It has happened over and over during 32 months of Mideast mayhem: a deadly Palestinian suicide bombing sparks an Israeli attack in Palestinian cities, tearing asunder peace efforts and spawning more attacks.
But when Palestinian militants killed 12 Israelis in a 48-hour wave of suicide attacks a week ago, Israel held back, launching no major reprisal raids against Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As Palestinians and Israelis both prepare to embark on a new, US-backed peace plan, there are signs of a willingness to break the cycle of violence and deny radicals the effective veto they have long been able to wield.
Reasons range from US pressure -- backed by the post-Iraq War clout enjoyed by the administration of US President George W. Bush -- to a noticeable weariness on both sides after a long period in which thousands of lives were lost and the economies, particularly on the Palestinian side, have been battered.
The US-backed plan's chances for success remain unclear, and there are still powerful forces that could try to bring down the effort -- particularly the violent Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have rejected the plan as a ploy to quash the Palestinian uprising for too little in return.
The so-called "road map" offers the Palestinians full statehood by 2005 -- but leaves vague the question of borders, the future of refugees and the sharing of Jerusalem.
With the plan on the table, said Dan Meridor, a leading figure in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party, "the government is restraining itself very much." He said that even though attacks and attack attempts continue almost daily, "the Israeli army is not responding as it would in the past."
When Palestinian militants launched homemade rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot two weeks ago, Israel responded by flattening orchards and demolishing homes in the Gaza town where the missiles were launched.
When Palestinian militants launched rockets at Sderot on Tuesday, Israel says it did nothing in response.
Israel actually had planned a "major military operation" in the West Bank and Gaza after the recent string of suicide bombings, the daily Haaretz reported. But the government held back for fear it would be accused of sabotaging the peace effort, the newspaper reported. The military refused to comment.
In the past, the Palestinian Authority has used Israeli military operations as a reason why they could not be expected to crack down on their own compatriots.
However, the tones from the administration of new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas seem to be somewhat more understanding of Israel's efforts to defend itself, and amount to a plea for time.
The softened rhetoric and apparent restraint come amid strong international efforts to push both sides into implementing the "road map."
Palestinians have endorsed the plan and demanded it be implemented unchanged. Sharon's Cabinet accepted it Sunday, but added a list of objections.
Abbas and Sharon had tentative plans to meet Thursday to discuss the road map and prepare for a three-way summit with US President George W. Bush in Jordan next week.
The first phase calls for Palestinians to crack down on militant groups and prevent suicide attacks against Israelis. Israel must freeze all construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, dismantle illegal settlement outposts and gradually pull out of Palestinian autonomous areas it has reoccupied.
Palestinians say Israeli restraint is needed to allow Abbas, who took office less than a month ago, to consolidate his power, persuade the militants to stop attacks and crack down on them if they refuse.
Critics have previously said Israel's demand that all terror end before any peace moves are carried out gave militants a virtual veto: If they were able to pull off even one attack, all talk of peace would end.
But Israel says it is truly committed to the new peace plan and may have to be more flexible.
The government does not expect that Abbas will be able to stop all the attacks, but they expect him to work tirelessly to end terror, Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin said.
"We say 100 percent effort on dismantling [militant groups], on disarming, on making arrests. Show us that you're making the effort," he said.
Abbas has suggested that he will try persuasion first, arguing in an interview in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday that his security forces have in any case been decimated by Israel during the fighting.
But he agreed it was important for the Palestinians to stop the attacks and appealed for Israel for patience.
"If we go back to the cycle of reaction and action, that will make it difficult for us to achieve the goal," he said. "It is impossible to achieve 100 percent success in a brief period."
He said Israel needs to end its practice of targeted assassinations, free prisoners and stop demolishing Palestinian houses, which would help gain Palestinian support for the new peace moves "and prevent more suffering."
Sharon's decision not to react to the recent attacks was likely the result of the "overwhelming" US pressure on the leaders to make the road map work, said Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University.
Sharon has worked hard to cultivate a close relationship with Bush, and many believe he does not want to endanger Israel's relationship with its most important ally.
"The full weight and prestige of the United States government is now involved and neither Sharon nor Mahmoud Abbas is willing to say no to Bush," Steinberg said.