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The argument over whether to demolish the synagogues in Gush Katif with our own hands, Israeli-style, or let the Palestinians do the job and then shout "Gevald," Jewish-style, did not last even a day. At the beginning of the week, it threatened to flare up as another section in the cultural war between "Israelis" and "Jews," which was on the verge of being decided by the disengagement (remember?). But within two or three hours faster than we could say "Jibril Rajoub" the synagogues were shredded into piles of construction debris by the Palestinian hordes.

No one was surprised, neither at the speed, nor the style with which the synagogues were torched and demolished. The Palestinian Authority, the global media, the left, the right in Israel everyone took it as a given, even with a certain satisfaction. Because on one axiom there is no argument between the "Jews" and the "Israelis": anything or anyone that is left outside the fence and falls into the hands of the Palestinians can be kissed good-bye; it will be pulverized, crushed, devoured and digested, just as if it had been thrown into a vat of acid or a lion's den.

Essentially, this is the underlying assumption of the "disengagement": When you live in "a villa in a jungle," after you have despaired of clearing the jungle itself, then you must at least make sure to build a high fence, a strong gate and a brightly lit caution sign. This was the case in Lebanon, and there are those who earnestly hope that this will be the case (at best) in the West Bank, too. Especially when even with a microscope it is hard to discern any differences of nuance between the behavior of the Palestinians after the acclaimed mutual agreement (Arafat's arrival in Gaza after Oslo) and their behavior this week after the patchwork unilateral withdrawal. In the opinion of Israelis, no matter how you choose to present it, it is the same wild-eyed rhetoric, the same gunfire, the same threats, the same accusations, the same chaos.

One person who was not at all surprised at the Palestinian behavior following the withdrawal of Israeli army forces was the architect of the plan, Ariel Sharon. "I did not think it would be anything else," he said this week while en route to the United States. As opposed to all his predecessors, then, Sharon has a priori abandoned any pedagogical pretensions when it comes to the Arabs (or to human beings in general). Not only does he not hope they will change, but on the contrary: from the start, he takes into account their reactions and their weaknesses. And as his domestic rivals from Netanyahu to the settlers have learned to their discomfiture, with the cool and cunning indifference of a farmer observing the behavior of his flocks of sheep, he accepts them as they are, and patiently waits for them to hang themselves in a noose of their own preparation.

It was not hope, then, that led Sharon to conceive the "disengagement." Not only did he take into account the plundering, the ugliness, the thievery and the chaos but he averaged it into the equation, as one of the premises of the process: the Palestinians will simmer in their own juices and will "reveal their true face" once the gate to Israel is slammed shut and ?independence" is hurled in their faces like an oily rag.

Would they burn synagogues? After the "victory celebrations" are over, they will realize they have mainly burned their own asses. All of this is also evidence of Sharon's healthy sense of humor. In the same utterance, he declared a unilateral disengagement and demanded that the Palestinians "now carry out their part of the agreement" (what agreement?), and received a round of applause and approbation. It is a version of the joke about the fellow who refused to return a bowl, claiming that first of all he did not take it, and second of all he had already returned it.

When the gates of Gaza slammed shut this week, just like that, all the philosophizing and cogitation over the disengagement ended. For months, it had been the subject of hundreds of scholarly treatises and articles and countless symposia. Left reverberating in the weird silence was the somewhat abstruse praise heaped on Sharon this week by President Bush: "The genius of your plan is that it doesn't leave the Palestinians a choice." Choice of what? It is not exactly clear. But "it" has to succeed, it seems. Not because we have any idea what "it" is, but because everything else has failed.