem Ajluni, an economic specialist in Gaza with the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), estimates that the losses could amount to $650 million a year, or about 63 percent of the Palestinian Authority's revenue, excluding foreign donations. (Only contributions from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia enabled the Palestinian Authority to pay the November salaries of its 115,000 employees.) And the losses are bound to climb now that Israel has frozen the transfers of funds that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority—as agreed under the autonomy accords—including sales taxes and customs duties.

There are now growing demonstrations in Israel by frustrated Jews who carry placards reading "let the army win." Israeli Defense Force commanders have complained that Prime Minister Ehud Barak is too worried about international censure to allow them to take appropriate measures against armed Palestinians. Protesters' demands include a total blockade of Gaza and the West Bank, seizing land to build new roads through the territories, and more aggressive reprisals, especially against some of the senior Palestinian leaders believed to be behind the revolt.

Barak has threatened to carry out a "unilateral separation" from the territories—fencing off the Palestinian enclaves and annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In this scenario, the best Israel can hope for is a tenuous truce once the Palestinians capitulate. If the tactic fails to bring about a Palestinian submission, then Israel may have to resort to the kind of offensive military activity that many Israeli commanders are now advocating.

In Palestinian eyes, the peace process is not providing more autonomy from Israel and will not do so until the Jewish settlements are gone. For Palestinians, the Israeli occupation will not have ended until they control their own roads, borders, and economy. An enduring peace requires sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred land that was in Muslim hands from the seventh century until 1967. An acceptable settlement must also provide either an agreement for the return of Palestinian refugees who fled Israel or compensation for the property and homes that they left behind. Unless these changes occur, the Palestinians appear set to go on fighting, especially after the failure of Oslo.

I was in Gaza City on the October night when the Israelis first fired rockets from attack helicopters at three targets in retaliation for the killings of two Israelis. The furious crowds that surged through the streets were, like those who led the first intifada, made up of the poorest in the Gaza Strip. And just as the first intifada was directed not only against the Israelis but also against the Palestinian bourgeoisie—the shopkeepers and business owners in Gaza City—this new intifada has twin targets. Armed militias, increasingly beyond the control of Arafat's Fatah movement, are once again collecting "war taxes" from frightened shopkeepers. But this time, Arafat's own organization is targeted along with the Palestinian middle class. In the days following Israel's helicopter attacks, Palestinian mobs burned shops and hotels selling alcohol—owned by Arafat's corrupt and despised Palestinian Authority officials.

Tens of thousands of enraged youth, calling not on Fatah but on the militant Islamic group Hamas to avenge the attacks, flooded down the main avenue. The mood in the crowd, which waved green banners with Arabic script, was ugly. Faces were contorted. Many seemed incapable of answering simple questions. They pushed, shoved, spat, and shouted at once. Sweat streamed down faces. None were able to stay still.

"This is so painful for us," said Samil Aloushas, 20, as he stood bare-chested in the street with a group of friends. "The world has left us powerless. We do not have these tanks, these missiles, and these helicopters. How can we fight back? Yet we must. We must defend Jerusalem from attack. All we have to sacrifice is ourselves. Everyone here is ready to do this. We are a nation now of suicide bombers. This is what the Israelis have done to us."

Those who speak for the Palestinians today are found in mosques, not the air-conditioned offices of Arafat's seaside compound. The secular heroes of the old intifada have been replaced by bearded Islamic warriors who trigger powerful suicide bombs and embrace an asceticism that stands in stark contrast to Fatah's hedonism and corruption.

Sheik Abed el-Fatah stood in a black robe with gold brocade trim in his airy mosque following a service for a "martyr" killed by Israeli troops the day before. Like most clerics, he sees war as inevitable—part of a final, apocalyptic battle that will drive the Jews off Islamic soil. And he preaches this message week after week to crowds of shoeless men who squeeze into the vaulted structure or listen from loudspeakers placed outside on the street. The morning I was there he took the opportunity to lash out at the "Jewish-controlled" Western media. "This uprising will not be limited to Palestine but will spread to the entire Arab world," he said. "It will unite all the Muslims behind our struggle. All the Jews who came here from other countries, from all over the world, must now go back. Those that are from Palestine can stay, as long as they are peaceful."

the noose tightens

Ali Dhair, 54, stood oblivious to the periodic pop of gunfire between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers just over the hill near the Rafah border crossing. He was mourning his cucumber plants. "Look," he said, pointing to piles of twisted brown stems and roots. "It was too expensive to maintain them."

