Another Tack: Fraudulent misrepresentation

This piece of preposterously overpriced junk was at least tangible, which is more than can be said for Assad's merchandise.

The yearnings of vintage doll aficionados in Israel are rarely requited. Trying to acquire the genuine article in this country is generally an exercise in frustration. Idealistic pioneers and haggard refugees left future generations no heirlooms and objects that in their day were extravagant or frivolous. Playthings were especially dispensable. Imports were uncommon, often shoddy and few survive. Hence it was a unique delight to chance upon an emporium which featured period dolls right in the heart of Tel Aviv - until I glanced at the prices. "This is German, 19th century," the owner chirped as I scrutinized one particular tag to ascertain whether it really read NIS 2080. She only reluctantly allowed me to examine the back of the specimen's neck (where markings are typically found). Having spotted the Horsman brand, I announced to the saleslady that this was an American baby-doll made in Trenton, New Jersey between 1947-1950. It had a composition head and Softee early vinyl limbs. It was a mediocre doll, hardly in good condition and by no means an exceptional antique. "This doll," I remarked, "wasn't manufactured anywhere near Germany, nor so much as remotely smelled the 19th century." Since doll experts here are as infrequent as collectible items, it's tempting to put one over uninitiated dabblers. This, in legal terminology, is outright fraudulent misrepresentation - a false statement made by one party intentionally in order to lure another into a deal. ANOTHER GLARING example of such an attempt to induce gullible saps into dodgy transactions is the timeworn "land-for-peace" postulate. Here the commodity purportedly on sale is peace and the currency is land. The basic premise is that the customer trusts the seller's claims regarding the quality and nature of the product. In the Mideastern bazaar, adhering to the maxim of caveat emptor (buyer beware) can be no less than an existential prerequisite. The land-for-peace proposition won't just cost money; it can cost lives. Thus, if Bashar Assad is a tad less than sincere, and if Ehud Olmert is a tad more eager than previous Israeli headliners to ditch the Golan, then Israel may well find itself with a potent Iranian cohort on the shores of Lake Kinneret, with Syrian artillery overlooking much of Israel (instead of Israeli artillery poised above Damascus), with more uprooted Israelis and with virtually no water resources. True, Olmert isn't our first premier to signal Syria that the Golan is barterable. Olmert, however, is more dangerous than most of his predecessors. Having ended his tenure ignominiously and heading a transitory government, Olmert is keen to make mischief and earn plaudits from establishment elites. The latter goal demands pressing ahead with and perhaps initialing a transaction whose cost, as Olmert tauntingly emphasizes, "is already known" - in other words, yielding all Israeli holdings. IT'S A no-brainer that it's unethical for any vendor to wreck walls in an already-sold house between the contract-signing and moving day. But our courts and attorney-general let Olmert mess with what he holds in temporary custody as that which squares with their political bias. So much for justice done and seen. If Olmert is perceived as serving Peace Now's agenda, both journalistic and judicial cliques will treat him sympathetically and perhaps help him escape without even the slightest penalty from the multiple scandals that dog him. As was with Ariel Sharon's Gaza "disengagement," Olmert will be granted due forbearance and consideration for full withdrawal from the Golan. His desperation must factor into any of our calculations about how serious the Syrian scenario seems. What's at stake is trading a security asset of the most real and vital sort (the Golan) for a platitude of the most fleeting and flimsy variety (peace). Once the Heights are handed over, they become practically irretrievable - except via untold cost in human blood, to say nothing of unimaginable international censure. The concrete forfeiture cannot be undone, but the insubstantial word can be taken back at a whim. THE WORD, indeed, is worthless. Damascus, let's not forget, ostensibly coexists peacefully with Lebanon. Ostensibly it even pulled out its troops from Beirut's bailiwick (which it introduced in the first place in the guise of peaceful cooperation). Yet Lebanon remains a country under hostile occupation, where Syrian-sanctioned Hizbullah runs riot and opposition leaders are serially assassinated. Syria's definition of peace - even with fraternal Arab neighbors - is somewhat suspect. With hated Jews it might be a smidgen more problematic. In fact, the "land-for-peace" formulation isn't tricky only vis-à-vis Assad. It's unworkable anywhere. It's just bad business. It's purchasing nothing with a very crucial something. It blew up in our faces when Ehud Barak evacuated south Lebanon and when Sharon surrendered Gaza. Even the peace with Egypt, paid for with every last grain of Sinai sand, is wobbly. The frigid truce continues as long as it suits Hosni Mubarak, and it hinges on one man's caprice. Mubarak's army, meanwhile, significantly drills maneuvers against you-know-who. Egypt's bread riots and Mubarak's age, furthermore, suggest that he can be replaced anytime with Muslim Brotherhood hegemony, along the Gazan Hamas and Iranian ayatollahs' model. With al-Qaeda clones to our south (and quite likely to the east as well, should Judea and Samaria be relinquished), and with Syrians at the Kinneret, Arabs inside Israel will amplify already shrill demands for "autonomy." EACH RETREAT will reinforce their conviction that Jews aren't here for keeps and don't believe in their right to this land. Each concession will be received as evidence of critical weakness. The more vulnerable Israel appears, the more implacable and injurious will be the cost of ever-more dubious peace. Each territorial installment corrodes Israel's staying power, hardens the clamor to inundate Israel with millions of genocidal Arabs and undermines residue legitimization for a Jewish state. Olmert and Livni intimate that not ceding territory will rile the new Obama administration. To "preempt a rift," they'll cave unconditionally and fully to excruciating pressure before it's applied. Thus, on the face of it, there will be no discord and all will be hunky-dory. For this they'll strike a sucker's bargain with anyone at any price, even with Assad - a notorious key affiliate in the Axis of Evil's Bad Business Bureau. Any "peace" to be purchased in return for the Golan is worth even less than a legless celluloid doll in that Tel Aviv shop. Its embossed back-of-the-neck markings identified it only as "Made in Czechoslovakia." Exceedingly deficient in aesthetic attributes and with the rear of its skull severely bashed in (to say nothing of the missing lower limbs), it shamelessly retailed for just under NIS 1000. Yet this piece of preposterously overpriced junk was at least tangible, which is more than can be said for Assad's merchandise.