Another Tack: But for Arafat's grace

Yasser Arafat, bum rap that we gave him notwithstanding, certainly rescued us from Ehud Barak's hubris.

In his younger days Ezer Weizman was wont to repeat at the slightest provocation the Prophet Samuel's assurance that "the Eternity of Israel shall not deceive," but then he always followed it up with: "and the Arabs wouldn't let us down." So far, time after incredible time, they indeed bailed us out. Yasser Arafat, bum rap that we gave him notwithstanding, certainly rescued us from Ehud Barak's hubris. Envision the ensuing calamity, had the PLO chieftain accepted the deal Barak and Bill Clinton dangled before him at the 2000 Camp David summit. Had Arafat taken advantage of Barak's foolhardy generosity - instead of violently rebuffing it and launching his bloody Second Intifada - he'd have taken possession, besides Gaza, of nearly all of Judea and Samaria, settlement blocks included, as well as east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount (except for ill-defined "subterranean layers" thereof, according to Barak's cockamamie concoction). After Arafat's departure to the netherworld's great terrorist convocation, his PLO cohorts would have inherited his latifundia. From here on the story is familiar, except for name-place variations. Everything that happened in the Gaza Strip - which Ariel Sharon ceded unilaterally according to Barak's reckless Lebanese precedent - would have been replayed in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, etc. Eventually Hamas would have gained domination over all that Arafat's fat Fatah failed to control. The pattern is the one revealed before our eyes in Gaza-turned-Hamastan. The outstanding difference is that the Hamastan which brash Barak thoughtlessly almost created along Israel's entire long convoluted eastern flank, directly adjoining this country's densest population centers, would have been incalculably deadlier than anything visited from Gaza on poor suffering Sderot. WHAT DEVASTATION Kassams from Kalkilya could inflict beggars the imagination. Suffice it to note that into the space between Kalkilya and the Mediterranean is wedged the entire width of Israel and that this slender strip is filled by a row of three side-by-side towns - Kfar Saba, Ra'anana and Herzliya - in that order, with no vacant gaps between them. It's a single urban sprawl, stretched out before enemy eyes and permanently vulnerable to its predations. And whoever fires into Kfar Saba can reach Tel Aviv easily enough. Those who retroactively doubt the Six Day War was worth winning omit mention that during said war an old Jordanian WWII-vintage Long Tom cannon, fired from a lowly hill outside Kalkilya, hit an apartment building smack-dab in Kikar Masaryk, Tel Aviv's very heart. The only reason such feats, and worse, aren't replicated today is because of continued Israeli presence in areas Barak would have put beyond Israeli supervision. Luckily Arafat seven years ago churlishly spurned Barak's inconceivably egregious largesse. Barak literally came within a hairbreadth of destroying Israel's self-preservation potential. NOW EHUD Olmert, whose flunky prime-ministerial record is only rivaled by Barak's, couldn't wait to install the architect of Hizbullah's hegemony in southern Lebanon - and the inspiration for the subsequent Gaza disengagement - as defense minister of the state whose deterrence Barak's irresponsibility damaged so grievously. Arrogant Barak, who had done so much harm, is now in position to do more harm. Expediently hyped as a man of incomparable military expertise, Barak lulls the amnesiac public to overlook his dismal past and believe in futuristic fables he once more cynically peddles. It's not for nothing that Barak was chucked out of office as quickly as he was, despite the priceless perks he accrued from starting out as the darling of the leftist establishment and its lapdog media. Even our historically-challenged electorate somehow dimly perceived that something was dreadfully awry when the renascent Jewish state's leader proposed to surrender the cradle of Jewish existence without a fight, without crushing coercion, without an extreme existential emergency. TO DISCERN that, Mr. and Ms. Average Israeli didn't have to realize that it took Titus four whole formidable Roman legions to capture Jerusalem in 70 CE. They intuitively understood that only by unparalleled brute force could the Temple Mount have been wrested from outnumbered Jews, who resisted courageously despite overwhelming odds in one of the most tragic and traumatic struggles even in this nation's sad history. More recently Jerusalem's defense and ultimate liberation exacted a bitter price as well. Jews hadn't come so far, sacrificed so much, just to give it away because a desperate politician imagined he could translate the concession into temporary electoral advantage. There must have been something wrong with this picture for too many Israelis even prior to Hamas's current triumph, before a time when the folly of handing Judea and Samaria over to Titus-wannabes had been accentuated by the Gaza debacle. Barak offended something profound in the Israeli psyche and insulted the common sense of folks who're hardly firebrand ideologues or perturbed intellectuals. In February 2001 he was sent home by Israelis who continued to suspect that Arab schemes to obliterate Israel hadn't been abandoned. They could see no rationale in appeasing would-be annihilators at any cost in order to keep Barak in power at any cost. Barak was on the verge of relinquishing vital territory in order to outmaneuver all opposition and stun the populace with a fait accompli all-encompassing instant "peace." Had Arafat not upset Barak's delusional strategy, Kalkilya and Tulkarm would make life in the Sharon and beyond unlivable today. As per Ezer's witty prediction, the Arabs yet again miraculously didn't let us down. The crucially cogent question now is how many Israelis, in a society afflicted by chronic short-term memory-impairment, recall that only barely - by Arafat's dubious grace - was central Israel saved from Barak's machinations and a fate worse than Sderot's.