He was not alone. Piles of withered produce dotted the sandy plots around him. The Israeli decision to close the border made it impossible for farmers like Dhair to export farm products. He and many others are now bankrupt.

Not only have scores of farmers gone bust in the last few weeks, unable to export crates of tomatoes and cucumbers to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, and Jordan; without basic supplies and money to pay workers, everything from tailor shops to construction firms has ground to a halt. The Israelis, who keep gunships off the coast, have curtailed the range of fishing boats. Tourism to places such as Bethlehem, which hosted half a million visitors last year, has dried up. And Israeli shoppers, who spent $500 million last year in West Bank towns, are no longer traveling into Palestinian areas.

The downward spiral strengthens the radicals. Armed fighters, who like their predecessors in the first intifada are intoxicated by newfound power and authority, have aided the Israeli blockade. They have stopped Palestinian workers from going to their jobs in the industrial park at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza, and the park has already lost about a third of its 3,500 workers. Radical Palestinians have also burned factories in Gaza and the West Bank. One fire forced developers to halt work on a fiber-optic-wired industrial park being set up in the West Bank by Israeli software companies—once touted as the model of how the Israeli and Palestinian economies could be merged. "I am too scared to go to work," said Mohammed al-Kahlout, 28, who is a tailor in the Erez industrial zone. "Two days ago someone was shot and killed. In my workshop only 2 out of 20 people go to work."

As the closure drags on and the nearly 120,000 Palestinians with jobs in Israel stay home, pressure mounts in Israel to bring in foreign guest workers to replace them. Gaza's economy is sustained by its exports of fruits and vegetables and the salaries earned by 28,000 laborers who work in Israel. About 30,000 more are licensed to work from the West Bank. Another 60,000, nearly all from the West Bank, work illegally.

Rageh al-Kahlouf, 47, owner of one of the biggest businesses in Gaza, has shut down the two garment factories where he makes jeans for export. More than a hundred employees are without jobs. He will not pull his sewing machines out of storage until he can again import material and send out finished products. Al-Kahlouf said that during the last prolonged closure, in 1996, when Israel locked the Palestinians out for 104 days after a spate of suicide bombings, he was nearly ruined.

"It would take no more than a month for the Israelis to bring Gaza to its knees," he said, clutching a roll of returned checks from local merchants who did not have the funds to cover recent purchases. "But if Israel uses this weapon it will also sweep away Arafat's Palestinian Authority and see the radicals in the street prosecute a vicious and prolonged war with Israel. It could as well knock down the tired, secular regimes in places like Egypt and Syria, where the leaders are passive but must appear to respond to the calls from their own people to act."

hardened objectives

The economic squeeze is taking its biggest toll on Arafat. The first intifada swept away the cautious and passive Palestinian leadership that had accommodated, or at least not challenged, the Israeli authorities after 1967. Arafat's Fatah took control. Now, under threat from the new wave of violence, Arafat is working hard to make sure that this revolt does not replace him with Hamas activists. Hamas has nonetheless become venerated as the vanguard in the struggle against the Jewish state.

Arafat's stature began to slip after he signed the 1993 Oslo accords, which were wrenchingly painful for the Palestinians. By signing, Arafat recognized the legitimacy of Israel, formally ending Palestinian claims to Israeli land that had been home to many of his people for generations. He gave up nearly 30 percent of the territory that the original 1948 U.N. partition plan had defined as Palestinian, leaving his bifurcated state with little more than 20 percent of what was once the British Mandate of Palestine.

Many Palestinians believe that by signing the Oslo accords, Arafat deprived them of a capital in Jerusalem, a return of refugees, and an end to the expansion of the Jewish settlements. Indeed, over the past decade of peace negotiations, the number of Israeli settlers has nearly doubled. The 1993 accords stipulated a partial Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, after which a five-year transitional period of negotiations toward a final-status agreement should begin. Palestinians were angered when Oslo-mandated deadlines for the Israeli withdrawal passed unfulfilled; the Israelis said that Arafat was not living up to the terms of the agreement. Thus, it began to appear to most Palestinians that Israel would withhold even the promised 20 percent. Indeed, Israel still occupies more than 80 percent of Gaza and the West Bank.

