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The founding members of Hug Hatikva say that Amram Mitzna will wake up this morning and discover he has his own camp within the Labor Party. They swear that the party chairman knew nothing about their decision to disregard his instructions from the morning after his victory, when Mitzna ordered his supporters, many of them new members of the party, to dismantle any sign of a camp loyal to him above all, and to join the election campaign.

The primary motive for establishing the new caucus was the purge of the Knesset list of all of Mitzna's supporters - the doves and those opposed to a a unity government. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer's open and hidden activity to return to Ariel Sharon's warm embrace eliminated any further doubt on the part of the group behind the new caucus.

They're now working hard, hoping Labor wins the elections. But like everyone, they are watching the polls and taking into account that Mitzna might not be the one President Moshe Katsav picks to form the next government. The new camp is, therefore, readying itself to stand up for Mitzna in the branches and Central Committee on the day Ben-Eliezer and company try to reconquer the party's power centers.

Even if Mitzna doesn't like it, they've agreed, they refuse to give up hope. If Labor doesn't recapture the government, they at least want to bring back the peace camp - and make sure the veterans of Sharon's unity government don't perpetuate the party as a Likud clone.

In the coming days, they'll be asking party Secretary-General Ophir Pines-Paz to register the new camp as an ideological caucus, which they've named for both the party's new home in the Hatikva Quarter, and for the meaning of Hatikva - the hope. They are a varied group: Yaron Armosa, the party's Jerusalem branch secretary and its spokeswoman, Yifat Schneider; Yehoshua Ben-Moshe, the Ra'anana branch secretary; Lior Strassberg, the head of the Latin American bureau in the party and a former chairman of the national student union; Mitzna's student coordinator, Naftali Raz, a Mitzna campaign coordinator and now the party's campaign coordinator; Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Even, the former IDF spokesman; Roi Ben-David, coordinator of Labor Youth; Zohar Levin, chairman of Labor Youth; Avraham Geva, a party veteran from Petah Tikva; and Tel Aviv University's Prof. Daniel Bar Tal, who joined the party in the wake of Mitzna's candidacy.

On the fence

In an interview on Israel Radio, Meretz leader Yossi Sarid asked why the prime minister had taken the trouble to go all the way to the Home Front Command to examine its readiness for a chemical attack, but forgot to look into the situation at Haifa Chemicals. A second fire in a week at the company, owned by Arye Genger, Sharon's secret emissary to the White House, forced the Environment Ministry to set up an investigation. Sarid, a former minister in that ministry, said the threat posed by the toxic chemicals owned by Sharon's friend was far more dangerous to tens of thousands of Israelis living nearby than the danger that an Iraqi missile, loaded with a chemical warhead, would land in Israel.

In an interview on Channel Two, Sharon warned about an Iraqi threat to attack Israel with conventional terrorist methods. He recycled a September report about the arrest of a Palestinian cell trained in Iraq to fire shoulder-launched missiles. Their mission was to fire missiles at civilian aircraft at Ben-Gurion International Airport. If that's not enough, there were leaks to the press that the defense establishment was worried that Iraq might send smallpox-infected terrorists into Israel.

Presumably, in light of that grave danger, at the end of his visit to the Home Front Command, Sharon should have ordered his helicopter pilot to speed over to the separation fence - a project designed |to significantly reduce the risk of non-conventional terrorists as well as plain old suicide bombers.

It's understandable that so close to the elections, the prime minister doesn't have time to waste on field trips. Senior officers in the army and Border Patrol also say they would happily give up the honor of a photo-op with the prime minister against the background of the fence. All they're asking for - indeed pleading for - is a Sharon decision about which security force, the army or the police, will be responsible for operating the fence and protecting its right of way through the seam.

Some 10 days ago, the IDF spokesman said the first five kilometers of the fence were waiting for the decision, which was supposed to have been made "in the coming days." Since then, the prime minister has not responded to questions from Ha'aretz about when Sharon plans to bring the issue to the cabinet for a decision.

