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It took a mere eight companies - paratroopers, Golani and Border Police. They secured the open, fragile borders of Israel in Gaza and Sinai, in the Arava and along the length of the West Bank, in the Galilee and in the Amakim region, right up to the May 1967 alert and the subsequent Six-Day War.

That was the entire ground force the Israel Defense Forces was asked to commit to maintaining security along the confrontation lines with Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. There was no fenced, electronic obstacle line covered by air power.

For the most part, air force alerts could be relied upon, as well as IDF call-ups for war, and a general and Arab sense that the state of Israel was satisfied with the cease-fire borders, and that at most it wanted some slight border corrections - Mt. Scopus, Latrun, straightening the lines in the area of the Jordan River source.

Ninety-two is more than eleven times eight - and 92 companies is the force the army needed after the Six-Day War to guard the new lines and patrol the territories. That was before the number of commands was inflated, and the numbers increased even further with the intifada of the 1980s and then again with the fighting under way since September 2000.

The differences between ongoing security arrangements and basic security arrangements - deterring Arab regimes with their well-armored and airborne armies, or alternatively, decisively defeating them in war - have been blurred. The Arab effort to shove Israel out with one blow, like the Yom Kippur War, has been replaced with an aggregated and aggravating series of terror strikes.

Ariel Sharon arrives at the White House tomorrow with the brand of failure on his forehead as a result of that terror, which has killed more Israelis in the last three and a quarter years than were killed in the Six-Day War.

Israel has already had a prime minister who visited a Texan president who wanted to be reelected and who asked that premier the key question: "What Israel do you want?" Six months after June 1967, Levi Eshkol could not tell Lyndon B. Johnson what Sharon is now, sort of, starting to say. He couldn't, because at home, drunk with victory, the Arik Sharons of Israel were lying in wait for Eshkol.

In a new study of the IDF from 1967-1973, recently completed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Haim Nadel, Sharon is quoted at telling a general staff meeting around the time Eshkol and Johnson were meeting: "We generals have all the full right not only to express ourselves, but to influence matters. A lot will be dictated to Israel by the IDF's position. These borders are not only borders for peace, they are borders to prevent war, borders to prevent the danger of eradication ... We are now in an ideal situation; there won't be normalcy for decades to come ... the borders to keep are the current ones, without any retreats, without any arrangement that doesn't guarantee absolutely our military control over the territory. And that means maintaining the current situation."

According to Nadel, as general of the Southern Command in the spring of 1973, Sharon proposed allowing the Egyptians - if they managed to cross the canal - to bring certain forces on to the eastern bank of the canal that was held by the IDF, which would smash them there. He and other senior officials in the defense establishment at the time weren't frightened by war.

George Bush is ready to recycle today what Johnson gave in UN Security Council Resolution 242 - minor border corrections - which in American eyes means trading land, or joint arrangements, not annexation to the Green Line. If not for Sharon and his friends, that could have been achieved several decades - and many fewer casualties - ago.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 also includes a demand for a finality of arrangements. As for Israel, the war should not end with significantly open-ended results that would provide a temporary respite but invite a new upsurge in fighting in the future.

Evacuating Gaza certainly does not meet that condition. Winning the support of the majority of Israelis - and not just rank-and-file Likud members - for an overall plan in which evacuation is only one element, requires new elections for the Knesset, with such a plan at the very heart of the campaign debate.

Sharon, now suspected of crimes and with a belated political enlightenment, is not the right man to lead such a journey.