This despair, coupled with declining incomes, created a more radical, militant population. Compromise obviously did not work. After signing Oslo, Arafat was excoriated in the Arab press in ways that might have stunned even his right-wing critics in Israel. He had become the Arab world's Marshal Philippe Petain, the leader of France's collaborationist Vichy government during World War II. As time went by and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud government let the peace process stagnate, Arafat's stock continued to plummet. As Hamas carried out suicide bombings in Israel and Hezbollah attacked Israeli forces in southern Lebanon—eventually forcing Israel to withdraw—it seemed that Arafat's secular Fatah movement was fading into the twilight. His decision to jail Hamas activists did not improve his popularity.

Palestinian men, filled with rage and economic despair, grew impatient with Fatah's conciliation, as well as its nepotism and corruption, and embraced the harsher methods and rhetoric of the Islamists. After all, they argued, such tactics worked for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

When Barak came to power in June 1998, a lot of time—perhaps too much—had been lost. The suicide bombings and lengthy closures had seen Israeli companies replace Palestinian workers with Filipinos, Chinese, and Romanians. The real per capita GDP for the West Bank and Gaza declined 36 percent between 1992 and 1996, due to falling incomes and the explosive population growth. In the 1980s, unemployment averaged just 5 percent; that figure is now well above 40 percent and is still climbing. Israel's per capita income is $17,000, whereas the Palestinians' is less than $2,000.

In hindsight, it appears that Barak underestimated the mounting Palestinian frustration. He squandered valuable time in fruitlessly wooing Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad and in waiting nearly a year before making overtures to Arafat. Meanwhile, the prime minister reached out to the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.

It was a beleaguered Arafat who arrived at Camp David in July 2000. He had cut a deal with the Israelis in Oslo that had not, in his eyes, been fulfilled. He had been stranded, he felt, by the heir of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. And at Camp David, he was faced with an all-or-nothing Israeli peace proposal that would have left the Palestinians with a mutated statelet in five chunks, all subject to Israeli fiat. In pushing for a final-status agreement, Barak and President Clinton had ignored Arab, European, and Palestinian warnings that such a move could destroy the peace process.

Arafat saw himself as vulnerable on the issues of Jerusalem, the refugees' right of return, and the disposition of occupied land. So he walked away. If he wanted to remain the Palestinians' leader, it was his only choice. The mood in the territories had reached a feverish pitch, and Arafat correctly read the political landscape when others did not. He was cheered at home and throughout the Arab world for his decision.

The spiral toward a lengthy war of attrition is dangerous not only for Israel but also for the United States. The Islamic world—almost 20 percent of the world's population—will have little problem breeding militant cells to harass and attack American interests if they are perceived as too pro-Israeli.

The Palestinian position has now hardened, leaving little chance for a return to the Oslo process. Palestinian leaders talk only of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from the territory it occupied following the Six-Day War and for all the states in the region to recognize and respect each other's borders.

"This intifada has changed the basis of negotiations," Marwan Barghouthi, a leader of Arafat's Fatah faction in the West Bank, said recently in a speech at Bir Zeit University. "We will not return to the negotiations and become hostages to the Israelis and the Americans without having any action on the ground. The aim of this intifada is clear: the return of refugees, ending occupation, gaining independence and sovereignty, and establishing Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem."

the new warriors

Yasid Abu Abed, a veteran fighter in Fatah, stepped over the wreckage caused by Israeli missile attacks in his headquarters in Gaza City—chunks of concrete, broken beams, twisted iron reinforcing rods, and mangled furniture. Clustered around him were bodyguards who clutched an eclectic collection of weapons, including American-made m-16 assault rifles and outdated black snub-nosed Russian machine guns. Some in the entourage had covered their faces with Palestinian flags or hoods, some wore uniforms, and some had strapped webbed belts with green cartridge cases over their jeans.