A reminder: On October 31, nearly two months ago, Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Melamed, the Public Security Ministry official in charge of the seam area, was quoted in these pages as saying: "Until the prime minister settles the dispute between the Defense Ministry and the Public Security Ministry, it will be impossible to plan the command and control mechanisms for the seam area." Moreover, it will take at least three months between making the decision and implementing it.

Meanwhile, however, no money has been allocated in the 2003 budget for the command and control, nor for the various border control openings in the fence to allow travelers - Israeli, Palestinian and foreign - back and forth. Without any way to manage the fence, the seam line isn't worth much more than Danny Atar's barbed-wire fence.

And if that wasn't enough, at the end of next week, when the current supplies run out, most of the quarries in the country will cease supplying the sand and gravel for the fence because of their strike over new regulations requiring them to operate according to tenders. The construction of the fence will cease.

Gas masks and teflon

It's at the separation fence where Sharon's ideological Achilles' Heel meets the Achilles' Heel of security for Israeli citizens. The settlers and their patrons in the government want a fence about as much as they want an Iraqi missile to land on their heads. On the other hand, the polls show that the majority of the public, including Likud voters (except for the branches in the West Bank and Gaza), support separation or, as Amram Mitzna calls it, "disengagement." Although Mitzna has visited the area twice so far in his campaign, and warned about delays in the construction, the security scandal hasn't scratched Sharon's teflon.

When the media reports there are discussions about vaccinating the entire civilian population against smallpox, the prime minister appears to be the protector of Israel. When the prime minister promises he'll do everything he can to make sure the war passes peacefully, he's positioned next to God. No wonder Labor campaign strategists were pulling their hair out when they saw the huge headlines about the war in Iraq. Every item about gas masks puts another thick mask on the Likud's corrupted face.

It's bad enough Labor's having a hard time getting state-owned Israel Radio, under Sharon's control, to quote Channel Two's report about the fat security contract given by the Airports Authority to a company connected to Likud Central Committee member and former Mussa Alperon pal, Shlomi Oz - Omri Sharon's "good friend."

The director-general of Israel Radio, Amnon Nadav has forbidden any report on a complaint Labor's campaign manager, Pines-Paz, made to the state comptroller about the airport tender. Meanwhile, Israel Radio reporters are under strict orders to always mention n the same breath the investigation into irregularities in some Labor Party balloting stations whenever they report on the Likud vote-buying scandal.

A knight with honor

The provocative Egyptian TV series, "Knight Without a Horse," based on "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," won a lot of attention in Israel. But when the most senior advisor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak writes an article in the leading Egyptian daily exploding the myth of the "Protocols," calling it a forgery, it's accepted in Israel as self-evident, and hardly worth a mention.

An historical essay by Osama Al Baz - a top Egyptian official since the days of Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in 1977 - kicked off a series of articles in Al Ahram about anti-Semitism.

Among other things, Al Baz writes that Hitler relied on the forgery to incite his people and purge Germany and the countries it conquered of their Jews. The article, written in the context of the debate over the TV series, includes a lengthy explanation of the chain of events that led to the publication of the "Protocols" in Russia and Western Europe.

To strengthen his argument, he writes that it is illogical that a tiny minority (the Jews) would plot to take over the world - and then put it down on paper. He also wonders why the Jews didn't write the book in one of their languages - Hebrew or Yiddish.

He notes the entire issue must be seen in the context of the European instability at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries that paved the way for the Jews to become the scapegoats of Europe. He emphasizes that the issues discussed in the book, like the tension between the aristocracy, liberalism, and socialism, were the issues of the day in Russian society. He notes the "Protocols" are full of contradictions that present the Jews simultaneously as responsible for good and evil, revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries.

The Egyptian statesman's essay reviews the development of the concept of the "blood libel" and argues that much use is being made of it nowadays. He attacks Arabs who cooperated with the Nazis in World War II and vehemently rebuffs Holocaust deniers.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem is claiming the article should be credited to its protests against the TV series, particularly in the United States; but this does not mitigate the value of the article as the opening shot in what is expected to be a rhetorical battle between the Egyptian establishment and Arab world intellectuals. The article can be seen as an important Egyptian government initiative to use historical and political instruments to deal with a group that enlists anti-Semitic literature in its attempt to deny the Holocaust and incite against Israel.