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Our leadership is not as bright as Ivan Petrovich Pavlov's dogs - the red light is flashing, the alarm bell is ringing loudly, but the leadership shows no sign of a conditioned response. That explains why we don't learn any lessons, neither from experiment nor from experience, and we end up paying the full cost of tuition each time anew.

Our leaders should have known long ago, if not by mental acumen and intellect, then at least reflexively, that it is better to launch diplomatic initiatives from choice rather than constraint. It is better if decisions are made in the free and open expanse of reasonable deliberation, rather than in the narrow confine of having no choice. But they, our leaders, insist on forever making decisions as if they were caught in a trap.

This is the natural state of affairs in which crucial decisions are made in Israel, because the best excuse that is offered when all of these fiascos blow up in our faces is - "What do you want? We didn't have a choice!" This accursed no-choice choice has been our affliction ever since the day we began to think for ourselves. Invariably, the ground suddenly seems to be giving way beneath us.

When even a conditioned reflex has atrophied, is it any wonder our enemies long ago concluded you can only talk with Israel through force? Many Israelis are accustomed to saying that the Arabs only understand one language, the language of brute force, and maybe they are right. But what language do we understand, if not the same exact language?

We only began to talk with the Egyptians after the Yom Kippur War, and not a day sooner. Now there's no longer any doubt that it would have been possible to talk peace with the Egyptians before the hostilities broke out, but the boldness wasn't there yet, and we waited, despite the alarm bells and warning lights, until the crushing blow was laid. Only then were the groundwork and our hearts ready for negotiations and concessions.

We also refused to talk with the Palestinians, for 20 "normal" years, until the first intifada reared up its ugly head at us, and at them. Again we were pushed into a corner; in the corner, under pressure, we feel at home. Recognition of the Palestinians and dialogue with them waited for many years and many missed opportunities until suddenly - surprise, surprise - we found that the Palestinians evidently refused to accept the eternal burden of occupation, and that they had malevolent intentions of throwing off that burden. Once again they spoke with us in the language of violence - and once again we responded.

And when did we finally withdraw from Lebanon? Only after the Hezbollah pummeled at us every day and Israeli society was incapable of absorbing the blows any longer. Maybe we could have, and should have, withdrawn a few years earlier? Maybe we should have wrestled with the problem years earlier, and considered the benefits and liabilities of our extended stay in Lebanon, and not chosen to withdraw only when there was no other choice than to flee, battered and bloodied? The Hezbollah roared, and killed - who wouldn't put their tail between their legs and run?

And now the most dubious deal of all - if it is possible to free 450 prisoners of all types, why didn't we free them to Abu Mazen, and thereby prevent the collapse of this moderate and sensible man? Even the chief of staff admitted in a flash of honest revelation, that Israel played a substantial role in the defeat of Palestinian moderation. And if not to Abu Mazen, why not now to Abu Ala? And why not release prisoners directly to the Jordanians, with whom we have peaceful relations.

But no. The people of Israel is determined to strengthen the number one terrorist in the Middle East, Hassan Nasrallah, and turn him into a popular hero. The people of Israel is determined to prove that Nasrallah's are the most effective and constructive methods, and anyone who wants to vanquish the "Zionist enemy" - ought to learn from him.

I've read more than few emotional outpourings about the sanctity and magnitude of the day - the day of redemption and moment of liberation - once again we have proved our moral superiority over our enemies. Evidently, I have other concepts of morality.

A reasonable policy, which notices the blinking lights and alarm bells as they happen, which sees where things are heading, which saves the lives of numerous victims through the exercise of forethought, seems to me for some reason much more moral. It's moral not to send soldiers to Lebanon in a superfluous, futile war, the fallout of which still chases us.

It seems to be much more moral than receiving them in coffins. Nasrallah would not now exist had the war that we initiated conceived him. To complete the fence on the 1967 Green Line and save live people after three years of cynical foot-dragging - that's moral.

We are not dogs, and therefore there is no need to wait for the red light and the bells - and to be late. We have to assume that in the Middle East, until the hostility ebbs away, the alarm bells will always be there.