The controversial decision by certain Israeli leaders to get even more heavy-handed with Arab demonstrators in the occupied territories appears to be the wrong choice. Certainly, it will have to be reviewed in the light of what has happened since the edict was issued.

Angered by strikes, confrontations, upheavals, and rock-throwing Palestinians - a 13-month tumult that even the deaths of 370 demonstrators has failed to quell - hard-line Israeli leaders recently ordered even tougher measures.Those steps included closing of schools, dynamiting of homes, seizure of stores, and wider use of rubber and plastic bullets, which can be as lethal as live ammunition. Rules about firing on rioters, even those running away, also have been liberalized. Previously, soldiers were allowed to fire only when they felt their lives were threatened. The new guidelines undoubtedly will mean a rise in casualties.

Israeli troops must try to keep the peace, of course - and that is anything but easy in a part of the world where Palestinian terrorists have persisted for decades. But widespread repression, fear, and brutality often produce more violence rather than peace.

Since the new orders were handed down, there has been a sharp backlash among Israelis themselves. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shouted off the podium in Parliament last week as he tried to defend the new tactics. At least eight motions of no confidence have been introduced against the shaky coalition government.

Those political criticisms eventually may be resolved or smoothed over, but a deeper and more significant problem has arisen among the Israeli troops who have to carry out the harsh new orders.

They don't like the tougher measures. Some soldiers have spoken out, saying such tactics were forcing them to "brutalize innocent people." Reservists told Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir says the result is a deteriorating morale among troops and a feeling that the government was out of touch with reality.

What will Israeli leaders do if they can't depend on the army? Attempts to brutally stamp out uprisings may succeed only in destroying one of the world's most effective armies.

Palestinians want their own homeland. Tens of thousands have lived in refugee camps for decades. There is a feeling among the young that conditions must change.

Screwing the lid down tighter, shooting more often, being more violent, won't solve the problem for Israel.