The taunting Palestinian precondition - the immediate release of all juvenile and female terror convicts - for any morsel of information about hostages Gilad Shalit and Eliahu Asheri (before his body was discovered) was received by opinion-purveyors abroad (and even some domestic followers-of-fashion) as betokening an essentially righteous demand.
The hardly implicit connotation was that incarcerating women and those younger than 18 is unjust and repressive. The demand to free them tugs at progressively correct heartstrings. The abiding impression imparted is of prisoners of conscience, persecuted altruists and political philosophers vindictively and ruthlessly put behind bars.
Focusing on them is ingenuous PR, but this psychological-warfare manipulation is also revealing.
When Arabs demand the liberation of barbarous murderers, they thereby endorse the atrocities perpetrated by these duly tried culprits. When such sadists become their society's poster children - the objects of reverence, compassion and/or models for emulation - then their underlying moral code inevitably characterizes the collective which sponsors and supports them.
Hence, when - among others - Palestinians demanded the release of Amana Muna, the inescapable subtext was that her crime is their ideal, their prescription for all Israelis.
Muna - if anyone managed to forget the nature of those with whom we so longingly seek coexistence - is the fetching Fatah operative who lured 16-year-old Ophir Rahum via Internet chats to a cruel death on January 17, 2001. The only difference between her and Eliahu's murderers is the circumstances of abduction. Muna is the benchmark of popular Palestinian intentions toward all of us. That's why - rather than denounce her - they do their darndest to spring her.
CONVERSELY, Ophir embodied the shared Israeli dream of peace and bliss. He fell for the charms of something virtual in cyberspace. He had stars in his eyes. He hoped. He yearned to make love not war. Like most of us.
He was a typical schoolboy with a right to dream. But Israel's national aggregate has no right to stay as naive. Delusional dreams can terminate our existence. We can't luxuriate in lulling gullibility.
Ophir's murder began long before 20 AK-47 bullets riddled his young body. This homicide wasn't the product of impulse or momentary loss of control. It was meticulously and maliciously premeditated and executed painstakingly over months in scrupulously-blueprinted phases geared to wrest an unsuspecting boy from his protective environment and trick him to his death.
Muna acted with noxious purposefulness to tempt the randomly selected teenager from his home. All that mattered was to get her hands on a Jewish kid. The predator callously stalked her prey and plotted his execution. Ophir was systematically led to the same end as hitchhiking teenager Eliahu haphazardly encountered on the roadside.
THE JEWISH state's would-be destroyers likewise pursue their deadly deliberate task over time, resorting to the same conniving, exactingly lethal determination.
Ophir sought puppy love in Jerusalem. No less infatuated, Osloites were mesmerized by no-less-mythical geopolitical romance in the "New Middle East." Ophir, however, didn't know he was walking into a trap. This nation should have known about the ambush down Oslo's path, the road map's dangerous detours and especially the transparent folly of disengagement.
We were explicitly alerted to consequences Ophir couldn't imagine.
Nonetheless, just last March most voters recklessly rejected all admonitions. Ehud Olmert enchanted them with sweet fantasy conjured from hot air. His socioeconomic prattle diverted attention from existential peril. He was going "to make Israel a place that's fun to live in."
Voters believed him because they wanted to - no less than Ophir wanted to believe the pretty decoy who flirted with him, the sly impostor who posed as "Sally." Illusion beats reality, which is why we optimistically keep grabbing for that elusive brass ring.
Dire warnings are definitely unwelcome killjoys. Therefore the electorate shrugged them off as preposterous panic-mongering, if not despicably illegitimate negative propaganda. It's less of a strain to dismiss cautions that disengagement will fuel confrontation. It's a downer to focus on the mass post-disengagement importation of weaponry into Gaza. It's disconcerting to consider the limited efficacy of the security fence - useless against rocket fire or tunnels.
As forecast, Gazans did nothing constructive with the real estate and infrastructure they inherited by courtesy of disengagement. As envisaged, they only used the windfall to facilitate more terror, until they tragically linked Ophir's bitter fate to that of the latest kidnap victims, whose capture was exploited in a bid to turn Muna loose (so she can continue doing to others what she did to Ophir). Insolently unrepentant Muna is the most aggressive despot of the women's security wing in whichever facility she's transferred to.
Even after more than a 1,000 Kassams slammed into a sleepy town and after the IDF had to reenter Gaza - as disengagement-dissenters predicted - Olmert still persists in promoting more unilateral withdrawal. It matters nothing that everything his opponents prophesied came to pass with uncanny accuracy. The writing was on the wall then, and still is, yet too many refuse to read.
IT'LL BE tough going even if every last warning is belatedly heeded. But it'll be hell if warnings are ignored. Nothing good can come of emboldening the sorts who identify with Muna and want her back in action. Muna's cold-blooded copycats won't disappear if we uproot families like Eliahu Asheri's. Olmert's facile solution is hallucinatory.
The choice is between hard times or a colossal collective calamity as awful and final as that which cut short Ophir's life. We're as well-meaning and trusting as he was, and enticed by beguilements as tantalizing as the bait which fatally attracted Ophir to a rendezvous with a hail of bullets.