Anyone Who Believes Sharon . . .

Anyone who believes Sharon and wishes to see the bulldozers rise on Gush Katif should not holler afterward "I didn't know", when confronted by Arafat's corpse and the new neighborhoods in the settlements.

Ariel Sharon's new left-wing devotees revel in every statement he makes about the disengagement, enchanted by the vision of the founder of the settlements now rising to destroy them. They are convinced, and essaying to convince others, that the man they formerly described as a chronic liar, as the king of occupation, is serious and reliable. Now he appears to them as the national savior who will get Israel out of the territories. They believe that if Sharon only gives his stamp of approval to the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements, it would be easier for a future left-wing government to complete the job in the West Bank.

There is a big problem with the approach of "Arik's left-wing supporters." In their eagerness to adopt one part of his policy, the disengagement, they are ignoring his other positions. Anyone who believes Sharon when he says he will dismantle settlements must also believe his declarations that he will annihilate Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, freeze the occupation in the West Bank, and put off the road map and the two-state solution for many years. Sharon speaks of all with the same conviction.

There is an all-embracing consensus in the left that Arafat's expulsion or assassination would be damaging and irresponsible, plunge Israel into a grave international crisis and ignite an anti-Israeli conflagration in the Arab world. Opposition chairman Shimon Peres often says that the Jews are already accused of Jesus' death and do not need another one. And yet, when Sharon threatened in holiday interviews to kill Arafat - by comparing him to assassinated Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantissi - the left-wing opposition responded with complete silence.

It did the same when the defense and foreign ministers threatened to expel the Palestinian leader. The only one who criticized them was MK Omri Sharon of the Likud, who said: "The option of assassinating him does not exist, and expelling him is a bad thing." The prime minister's son was more courageous than the left-wing leaders.

Hard to believe: The government leaders announce their intention to harm Arafat - backed by the cabinet's decision of September 2003 to "remove the obstacle" - and the opposition is ignoring them. Where are the public warnings against a reckless, disastrous move? Shhhhh. Don't disturb now, for fear the disengagement will get cold or postponed.

Sharon promises to strengthen Israel's hold on the West Bank, to immortalize the bleeding status quo ("the terror will continue") and postpone for many years the negotiations and the Palestinian state. Again - silence on the left. Just as long as he kicks those settlers out of Netzarim already.

The left's approach to Sharon displays the same callowness and blindness, the same selective hearing, which led to the failure of the Labor governments in their negotiations with Arafat and Hafez Assad. Then too they ignored inconvenient statements ("withdrawal to the lines of `67," "implementing the Palestinians' right of return") with the excuse that they were intended for "domestic consumption." It is not possible, they argued, that Arafat really means it, when in his talks with us he speaks of the peace of the brave. Assad presents a rigid front, they explained, just to prepare his nation for concessions.

They are doing the same with Sharon. It is convenient to hear his talk about withdrawal and dismantling settlements, which require no act of opposition, while ignoring his aggressive declarations with the excuse that they are intended for the Likud's "internal consumption" and are not serious.

Anyone who believes Sharon and wishes to see the bulldozers rise on Gush Katif should not holler afterward "I didn't know", when confronted by Arafat's corpse and the new neighborhoods in the settlements. Sharon must be taken as a whole: one who builds and destroys, fights the settlers and the Palestinians, and always lacks real inhibitions. This is how the public debate must be conducted, not with selective hearing. Otherwise, Sharon's new aficionados will awaken to a painful harsh reality, as they did with Arafat and Assad.