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A critically-ill but stupid patient eyes with skepticism and derision the latest doctor heading his way - even hopes for his failure. This is how Israel's political leadership views the arrival tomorrow of the new American envoy, General Anthony Zinni.

This is nothing new - this has been going on for decades and is in fact the very reason the patient has arrived at its present pathetic state. Nonetheless, there is every sign the new surgeon's fate will be the same as his predecessors. He too will flee the sick-bay amid a shower of curses, shrugging with mystification or helplessly washing his hands, as the patient throws himself back on the pillow with a sigh of relief - "thank God there is no chance of recovery. After all, I predicted there would be no such chance."

"Peace efforts" are usually seen as something of a favor we do for our American friends - not for ourselves and certainly not for the region. And so the name "Anthony Zinni" is about to enter the pantheon of "boring envoy mediators who failed to achieve anything except rattling or breaking up Israeli governments" - alongside those of Philip Habib, Dennis Ross, Baker, Rogers, etc., etc. In similar vein, commentary is flowing in Israel not only before Zinni lands on our shores, but before he even started packing his bags.

The reverse countdown began when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dispelled any fears of any sort of agreement actually emerging from Zinni's mission. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer instructed the defense establishment to make cool-headed preparations for the visit. Minister Tzahi Hanegbi already pursed the edges of his lips yesterday to practice some a priori booing, sneering off Zinni as "that retired general."

The organizations of the Palestinians and of Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz are surely readying themselves to demonstrate to Zinni the nature of the region into which he has been propelled. Surely too the settlers are unwrapping the old banners from the days of Kissinger, Vance, Rogers and the other Amalekites. Neither are the media knocking themselves out to assist the mission. They have joined the political establishment in preparing for the landing of the general as if a "Zinni" were a chemical missile, or some huge terrorist operation. And he is already a marked man, a person identified as "the Supreme Commissioner" - Titus or Nebuchadnezzar - whose grandmother may be half-Jewish, and whose eye-brows have the hint of an anti-Semitic slant.

The secret slogan is "We dealt with Pharaoh, we saw off all the peace efforts and plans - and we'll get over this too." This has always been the case, and it appears this is how it will always be. Attacks that spill our daily blood, or never-ending good-for-nothing wars - with these we can always cope. But the mere whisper of the words "American envoy" or "mediation effort" engulfs us in dark terror. There is instant "concern in Jerusalem," "worry at the Prime Minister's office" and "government on alert."

We are a small nation seeking peace, and we ask only one little thing - do not hold us to it. And if you really must, at least let us have the answers first. At the end of the week Sharon expressed his one genuine concern that saying "No!" to the Zinni plan will scare away the "Labor" ministers out of his government, just like saying "Yes!" in 1970 to the Rogers plan cleared the government of Likud ministers.

His concern appears excessive. Characters like Shimon Peres or Benjamin Ben-Eliezer will not permit themselves to go home during this critical time for Israel that is known as "the mediation onslaught on the nation."