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This week you could positively hear the sigh of relief among "security and political sources" over the fact that Arafat did not call explicitly for an end to the intifada in his speech. We have to hope, at least, that there was a touch of irony in the way military commentators described the panic that struck those "sources" lest Arafat emit the calamitous announcement that he was initiating a "daring new move" of bringing about a cessation of the fighting altogether, a move that "will push Israel into a corner" and make it pull back its tanks and roll up all its rolling operations.

According to the commentators, "contingency plans" were even drawn up for that terrifying emergency in which the Palestinians suddenly stop shooting, contrary to our publicity interests, and in an insulting contradiction to the chief of staff's agenda concerning "five-six years of war."

However, this turned out to be a false alarm. True, Arafat issued a public call, and in Arabic, for the cessation of all types of violence, but by reading between the lines, along with a little creative interpretation, one could understand that he did not really mean this seriously. Thank God, he stayed the same cheating Arafat; and a mortar shell that was fired a few hours after the speech made it clear that, God be blessed, we're not about to have quiet in these parts; the blood will continue to flow like water, the world will remain on our side (at least until the next reprisal operation), the government will survive.

As though to celebrate the victory of despair - with its warm, uniting power - Minister Uzi Landau was sent to say his piece to the media over and over. The minister of public security is that right-wing extremist fellow who for years was considered a bit of a strange bird even in Likud terms, but who is today the very epitome of national-unity birds that flock together. He likes to take every opportunity to declare the dawn of another black day - void of wine and cheeses; another day in the never-ending war. This week he didn't make do with rhetorical chirps, he personally saw to the defusing of the ticking bomb named Sari Nusseibeh, that presumptuous flicker of light that for a moment threatened the country's national unity of victimization, despair and provocation, which is the rationale of the Sharon government's existence.

And if anyone thought that Landau's flighty reaction didn't faithfully reflect the government and its leader, we soon had the reaction of Sharon himself, which made it clear that his management of the confrontation with the Palestinians is not the crafty tactics of "the last of the Mapainiks" (as the last of the naive had hoped), but the expression of a deep-rooted, serious world view, whose victory in the recent elections has far-reaching historical implications. Indeed, a short time after Sharon announced his refusal even to listen to Arafat's speech (he used more or less the same phraseology as when he announced that he no longer reads the papers), he demonstrated in, well, demonstrative fashion the texts and voices to which he is not deaf, and to which he is in fact perhaps ultra-attentive.

The occasion was "Poetry Day," when the cabinet ministers were asked to choose and declaim poems they love, so to speak. Sharon, the "Mapainik," so to speak, chose a poem of genuinely powerful potency by a giant of poets, Uri Zvi Greenberg. However, it's doubtful that it was love of the prosody of pure poetry that made him fixate on the following lines especially, which he read aloud at the cabinet meeting: "Let us keep within us an account like a weapon concealed / Feeling and sense fire and power. / Let enemies see us: mouths closed, adamantine, / And in our eyes dark abyss and flashes from the fields of battle / From day of Rome unto day of Germany and even unto day of Edom and Arabia..."

True, "the best part of poetry is its prevarication," and true, there is a difference between poetry and a party platform or a political plan - but we can easily imagine the public relations festival we would have launched if Arafat had recited a text in a similar vein. But why imagine? To the unabashed delight of those "security and political sources," who were so fearful that the television address would be moderate, Arafat did in fact take poetically militant wing, later in the week, with his reference to the "70 shahids" (martyrs for the cause).

And thus, in this bellicose verbal flourish - and not in his speech - the "real Arafat" was revealed for all to see. For it's well known that Arafat "means what he says" only when he utters poetic declarations of war, never in his prosaic proclamations of peace. If so, why should we not apply this rule to Sharon, too? On the assumption that there is nothing more revealing of a person than moments of poetry, this week the great mystery known as the "Sharon plan" was finally resolved. What did the poet mean when he promised that "only Sharon will bring peace and security"?

True, Sharon likes to hurl a verbal carrot in the form of "there will be painful concessions" at the snout of the mule called the Labor Party; but in this case the truth lies hidden in the poetry, not the prose. And the truth is this: There is no plan - no border, no barrier, no withdrawal, no agreement, no process, no concession of a clod of settlement earth, nothing. There is only crafty violence and surging despair; only an indistinct mixture of militant rage, the feeling of being victimized and eternal persecution. And even if Sharon's perception of the situation is realistic and correct with respect to Arafat, he is not, for his part, proposing, wishing or demanding a solution of any kind. Not today and not tomorrow. It's good that way, in the wrathful victimizing pose in the face of the goyim. And to your bothersome question about "Sharon's political horizon," you received an answer that could not be more cogent or clear: "In our eyes dark abyss and flashes from the fields of battle." That's the whole vision. And "liquidation of the terrorist infrastructure" shall be our consolation.