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Pressure from the settlers is not the main reason for the government's opposition to the separation fence; the military establishment, which is not up for reelection, also exudes a chill toward an enterprise meant to make it more difficult for terrorists to infiltrate into Israel. The budget is also not the explanation for the delays in the fence's construction: The money saved on stolen cars and farm equipment alone could cover the costs of the fence, with change left over. The explanation is much simpler: The Defense Ministry and army are headed by people who believe that the Palestinians can be defeated in Nablus and Gaza, far from Kfar Sava and Sderot.

Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon continues to promote "Constructive Destruction," the utter demolition of the political and security foundations of the Palestinian Authority, in order to build a new, upgraded version of the South Lebanese Army in its place. Give Shaul Mofaz a little more rope for "pinpoint preventions" and a few more hours of curfew, a few more demolished houses and uprooted trees, and poverty, hunger and despair will do the rest.

The men in uniform, who flood the few strategic discussions that do take place, do not take the "Bush-Sharon plan" very seriously. The Israel Defense Forces understand that they will have to finish the job of "eradicating terrorism." They know that Yasser Arafat would rather join a company of Hamas suicide bombers than lend a hand to Ariel Sharon's graduated plan as presented at the Herzliya conference. The media focused on the clause in which Sharon promised "a Palestinian state in Areas A and B," but did not pay enough attention to the conditions: dismantling all the security services subordinate to Arafat and all the armed militias, collecting illegal weapons and outlawing the terrorist groups.

The most interesting condition, however, in Sharon's demand for "security reforms" is the demand for "immediate renewal of cooperation between the PA and Israel in security affairs." It is difficult to believe that Sharon believes that there is a Palestinian leader or general who will chase down the local militias, force the gang leaders to hand over their weapons or tip off the IDF - all while Israel does not remove a single mobile home from the "illegal" outposts.

There is reason to suspect that Sharon gathered together those elements that he was certain the Palestinians would not be able to accept. A recent public opinion poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center also undermines Ya'alon's theory that what Israel has not obtained by force, it will get with more force. Not only are 80.7 percent of the Palestinians in favor of continuing the intifada, but the percentage of those who believe that the purpose of the intifada is to improve the Palestinian negotiating position in future talks has dropped from 8.7 percent to 4.4 percent. At the same time, there has been a rise from 39.6 percent to 57 percent in the number of people who say that the intifada's purpose is to free "historic Palestine."

It will take months, if not years, before the PA will be able to rehabilitate the security services' infrastructure, and, more important, their motivation. That process cannot begin as long as the IDF is in control of the territories. The solution, therefore, is inviting a third party to help restore law and order to the Palestinian state and rehabilitate its institutions. But the military establishment is not interested in a plan that would put a multinational force in the territories, such as the one being hammered out in its final version by the Canadian government. Nor did Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jump on the offer by his good friend Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, to make use of Italy's experience in rehabilitating the Macedonian police force.

It is very well known that the right is not particularly enthusiastic about letting the goyim know how the settlement policy works. But even Amram Mitzna, while ready to evacuate the isolated settlements with or without an agreement, cannot leave the fate of Gilo's residents to the goodwill of the Beit Jala police. He should make clear who will guarantee their safety in the coming years. If all he can propose is to "beat up" the rejectionist Palestinians, he might as well leave it to Ya'alon and Mofaz.