It was three or four weeks ago. The important European guests asked for an evaluation of the political situation in the aftermath of the disengagement. Despite the many ears cocked to hear his words, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave free rein to his tongue. He detailed the timetable for approving the state budget, surveyed the power relations in the Knesset and discussed the slim to nonexistent chance that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government will finish December with an approved budget for 2006. Assuming that the budget will not pass the Knesset by March 31, 2006, the minister asked, why wait until March, why not declare elections as soon as December?

According to close associates of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Europeans visiting Olmert's bureau were not the only ones to have heard of this proposal. Rumors about the plan to take advantage of a failure to pass the budget to advance the elections also reached Netanyahu's court.

MK Michael Ratzon of the Likud "rebels," who had been Olmert's deputy at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, has been voicing for months the thesis that Sharon has made up his mind to run in the next elections on a social platform. That is why, when Olmert talks about the rejection of the 2006 budget, he is not necessarily referring to the social lobby made up by Labor, Meretz and Shas. For some time now there has been a brooding suspicion in the Netanyahu camp that the 2005 budget will be the last to win Sharon's support. The budget-cut champ has done his bit and now the time has come for him to go.

Netanyahu has known Sharon for a long time. He knows that the prime minister would not hesitate for a second to turn him into the enemy of the poor and don a Robin Hood costume himself. An election budget could send the economy into reverse. It is not hard to guess to whom Sharon and Olmert would send the bill.

If there remained any doubt in Netanyahu's mind about the Via Dolorosa that was awaiting him in the coming months, it was dispelled after the attack by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, considered to be Sharon's man and mouthpiece, in his Saturday interview on Channel 2.

Netanyahu knew it was impossible to go to the newspapers with the story that he had decided to resign in order to escape from the trap that Sharon and Olmert have set for him. In a simulation held on Saturday in his home, Netanyahu had to deal with the scenario where commentators paint him as a "serial divorcer."

After turning his back on two wives, he is now abandoning his latest love - the Israeli economy. He had to take into account that he will not only be accused of meanness, but also of stupidity. Who is going to take seriously the talk that history will tear him to bits because he remained in a bizarre government that relinquished territories without getting anything in return? You would have to be a narcissist and a megalomaniac to assume that a hundred years from now, historians are going to care whether the finance minister resigned from the government of Israel.

Even the leaders of the Yesha Council of Settlements (Yesha, which means "salvation" in Hebrew, is an acronym for Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District) know that the disengagement horse left the stable long ago and that Netanyahu's resignation will not bring it back. Among Netanyahu's close friends there are those who are relentlessly whispering in his ear that it is to his benefit that Sharon pull Israel out of the mud of the Gaza Strip and establish a precedent for dismantling settlements. This will make the next prime minister's life a great deal easier.

In particular, they warn him against wrathful prophecies that after the disengagement will come the Qassams. And what will happen if Hamas does keep the cease-fire, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) does put his house in order and the disengagement does become a success story? And anyway, how can you bring the Hamas branch in Ein Hilwe into the Likud Central Committee when elections are just around the corner?

The prevailing explanation, that once again Netanyahu was motivated by hysteria, seems unlikely to be true. The decision to resign was preceded by prolonged indecision and a series of consultations. Perhaps there is something to what one of his advisors said, that the explanation should be sought in Netanyahu's complex relationship with his father - historian Benzion Netanyahu - with his brother Ido and with his wife Sara, who has tied an orange ribbon to the car's antenna.

Kahane still lives

More than a year and a half ago, MK Roman Bronfman (Meretz-Democratic Choice) asked the United States Embassy for details about Jewish organizations that have been honored with a place on the State Department black list. Ten days later, Bronfman received a letter from Ambassador Dan Kurtzer with a list of more than 20 Jewish organizations the U.S. has outlawed and whose assets it has confiscated. Included in the list were the New Kach Movement, Kahane Was Right, the Rabbi Kahane Memorial Foundation, the Jewish Legion, Young Meir and the Voice of Judah.

With up-to-date information in hand, Bronfman wrote then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein saying, "The gravity of the danger that derives from the activities of these illegal organizations necessitates taking all the measures at the disposal of a state governed by law." He assumed that anyone who is bad for the United States cannot be good for Israel, and that the attorney general would act to outlaw all of these organizations.

After checking with "the relevant elements," the Attorney General's Bureau informed Bronfman that "the evidentiary infrastructure upon the basis of which the government of the United States came to declare the organizations of the Kahane Lives movement to be terrorist organizations is not in our possession." However, the attorney general noted that the cabinet decision from 1994 - after the massacre at the Tomb of the Prophets in Hebron - to declare two Kach groups terrorist organizations permits legal action against "every group of individuals" that acts to achieve similar aims.

The attorney general added that the meaning of the declaration in Israel is in many respects broader than the U.S. government's decision, "something that allows war along a broader front against acts of terror that the organization and its combinations and derivatives create." He stressed that parts of the defense establishment "frequently devote attention to the activity of these organizations and, in coordination with the State Prosecutor's Office, from time to time take various actions with respect to them."

Apparently, Eden Natan Zada never heard of these actions, nor had the Jewish bullies who last March attacked Ma'arouf Hussein from the village of Yasuf near the Jewish West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuah, the crucible of the Kahanist who carried out the act of terror in Shfaram.

Hussein told of six young people who attacked him while he was plowing his land. "Two of them grabbed my arm and twisted it hard behind my back. The third punched me in the eye. My head was bleeding and my face was covered in blood. After that, they pushed me off the terrace and fled," he said. A shepherd who was nearby heard Hussein's cries for help and helped him get to the gate of the settlement of Tapuah.

The guard at the gate called police and a Red Crescent ambulance took the wounded man to the hospital.

Hussein told activists from the Yesh Din organization that he could identify his attackers. Hussein's case was added to the scores of other cases that have accumulated in the office of the organization's attorney, Michael Sfarad.

The Kahanists aren't made to pay for their deeds unless an Arab dies, preferably an Israeli citizen.

In Sneh's name

Avigdor Lieberman often makes use of MK Ephraim Sneh of the Labor Party to promote the sale of the idea of handing over the villages of the Triangle to the Palestinians, with their Israeli inhabitants, in return for the annexation to Israel of the settlement blocs. Quite a number of journalists have relied on Lieberman, assuming that the leader of an important political movement quotes other people correctly.

In a letter sent to Lieberman yesterday, Sneh informs him that he has never proposed handing any locale over to Palestinian control and asks him to stop sharing paternity of the idea with him.