The tortures of separating from the Gaza Strip are reminiscent of the advertisements for the programs that offer to help you "quit smoking while smoking." For 38 years Israel has been so addicted to the occupation that even though it realizes that the damage it does is many times greater than its benefit - it is finding it difficult to wean itself from the poison. Even after Israel has completed removal of its civilians and army from Gaza, the occupation has not left it. Maybe, nevertheless, the Palestinians will be kind enough to leave a synagogue in the area - a memorial to the occupation, like a cigarette for emergencies? And why shouldn't they agree that Israeli soldiers continue to greet them upon their return from abroad?

If the situation were the other way around, we surely would leave standing an ostentatious mosque that had been erected in the heart of Israeli territory, a reminder of an occupation that embittered our lives. And we also would have been glad to have Palestinian soldiers greet us in our homeland, pat us down in body searches and pester us with questions.

Only the quality of the irrationality can compete with the degree of Israel's insolence when it comes to its attitude toward the Palestinians. The prime minister is erecting a separation fence in the neighbors' backyard without asking permission and without taking their needs into consideration. A new map from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicates no less than 376 checkpoints, roadblocks, control points and other sorts of obstacles that turned the region into the largest prison in the world. Israel decides whether, when and who is allowed to pray at the sites sacred to Islam and Christianity in Jerusalem. And all this is after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a commitment to the president of the United States to make the freedom of movement in the territories easier.

Israel is expecting the whole world to applaud because it was kind enough to rid itself practically and economically of responsibility for the fate of the 1.3 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and to swallow without demur its continued control of the majority and of the best of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. But even this is not enough: The Israeli government has demanded that the international community release it from legal and diplomatic responsibility for Gaza and recognize the end of the occupation while Israel controls the territory from without - on land, at sea and in the air.

This is reminiscent of the wise men of Chelm who, when the milk ran out on the eve of the Shavuot holiday, proposed calling the water milk. The next day an outcry arose that there was no water in the town.

No one would be happier than Sharon if Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) were to be tempted tomorrow to declare the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and to make do in the meantime with a kind of autonomy in Area A (under full Palestinian control). Would the prime minister even then seal off the skies to a Palestinian state in Gaza and decide if and when to open them?

True, there is definitely a danger that the Gaza airport could serve as an opening for bringing weapons into the Gaza Strip. The Damascus airport serves as the main pipeline for importing weapons from Iran to the Hezbollah. Terror leaders and activists come and go unhindered. Does anyone imagine that Israel will decide when to open and close it?

The Palestinians have in fact shown understanding of Israel's fear that the border crossing at Rafah will become a transit point for terrorists. The PA has agreed that it be manned by European inspectors and be equipped with cameras that will transmit the details of people entering Israel in real time. Israel's insistence that the crossing point into Israel be at Kerem Shalom is the invention of politicians and military people who have been educated in the perception of a kind of security based on full freedom of action in the occupied territories. The commander wills it - the entry to the village is opened. The commander wills it - the gate is closed. The Palestinian inhabitants are considered a nuisance, or at best as a cheap labor force.

Israel is so addicted to absolute rule that it is investing millions of shekels in building a new transit station at the Erez border crossing, even though the government has decided that in less than five years the border will be closed entirely to the passage of Palestinian workers.

The withdrawal from Gaza is a first stage, which could become a crucial move in a plan for withdrawal from a malignant occupation. Like the torturous weaning from a toxic drug, a partial disengagement from an occupation means great frustration. Persistence is the secret of success.