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Within the picaresque, if not bizarre, gallery of Palestinian organization and faction leaders with whom Israel has conducted intimate love-hate relations for years, Marwan Barghouti, Tanzim secretary-general on the West Bank, stands out. In Hebrew, the man's name rhymes with the imperative "kill me" - coming from Barghouti's own mouth, this pair of words could be taken as a desperate prophecy, or as an ingenious entreaty whose real intent is for such killing not to happen.

At any event, buttressed by Shaul Mofaz's organization on the one side, and his own active help on the other, the relentlessly ambivalent persona "Marwan Barghouti" is built. He is a "dead man walking," who is alive and kicking, a man "who has fear yet is no coward" (as he phrases it), whose frequent appearances in the Israeli media (as in this weekend's example) combine a peculiar mix of irascibility and supplication, threatening violence and also a desperate attempt to grip the altar of common sense and understanding. With his intensely turbulent, and somewhat mysterious, emotional behavior, which perhaps reflects a form of forsaken love, Barghouti is capable of seriously expecting that Israelis will condone his implicit motto, "our duty is to shoot, and your duty is to understand why" - and he expects such understanding even at a time when his men shoot wildly left and right, at a time when a mother of four is murdered in her car.

Harried, plucked and peevish, like a flaming plumed rooster who has been kicked in the behind, Barghouti looks like a man who has put himself into an irreversible trance of murderous violence, while nonetheless hoping that the frenzy will end, that it will somehow not be taken as being unduly murderous, that in some distant day it will even be forgiven with a smile - a day when Israel will reach the same conclusions which he, Barghouti, drew after our withdrawal from Lebanon. In fact, with all due respect to the endless arguments and the innumberable books written to fathom "what actually happened at Camp David," and "what caused the intifada," it appears that the key to unlocking the mystery can be found right under our nose: in a simplistic and obstinate, almost childish, manner Barghouti repeatedly explains that the current intifada drew direct inspiration from Hezbollah, from the lessons of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, and from the expectation that only force will compel Israel to pull away from the final meter of its conquest in the territories. With or without negotiations; with or without agreements.

As far as he's concerned, it makes no difference that in Lebanon the withdrawal was carried out without any sort of agreement, and that after pulling out of the final meter Israel finds itself facing "resistance" ("resistance" to what, as a matter of fact?). It makes no difference to him that Hezbollah now threatens not only its towns in the North, but also Hadera and Netanya. Barghouti believes that on the basis of this Lebanon precedent and lesson, Israel will be persuaded to apply the withdrawal logic to the territories as well, doing so in an atmosphere of murderous violence, hatred and enmity, which shows no sign of abating or ending.

The fact that the "Kill-Me" types of Barghouti's stripe speak, at least, in prosaic, consistent idiom, especially when compared with Arafat's irrational and evasive parlance, should have stirred hopes that we have "somebody to talk to" here, or at least something to hold on to. And yet the clumsy, facile manner whereby they try to grasp Israeli mentality is laced with something tragic and off-putting. In fact, this is part of mutual, mentality-reading syndrome, a near-symmetrical phenomenon, in which each side assumes that there is virtually no limit to the other side's readiness to be trampled on and humiliated.