Another Tack: Costellos in Canaan

Ehud Olmert's ingenuity boils down to waiving even Ehud Barak's last-ditch problematic proviso

Enemies in two war zones - Lebanon and Gaza - from which Israel unilaterally withdrew to the very last inch, refuse to let us be despite egregious concessions. That's what happens in savage circumstances when deterrence is eroded. As vilified retreat-opponents ceaselessly warned, hostilities from areas recklessly ceded necessitated IDF reengagement. Presumably that should have triggered contrition about Ehud Barak's May 2000 midnight flight from Lebanon and last year's Gush Katif expulsion. The incontrovertible collapse of the concept that produced both catastrophic pullbacks should relegate plans for the next unilateral folly to history's rubbish bin. Nevertheless, bungles and botches notwithstanding, Ehud Olmert vows not to change his mind. While guns blaze, his strategists plot stunning breakthroughs to overhaul the entire diplomatic configuration, banish impasse and amaze all with their dazzlingly brilliant patch-up of tattered "road map" remains - thereby enabling them to uproot more settlers while avoiding the semblance of unilateral repair, heaven forfend. The innovative technique to win international accolades for gratuitous concessions to a Hamas regime will be to pretend they're not unilateral, but constitute phase 2 of the road map, i.e. the establishment of a Palestinian state within "temporary frontiers." Olmert will thus obtain the international green light he so craves for surrendering territory in return for naught, while the Palestinians, in receipt of ceded strategic assets, will glory in their independence and the "impermanent" status of their borders. This open-ended arrangement will enable them to keep insisting on more. PALESTINIAN statehood with an internationally endorsed potential for expansion is no mean achievement. For starters, it'll encompass the entire Gaza Strip and over 90 percent of Judea and Samaria - largely everything outside the security fence as delineated by our Supreme Court, which never misses any opportunity to risk Israeli lives by shrinking this tiny state's waistline and further contorting its insecure convoluted circumference. The only interim exception will be a narrow strip in the Jordan Valley that'll either be provisionally regulated by a vestigial IDF presence or by impeccably trustworthy international supervisors (like those who collaborated with Hizbullah). That, according to Olmert's creative copywriters, will do the trick and liberate us from all pesky obstacles on the road map to "realignment" within what ultra-dove Abba Eban dubbed the "Auschwitz borders." Subsequent to an incomparably wrenching national trauma, we'll doubtlessly find ourselves as liberated as Abbott and Costello were after a screwy cellmate in Lost in a Harem apparently extricated them from an Arab despot's dungeon. "Follow me," the cellmate commands, promising to lead the pair through secret passages. They do, and he strides in circles, only to stop where he started, announcing that they're now outside and free. Childlike Costello protests that they're "still in the same place." "Keep quiet," Abbott admonishes him, "You're attracting a crowd of people" (said crowd presumably as menacing as the censorious world opinion that might bedevil Israel were it to behave in vexingly uncooperative tell-it-like-it-is Costello-style). But unenlightened Costello could spot nobody other than his two fellow "escapees," congratulating each other on a job well done - like Olmert and his crew of ever-resourceful advisers, who prepare to cunningly put one over the whole world with one wee adjustment and take us back precisely to… where we once were. THAT WAS exactly six years ago, before then-premier Barak foiled his own quick fix at Camp David. Barak planned on giving almost everything away (roughly like Olmert), but with one snag. He wanted Yasser Arafat to declare that the conflict was thereby concluded. No more demands, irredentist aspirations or pretexts for future ferment. The whole Clinton-conceived deal fell through because Arafat couldn't abide "end of dispute" phraseology. He couldn't countenance committing himself to any blueprint that would leave Jews a sliver of a toehold in their ancestral homeland. Since Barak's clever getaway from Lebanon had convinced Arafat that Jews could be forced out, he launched his bloody intifada just to avoid the unthinkable undertaking of "no more bloodshed." So much for buying peace with land. Olmert's ingenuity boils down to waiving even Barak's last-ditch problematic proviso, the one that got Arafat's dander up so much he rejected tantalizing territorial gifts and went to war instead. His aim was to get all he was offered without forgoing any add-on casus belli. While Arafat appeared to have initially failed, in sober retrospect his intransigence paid off handsomely. Israel's relinquishing of Gaza posthumously bore out the Arafatian contention that it was preferable to terrorize Jews than compromise with them. Now being brewed in Olmert's inner circle is the victory Arafat didn't live to savor. Arafat's heirs and torchbearers will get effectively what Barak dangled before them, but minus the stipulation that they desist from plotting the Jewish state's destruction. The international community will henceforth underwrite Palestinian assertions that confrontation isn't over, not by a long shot. Negotiations to slice more off Israel and inundate it with hostile Arabs will resume, along road-map guidelines, after Olmert has "realigned" us behind the transitory security fence. If, at any stage, we won't budge beyond that, the Arabs will be judged as harboring just grievances. Horrified Costellos in Canaan will scream "Hey Aaabbott," and "here we go round again," but to no avail. Like the oddball who directs our disaster-bound duo round and round, Olmert will proclaim that we're making remarkable progress. Suspicious sorts among us may share unsophisticated Costello's intuition that the man who loopily leads him nowhere at a time of mortal danger is delusional. "I've a brother who's crazy, but I'm not," the leader reassures the skeptic. "Who told you?" Costello persists. "My brother," the leader retorts.