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It won't be long now before it turns out that all our fears were justified and that Afghanistan is not the goal. The world is again conducting its greatest scheme against Israel. The facts are piling up and there is no use trying to deny them. First, the Americans announced the formation of a coalition to fight international terrorism but asked Israel not to butt in. The Israeli rescue team was not permitted to go to New York.

Then the British foreign secretary visited Iran, the source of authority of world terrorism, and sought to have Tehran join the coalition of the Good Guys, while the Prime Minister of Israel was forced, under American pressure, to agree to a meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is interfering with the international consensus.

Three foreign ministers - from France, Sweden and Britain - have already made anti-Israeli statements, even if they later retracted their remarks which had been "taken out of context" or not uttered in the mother tongue of the speakers. Commentators (in Israel) are already talking about the two real victims of the world campaign against terrorism: Afghanistan and Israel.

Some 6,000 Americans and others were killed in the horrific terrorist attack in New York but here in the shtetl, they're toting up the profit and loss. How is it possible that Arafat and Iran's Mohammed Khatami are in the coalition - which doesn't exist - while Israel is beyond the pale, the elders of the community are asking. How could they ignore our dire warnings that Iran is a nuclear state, or at least a terrorist state, or at least a fundamentalist state, and remain determined to mobilize it to the American brigade?

What the exegetists forgot is that it wasn't an atomic bomb that destroyed the World Trade Center nor was it the Shi'ite revolution that begat Osama bin Laden. If Pakistan, the extremist Muslim country where the code of the sharia (Muslim religious law) is the law of the land, is once more an ally of the United States and, appallingly, it also has nuclear bombs, why can't Iran return to the international fold and come under the wings of international inspection?

But the real fear, it appears, is neither the Iranian nor the Pakistani nuclear bomb, it's the loss of the exclusivity over terrorism, which until now has vested Israel with the "authority" to decide who is a terrorist and what constitutes a terrorist state; an exclusivity that always disqualified terrorism when it happened to others and set apart the Arab-Israeli conflict from all other conflicts.

Suddenly America has its own definitions, suddenly it has a war against terrorism and it isn't terrorism as defined by Israel, not at the pace it stipulates and not on the scale it desires. The center of the world had shifted, and it's no longer in Beit Jala or Gilo, not in Netzarim or Kfar Darom. It is now located somewhere between Kandahar and Kabul, among the ruins of the Twin Towers. This terrorism is called Al-Qaeda and not the PLO, its name is Osama bin Laden and not Marwan Barghouti.

Israel's terrorist kiosk has no customers and no one gives two hoots about the neighborhood bully Yasser Arafat. Morphological shifts of cultural plates are under way at present. In another few days or few weeks an entire country may have its terrain restructured, countries will align according to a new world order, the religion of fear is building itself a great temple larger than anything known by any religion ever before, the soothsayers of the Kulturkampfs are busy preparing concoctions of scenarios, but in Israel the zenith of the intellectual debate is over the question of whether to take part. Take part in what? To bomb a cave in the hills of the Hindu Kush? To unleash a smart bomb against a herd of black goats on the outskirts of Kabul?

We've been forgotten at home, we're insulted. But no one has been forgotten, we can calm down, neither the state of Utah nor Kentucky, neither Maine nor Colorado will get a separate role in the coalition and their civil guard is not now airborne toward Afghanistan. That's more or less Israel's status; not bad at all, certainly not negligible.

Israel can take part. For example, it can speed up the negotiations with the Palestinians, remove a few points of Israel friction from the territories, allow the Palestinians slightly better living conditions, and perhaps in that way neutralize the Palestinian reason for international terrorism. But that's a form of participation that doesn't have any special attraction. That's just the local league. Or, more accurately, the little league.