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There are things that, subconsciously, you know will happen sooner or later, but which still come as a shock when they actually hit you out of the blue. Like when the head of the Shin Bet and the public security minister suddenly "disclose" the fact that implementing the disengagement plan will entail bloodshed. In his appearance before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Avi Dichter warned that we are in for trying and complicated times. In particular, he is worried about the escalation of violence among the far right. He warned that in carrying out Sharon's plan, lives could be lost.

You don't have to be a Shin Bet chief to know that certain rabbis have declared din rodef applicable today. You don't need X-ray vision to see that subversives are calling on settlers to actively oppose soldiers and police officers who come to evacuate them. It's no secret that the hard-core settlers, most of whom are seasoned combat soldiers, are gearing up for battle - judging at least by the threatening things they say and the fact that they show up for a fight at every outpost the police and army try to dismantle.

The question is what Dichter was trying to achieve. Was he sounding the alarm just for the sake of it? Was he looking for a good headline? Was he trying to cover his ass? The atmosphere at the moment does seem to imply the possibility of forceful resistance. But the head of the Shin Bet is not in charge of atmosphere. His job is to ferret out pockets of resistance before the trouble starts. The Shin Bet has been pretty good at plucking master terrorists from their hiding places in the territories. Could it be powerless in the case of a Jewish underground? Is that what Dichter was trying to say?

Tzachi Hanegbi outdid Dichter with his dramatic announcement that there are people who have made up their mind to murder the prime minister or members of his cabinet. If "a political assassination is on the way," as Hanegbi puts it, then what the heck is this? A prediction? An opinion? A news item? Because if they do know something, why aren't they concentrating on catching the assassins before they do their dirty work?

But Hanegbi, who manned the ramparts to fight the evacuation of Yamit, is solidly opposed to the disengagement plan, and the very idea that he, as the person in charge of the police, might be responsible for implementing it, is keeping him up at night. Hence, his warning is directed less at the settlers than at the prime minister - to keep him from going ahead with withdrawal.

Israel faced civil war twice in the early days of the state. The first time was when Mapam demanded that the Palmach continue to serve as the country's armed force in order to put down the Etzel "uprising." The second time was when Ben-Gurion decided to disband all the militias - Palmach, Etzel and Lehi - in favor of a national army. Historically, the credit for avoiding civil war goes to Menachem Begin.

Anyone who says that Israel today is on the brink of a civil war is wrong. For starters, the settlement fanatics are not my brothers. They are a minority trying to force the majority of the people to live by the sword forever and to die for the sake of their messianic beliefs. What they will bring upon us in the end is global ostracism and an imposed solution. Second of all, it is inconceivable that a democratically elected government should refrain from carrying out its policy because some violent minority has dictated otherwise, threatening to act against the country's interests and decisions and flout its laws.

In the same way that a country at war reaches difficult decisions, fully aware that there will be losses, Israel must forge ahead in the battle for peace, doing what it must do in the nation's interest, even with the knowledge that there could be casualties.

There was something a little sad about the prime minister's admission that he can't go to the bathroom anymore without a whole phalanx of bodyguards traipsing after him. There was a melancholy ring to his statement that "all my life I defended Jews, but now I need to be protected from them." But Sharon, challenged at home, is determined, according to an inside source, to continue with the disengagement plan and the evacuation of settlements - maybe even at a quicker pace now that the elections have been pushed forward.

Democracy must defend itself at all costs. Without belittling the rights of the minority, the good of the country must come first. Don't try to scare a nation that has sacrificed tens of thousands of its sons on the battlefield to insure its very existence with the idea of bloodshed for the sake of peace.