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Sderot residents have been complaining bitterly in the past few weeks about the security situation in their city. It is pure self-centeredness. As evidence, there is a not altogether healthy senior citizen living not far away who utters not even the slightest whimper of complaint. True, he doesn't spend much time at home, due to the fact that he works in Jerusalem; he is surrounded by personal bodyguards, his ranch is fenced off and dotted with guard posts, its airspace clear of any aircraft, but that still doesn't mean his model behavior is not worthy of emulation by his neighbors.

Ariel Sharon is the first and only citizen of Israel over whom planes are not permitted to fly, lest the pilot risk profaning sacred space. The civil aviation map includes an unprecedented constraint - Sycamore Ranch has been declared a "no-fly zone." As far as is known, this is a no-no that until now had been reserved for the nuclear reactor in Dimona and a handful of other facilities. The Shin Bet is saying that the Israel Defense Forces are responsible for the "closed military zone" pronouncement, and the Israel Air Force is refusing to say exactly what might happen to a pilot who unconsciously or not flies his plane or glider over the ranch.

After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the September 11 attacks, and two-and-a-third years of conflict with the Palestinians, the desire of those responsible for security is very clear. It breaks down into two elements - security for the VIPs and insurance for themselves. The aerial dimension is the most vulnerable of all, both when the VIP is aloft and susceptible to being shot down, or when he is on the ground and susceptible to being bombed from the skies above.

As yet, no response has been found to counter Katyushas, Qassam rockets or pilotless aircrafts, short of occupying all territories within launch range. This is the weak point of the separation and partition fence: So long as terror has visiting privileges at a friendly base behind the buffer zone, it can bypass the obstacle - from above or from below, or by means of remote operation by agents, such as in the case of the Ghajar and Kiryat Shmona cell.

Israel has won the "war of the shahids (martyrs)" - the suicide attacks have not advanced Palestinian hopes or achieved any political aim. In meetings with foreign delegates, the head of Military Intelligence (MI), Major General Aharon Ze'evi, and the head of MI's research division, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, pull out a chart that shows the greater frequency of red columns (attempted suicide attacks that were foiled) as compared to blue columns (attacks that occurred). Between October 2000 and May 2002, the blue lines had the clear advantage. After Operation Defensive Shield, the red columns shot up, and they now dwarf the blue ones.

The turnaround is attributed to the IDF's presence in the field - even bin Laden's effectiveness declined when his organization lost its instruction and training infrastructure in Afghanistan - and in shortening the lines of communication between the intelligence gatherers and processors and the end-users. The secret information, whose sources must be camouflaged, is edited and polished a bit before being submitted without delay to the brigade intelligence officer, who is directly linked to the army's combat forces. Along with the collaboration with the Shin Bet domestic security agency, there is also a measure of jealousy. Military Intelligence takes credit for 80 percent of the successfully thwarted terrorist attempts.

MI's ambitious goal is that within three years, no later than 2006, it can engineer a reduction in the scope of terrorism to a "tolerable level." Not to the victims and their families, of course, only as a general criterion. According to MI, "tolerable" does not mean zero terrorist attacks, a dream that could not be realized even when there is peace with Palestine, but "like in traffic accidents": that is, not in numerical terms - more people are killed on the roads - but rather in terms of the general acceptance of a sorrowful but routine fact of life, over which a country does not change its lifestyle.