Escalating violence is a strategic cul-de-sac for both sides, but the political situation facing both Barak and Arafat may leave them little alternative. The Israeli leader bought himself a month's grace in the form of temporary support from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party when parliament reopened Monday, but he heads a minority government that may be unable to avoid the prospect of early elections now that the hawkish Likud party has vowed to topple Barak rather than join him in an emergency government. And few analysts are optimistic over Barak's chances of winning an election held during an intifada.
Meanwhile, Arafat finds himself in charge of a population that has no faith nor interest in a resumption of peace talks, and he faces the choice of either becoming the spokesman for their renewed intifada or else simply being sidelined. Still, neither side can achieve their political objectives through an escalation of violence the Palestinians are militarily unable to muster the means to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; the Israelis are politically unable to deploy force on the scale necessary to crush an overwhelmingly popular uprising. So both sides will maintain the posture of escalation while knowing it won't get them beyond the impasse that sent them to the negotiating table in the first place. But it may take years before they once again confront that reality, and until then hundreds more Palestinian children and scores more Israelis may lose a lot more than their eyelashes.