Even as Wednesday's summit meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, kicked off the first steps down the road map to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace, the government of Israel is continuing to erect an elaborate security barrier to separate Israel from Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University, called the multimillion-dollar barrier a costly "insurance policy."
In the three weeks prior to May 19, the Israel Defense Forces reported 299 terror attacks ó not just bombings but shootings, knifings, assaults and hit-and-run car attacks ó among other incidents and foiled threats.
The number of Israeli casualties since September 2000, the outbreak of the second intifada, has reached 6,177, with 778 killed and 5,399 injured.
The terrorist rampage this week that killed 12 Israelis in five suicide bombings within 48 hours is being seen by Israeli leaders as orchestrated by Palestinian President Yasir Arafat to undermine the leadership of his new prime minister. Israeli leaders were said to have few military options left to stop the terror attacks, which also scuttled nascent peace efforts.
Twelve Israelis were killed, and dozens injured, in five suicide bombings in 48 hours starting Saturday night with an attack in Hebron. The bombings, which began just after the release of the ìroad mapî for Israel-Palestinian peace, also occurred in the Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill and on Monday at a mall in the northern town of Afula.
Here are some of the stories of the victims, compiled from the Israeli papers and the Israeli government.
When Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in Israel this weekend to discuss the "road map" for peace, he will find Palestinian President Yasir Arafat still firmly in control of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refusing to even discuss the plan until the Palestinians give up their right-of-return to Israel.
"The big issue is that Arafat is still in control and there has been no regime change," said Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.
The Tel Aviv beachfront bombing that killed three Israelis and injured 50 early Wednesday (just five hours after the Palestinian parliament confirmed Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister and approved his cabinet) reinforced the view of many Israeli analysts that little has changed despite earlier optimism.
"It's incredibly funny how people are capable of self-deception, how they can distort realities to suit political hopes and promises," said Uzi Arad, former director of intelligence in the Mossad, Israel's spy service.