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Presumably there is a strange but legitimate dispute between a leader who comes from the right, who believes that if Israel continues to hold on to the territories the Jewish state will be in danger, and a leader who comes from the left, who claims that if Israel stops holding on to the territories Jewish lives will be in danger. Ostensibly one proposes a reaching a quick solution to the conflict by negotiating with Fatah, and the other prefers long-term resolution via a military struggle with Hamas.

In effect, the argument between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is divorced from reality. The prime minister's proximity to a diplomatic solution is more or less identical to the defense minister's distance from a military solution.

In his speech at the Annapolis conference last November, Olmert promised that in the upcoming period Israel would conduct intensive negotiations and "we will not avoid any subject, we will deal with all the core problems." In other words, borders and Jerusalem, of course. How does this promise coincide, for example, with approval for building 48 residential units in the settlement of Ariel? As far as we know, the Palestinian negotiating team has not surrendered the "Ariel panhandle," which penetrates deep into the West Bank.

Let's say that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed, as Olmert says, to postpone talking about Jerusalem till the end of talks. Will he also agree to let Israel increase public construction in East Jerusalem, renew digging beneath the Mugrabi Gate and laying a foundation for a new settlement in area E1? A new report by the Ir Amim association spells out additional unilateral steps that undermine the status quo in Jerusalem and complicate efforts to find a reasonable arrangement in the city.

If Olmert, as Barak claims, is planning to go to the people with a general document in hand that postpones the final map for better days, on the day after the elections he will be able to hang it on the wall. If President Abbas (Abu Mazen) is tempted to sign another meaningless document, when Olmert calls PA headquarters in the Muqata he will find Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh there.

Evidence of the deterioration in Abu Mazen's situation since he placed his trust in Olmert can be found in an article by Hani Al Masri in Al Iyam, the Palestinian daily that is close to the PA. The columnist, an insider with the Ramallah leadership, said "there is no national strategy, there is no active leadership, there is no clear framework for negotiations, there are no guarantees or international participation, there is no cessation of the settlements, there have been no achievements thus far, and Israel has not given anything."

The pragmatic journalist is not satisfied with penetrating criticism. He demands that Abu Mazen develop additional options for the diplomatic process and "rethink the option of resistance (armed struggle)" since "the occupation will disappear when its loss is greater than its gain, and at present we have no policy that can lead to that."

Please take note, Yuval Diskin. The Shin Bet security services chief in his annual situation assessment for the government did not anticipate a third intifada.

Those who propose putting off a solution to the conflict to an unknown date, instead of solving it, would do well to peruse the latest survey of the Hebrew University's Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace and Dr. Khalil Shikaki's Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. They will find that 84 percent of Palestinians support the attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, and 64 percent favor a continuation of firing rockets and suicide attacks.

But they will also find that two of every three Palestinians support the Arab peace initiative, which calls for recognition of Israel and normalization of relations in exchange for withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967. (On the other hand, 57 percent of Israelis reject the initiative and 59 percent oppose returning the Golan Heights in a peace agreement with Syria.)

Despite fears that Syria would exploit its advantage as the present host of the Arab summit to eradicate the peace plan, the Arab League repeated it for the third time. But this is the first time that this important initiative is conditioned on progress in the diplomatic process. Pragmatic Arabs working to resuscitate the peace process face a struggle against Iran and Al-Qaeda, which are fanning the flames of the conflict, and are not guided by Olmert's political timetable or Barak's plan.

What comes first, peace or security? Ostensibly this is the crux of the debate between the two and is like the question whom do you love more, Mom or Dad? Peace without security is a lie. Security without peace is nonsense.