As far back as the Munich Olympics of 1972, Palestinian terrorists and their supporters have used kidnapping as a political tool, abducting Israeli civilians and soldiers to be used in potential prisoner swaps and to obtain other concessions from Israel. Following is a chronology of prominent Israeli kidnappings and MIA cases:
1972: Members of the Black September terrorist group sneak into the Olympic Village in Munich and take 11 members of the Israeli delegation hostage. All 11 are killed.
The Israeli government struggled this week to find a way to end the barrage of Palestinian Kassam rocket attacks on the western Negev city of Sderot as beleaguered residents there staged a series of protests to compel the government to act.
Although there were reports that Defense Minister Amir Peretz intended to permit a massive Air Force operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in an effort to end the rocket fire, observers said at midweek that no final decision had been made.
Suddenly, it's open season on diaspora Jews.
Jewish leaders had hardly recovered from a recent speech by Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshua dismissing them as irrelevant when they learned that Israel's Chief Rabbinate had put new hurdles in front of conversions performed by many American rabbis.
Now, this week comes word that Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, is refusing to refer to the head of American Judaism's largest religious movement as "rabbi."
Israel mounted a major public relations and military offensive this week both to deny Palestinian charges that it was responsible for the Gaza beach explosion that killed eight civilians last Friday and to answer a barrage of Kassam rockets Hamas fired into southern Israel following the beach deaths.
Even as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave Hamas extra time to decide whether to accept the so-called "prisoners' document" as the basis for renewed talks with Israel, Israeli analysts were predicting further Palestinian anarchy and an all-out civil war.
"I don't see a way to overcome this crisis without engaging in a civil war," said Moshe Eldad, a researcher at the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
As Ehud Olmert takes the office of prime minister in his own right this week with a coalition government ready to implement his withdrawal from much of the West Bank, debate is rising over the wisdom of such a move and his selection of ministers.
"This government is very weak and in trouble before it is even sworn in," observed Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University.