The Jewish state has already had several trial runs. The most noteworthy was in mythical Chelm, which was governed by its own inimitable system of logic. So is New Chelm - aka Israel. The original Chelm's town fathers, for example, were intent on deploying a formidable security force to daunt evildoers like the pesky burglar who prowled the narrow alleys after dark. The burly constable they employed soon apprehended the miscreant and forced him to stand in the corner until all inspection rounds were completed. Needless to say, the thief took flight. However, upon returning to the scene of the crime the next night, he was again taken into custody. This time his ankle was tied to a lamppost. Yet as the relentless cop pounded the beat, he lost his man once more. On the third night the determined lawman simply took the recidivist along with him on patrol. But then the felon's cap fell and rolled away in the wind. He proposed to go after it. The savvy policeman, though, took no more chances and ran to retrieve the loss all by himself. Left on his own, the detainee made his getaway. Not to worry. The story had a happy ending. The grateful town council rewarded the officer's tenaciousness with a cash prize, a citation of merit and a promotion for catching an outlaw every night. IN ISRAEL we do things true to the Chelm prototype, though on a far larger, existentially-threatening scale. We send out soldiers and members of the security forces on perilous missions to nab dangerous terrorists. Valiantly risking their lives, our men capture the villains, who are then duly brought to justice and given every break which our scrupulous due process offers. They are sentenced only following fair conviction by our uber-tolerant courts. Behind bars their conditions enable them to further their education, indulge in hobbies, wed, receive conjugal visits, procreate and commission more terror onslaughts. They can also derive solace from the realization that they won't end their days in durance vile, no matter how heinous their crimes. Our system deters sadistic slayers every bit as terrifyingly as the above fabled defender of Chelm's citizenry frightened the malefactor he routinely arrested. Bestial brutes know they'll be sprung sooner or later. It may be because their accomplices on the outside take hostages or because the Chelmites at Israel's helm volunteer to pay ransom a priori - before innocents are kidnapped. The unassailable Chelm rationale is that prophylactic measures obviate the enemy's need to abduct Israelis; they get what they want without having to bother with the mess of seizing captives. Chelmite policy-makers - like the flawlessly wise and always self-assured Tzipi Livni - refuse to so much as contemplate the uncharitable notion that shedding Jewish blood, cruelly torturing Israeli families and exploiting New Chelm's proclivity to tearjerker mawkishness are irresistibly tempting terrorist goals in themselves. AND SO Livni and crew yammer to the utter satisfaction of all Chelm intellects that setting loose those who had murdered, or whose murderous schemes were temporarily frustrated, is nothing but "a goodwill gesture" because we're getting absolutely nothing in return. If one set of bandits (Hamas) holds an Israeli hostage, then neo-Chelmites pay off the rival gang (Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah) lest it be disadvantaged by the fact that the more effectively aggressive mob stands to gain by its malfeasance and enhance its prestige. Jerusalem makes sure that the extortionist abilities of the less-thriving thugs aren't outmatched. In Chelmite parlance this is called "encouraging moderation." Still, confoundingly, the recipients of Israeli beneficence don't exude gratitude or extol our sophisticated broadmindedness. They know us for the Chelm fools that we repeatedly and indisputably prove ourselves to be. After all, Israel keeps funding Hamastan and paying absconded treason-suspect Azmi Bishara's Knesset pension. Hence Abbas presses on with his aggrieved victim pose, claiming to have elicited only a negligible fraction of what's his by right and to deserve much more. His pseudo-moral indignation is way more persuasive than New Chelm's liberal largesse. NOWHERE IN foreign media reports is it mentioned that 149 of the 198 terrorists released Monday were involved in attempts to slaughter Israelis. The fact that not all plots succeeded isn't for any lack of homicidal ambition on the conspirators' parts. Many haven't served even half (many not a quarter and others not a third) of their sentences. Some of those sent up for long stretches are getting out after less than a year. So far, bedeviling "goodwill" has sprung 1,000 terror convicts for Abbas's sake. Hundreds more are slated to be let out by the end of the year. Although bloodthirsty fanatics who haven't done their time are free to return heroically to their gory pastimes, the abiding impression abroad is that the hobnailed oppressors from New Chelm have only grudgingly and marginally diminished injustice by freeing too-few noble prisoners of conscience. So what if Ibrahim Mahmad (aka Muhammad Abu Ali) - who killed yeshiva student Yehoshua Saloma in Hebron and later callously slit the throat of a fellow inmate he accused of collaboration - doesn't quite fit the Amnesty profile of nonviolent idealists incarcerated for their beliefs? The world's news-purveyors choose to depict Abu Ali as a martyred saint and Livni's Chelm as the tyrannical baddie. LIVNI AND fellow Chelmites should have known there would be no accolades for their imbecility. The persistent implied bottom line overseas is that terrorists in Israeli prisons aren't there justly but are held illegitimately. Not only is Israel censured for any feeble self-defense, but it mustn't even punish the most despicable of barbarians, whose records are never examined - as if they were nothing but propaganda sheets. Foreigners don't much care what atrocities were perpetrated here. Why should they, if Chelm's suckers pooh-pooh them as forgettable bygones and regard convicts as fungible currency with which to bankroll politically expedient deals? By Chelmite reckoning such "reasonableness" will unilaterally strengthen pragmatism among Israel's implacable enemies. It'll surely show, as Livni stated, that "Israel doesn't only free prisoners in response to force, thereby broadcasting weakness and capitulation to pressure. We want to signal to the other side that abductions aren't the only method to get results from Israel. We want to demonstrate that there are other ways to get results." In Livni's Chelmite lexicon "results" mean allowing genocidal killers to escape justice. Under one circumstance or another, Israel owes its assorted enemies "results" and must pay. In New Chelm, lulling respites come at a steep price, but the wise don't pinch pennies. It's prudent to try to preempt any future emergency. They used to do that in Old Chelm all the time. Like when the aforementioned thief made off with the new safety railings mounted on the town's rickety antiquated bridge. The constable no longer bothered pursuing him because he always escaped anyhow. Meanwhile, carts and buggies tumbled down into the ravine below. There were casualties. Nevertheless, Chelm's dependable leaders knew how to handle the crisis. They built a hospital directly beneath the crippled bridge.