These ragtag fighters, members of a Palestinian militia known as the tanzim ("organization" in Arabic), will largely determine whether the battles with Israel continue. The police of the Palestinian Authority, whether out of sympathy or impotence, often watch passively as tanzim members fire toward Israeli positions in spots such as the Nezarim junction in Gaza or at Ramallah in the West Bank, often provoking a withering and deadly Israeli response.

Rayad Zaid, 21, is typical of those who have spent most of their lives fighting Israelis. As a child he often missed school to stone Israeli soldiers on patrol. He has been shot in the leg three times and carries a scar on his forehead from a rubber bullet. His father spent 13 years in Israeli jails. He said his mother, an asthmatic, died after inhaling tear gas when he was 11. "I will make any sacrifice for my people and my country," he said in the Jabaliya refugee camp, "and I will strap explosives on my body and blow myself up to attack the Israelis if it is required."

Palestinians have acquired large numbers of automatic weapons over the past couple of years. During the first intifada it was rare to find guns in the hands of protesters. It was even rarer to see them used against Israelis. But the streets of Gaza are now awash with a wide variety of guns, some of which look like they belong in a museum. Israel has permitted the ruling Palestinian Authority to obtain some light weapons, but many more have been smuggled in from Jordan, Egypt, and even Israel, militia leaders say.

Tanzim commanders say they will mount a protracted guerrilla war against Israel, a war of attrition modeled on Hezbollah's efforts in southern Lebanon. They point out that many of the inhabitants of the Israeli settlements around Ramallah, Gilo, and three settlements in Gaza—Nezarim, Kefar Darom, and Morag—have fled, despite the deployment of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers intended to protect them.

"We know that the Israelis have powerful weapons," said Abu Abed, who spent five years in Israeli jails, "but we are willing to take losses they would never accept. Hezbollah, with little more than light weapons, drove Israel out of Lebanon. We, with nothing more than rocks, forced them to return part of our land. With our guns we are ready to liberate all of Palestine and our capital, holy Jerusalem."

an unwinnable war?

Rather than defeating the Palestinians, Israel may be slowly defeating itself. The inclusive, liberal dreams of Israel's Zionist founders have mutated into an occupation from which the Israelis find it difficult to extract themselves. Unlike the wars of 1967 and 1973, Israel today is fighting not against armies but against a subject people. Palestinians, and increasingly Israeli Arabs as well, are the enemy.

Comparison can be found in the war over Algerian independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The French fought valiantly and brutally in Algeria. They won the military contest but by the end could no longer justify to themselves or the outside world that it was worth being there. They had few allies when it was over. The political, emotional, and financial costs for France were enormous.

Palestinian resistance may prove surprising. Indeed, given the drudgery and poverty of life in the occupied territories, resistance will be for many Palestinians the headiest and most exciting time in their lives. If the attacks and counter-attacks between intifada fighters and the Israeli military grow harsher and the numbers of Palestinian dead mount, the one million Israeli Arabs who do not serve in the army and feel like foreigners on their own land are sure to bring the violence deeper inside Israel.

Nazareth, within Israel, has begun to look like Ramallah in the West Bank did only a few years ago. No longer will Jews take their cars into the Arab part of town for cheaper service or shop for vegetables in the Arab markets. Rocks are hurled at Jewish cars when they drive near Arab towns. And demonstrations by Israeli Arabs in Nazareth have ended with gunfire and death.

Israel has taken cautious steps toward integration into the Middle East by reaching out to its Arab neighbors, moving toward winning the acceptance absolutely vital for Israel's survival. But these gains are now being wiped out. Moderate Arab states such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Qatar have closed representative offices in Israel. Egypt has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and Jordan has not sent its newly named ambassador. And rogue states such as Iraq and Iran, by tapping into the anger in the Arab streets, are once again ascending. Time is not on the side of the peacemakers.

Israeli generals—like most commanders of a technologically advanced and well-trained army would do—are pushing for firmer measures. And the country, with each new killing of an Israeli, is lining up behind them. With an election now looming, Israel will likely become even less flexible.

In his public statements, Barak swings from being a liberal politician who wants to make concessions for peace to a former army commander seeking a military solution. Neither he, nor Israel, can have both.

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  • CHRIS HEDGES is a reporter for The New York Times. He was Middle East Bureau Chief for The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, based in Jerusalem and Cairo, from 1988 to 1995.
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