Shortly after disengagement last year I likened Israel's mind-boggling leadership, which rammed its disastrous folly down the nation's throat, to Pliny the Elder, commander of Rome's imperial naval base at the Bay of Naples. One of the foremost scholars of his day, Pliny was unimpressed by the clouds of smoke and incandescent ash which Mount Vesuvius belched in AD 79.
"As Pompeii townsfolk began fleeing in horror," I recounted, "Pliny bathed, dined and allayed the fears of his companions, assuring them that Vesuvius's leaping flames were nothing but bonfires left by ignorant, panicky peasants."
Nowadays, I continued, "supercilious Pliny knock-offs - cocky military types and prolific know-it-alls - dictate Israel's agenda and, like their precursor, persistently downplay all that should profoundly alarm us. They too accuse benighted commoners of disturbing their peace.
"Pliny's spiritual heirs and their ever-obedient media mouthpieces not only dismiss the significance of the portents of danger that our Vesuvius ceaselessly spouts, they deliberately divert attention from and deny resonance to its thunderous retching, misrepresenting it as inconsequential minor hiccups.
"That's why Israel's talking heads and self-satisfied scribblers studiously ignore the ominous saber rattling, triumphant gloating and bellicose exhortations for our annihilation emanating incessantly from next-door, ever since Gazans saw Jews bulldoze their own villages. To them, it's incontrovertibly an admission of defeat."
I stressed that "there's almost no Palestinian headliner who hasn't thrown this in our face, while we bathe, dine and go to sleep as if we haven't a care in the world - just like Pliny. To expose such self-deception is somehow deemed disloyal, and hence minimal print space and even less air-time are devoted to the unmistakable warnings shouted at us."
THESE LINES were printed before Hamas rose to power. But the writing was on the wall. I quoted female relatives of suicide bombers who celebrated "the flight of the Zionist enemy from Gaza." Amid whoops of victory, they held a press conference and advised Israeli mothers that "the only way to protect their children is to leave this country. Jews don't belong here. Our martyrs cleansed some of our land of Jewish presence, and we'll decontaminate all the restâ€¦ the retreat from Gaza roused us. We'll be dormant no more. What the world saw is the beginning of the destruction of the Jewish state."
Those who highlighted such warning signs were denigrated as bothersome doomsday-mongers and enemies of democracy. But their masters' voices - who hoodwinked fellow Israelis - couldn't/wouldn't see under their noses. Haaretz senior analyst, Aluf Benn, an advocate of disengagement and its convergence/realignment offspring, managed to produce an op-ed entitled "We need a Nasrallah" on July 6, merely five days before all hell broke loose on our border with Lebanon.
"The minute Hizbullah took over and armed itself with thousands of Katyushas and other rockets, a stable balance of deterrence was created on both sides of the border," Benn pontificated. He cited as the desirable outcome precisely that which deprecated anti-disengagement killjoys warned against. Thousands of rockets trained on Israel were supposed to infuse its citizenry with confidence because "Nasrallah's behavior is rational and reasonably predictable. Under present conditions, that's the best possible situation. Hizbullah is doing a better job of maintaining quiet in the Galilee than did the pro-Israeli South Lebanese Army."
UNTIL THIS "best possible situation" blew up viciously in all our faces, it was indeed contemptuously shoved in the faces of disengagement-dissidents and extolled as a viable example of the benefits of unilateral retreat. Everything up north appeared so pastoral. Why, therefore, not try the same down south?
Not only isn't there contrition for such willful denial of reality, but confounding schemes for more unilateral withdrawals haven't been abandoned, as Olmert himself broadcast out loud for the whole world to hear - including settler-soldiers who risk their lives presumably so that their sacrifice can generate the momentum Olmert requires to expel them and their families from their Judea and Samaria homes.
The utter collapse of the concept of buying peace with land is indisputably demonstrated both in Lebanon and Gaza. In both fronts the IDF's progress is slow, painful and costly, and this only in order to salvage the faded shadow of the control we voluntarily relinquished.
Reclaiming lost deterrence isn't a piece of cake. It's proving much more difficult than suggested by those who promised us that we could effectively respond from our side of the frontier to any aggression from ceded territory. Not so.
IMAGINE THEN what would happen were an Iranian outpost installed not in the western Negev or the edge of the Galilee, but directly adjoining Israel's most teeming population centers. Open spaces flanking Lebanon and Gaza make room for some projectiles to miss targeted Israeli civilians.
Kalkilya or Tulkarm won't afford us such lucky breaks. Anything shot from there will be a sure-fire hit. There won't be a single safe town. No road will be secure. No flight will take off from or land at Ben-Gurion Airport. Israel's jugular will bleed.
To insist on a euphemistically renamed, though infinitely more dangerous, disengagement spin-off - on the original's sad first anniversary and after everything we've experienced - is to "sit below our rumbling Vesuvius, oblivious to spewed fragments of pumice and flashes of lighteningâ€¦ Our future seems as secure as Pliny's own. Hours after he pooh-poohed the raging volcano, he awoke frantically to a dawn blacker than night, and was shortly thereafter asphyxiated by a blanket of dense sulfurous fumes."
I made the above analogy in the wake of Gush Katif's devastation one year ago.
Unlike Benn, I need take nothing back.