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The atmosphere in the meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) was charged and tense, reported Sharon's people. In the context of the endless spin, they are interested in presenting Sharon as a firm leader, who doesn't give breaks to any Arab. "He demanded that [Abbas] dismantle the terror infrastructure," they announced with admiration, and the newspapers quoted them enthusiastically. "We didn't give them anything," they emphasized, and the Israeli public emerged satisfied. Look, we gave it to them again. Although we're withdrawing from Gaza, we proved to them who's the boss here and who gets reprimanded.

Sharon, cynic that he is, continued to maneuver on the matter of home demolitions. He is both for and against. Who is as familiar with the soul of the Likud Central Committee members, whose greatest fear is "to come out looking like suckers versus the Arabs," and, therefore, if we have to withdraw, at least let's destroy everything. Let them suffer.

The Palestinians are also vacillating between yes and no. On one hand, during meetings on the subject, they supported demolishing the buildings, apparently in order to prevent Israel from demanding money for them. But in an interview Abu Mazen gave Israel television's Channel 1 this week, he said explicitly that he would like the houses and public buildings to be left in place, "so that they will be used for the benefit of the Palestinian people." And if Israel demolishes them despite that, he added, he will be willing to clear the ruins and use them as a basis for the construction of the Gaza port. That is actually the agreement reached by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and PA Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan: We will demolish, and they will clear. A kind of insane and grotesque agreement.

The demolition festival was led by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a ministerial consultation held by Sharon about a month ago, Netanyahu enthusiastically supported the demolition. In his opinion, "Leaving the buildings will serve as a great moral victory for the Palestinians - equivalent to `Have you murdered and also inherited?' - and we must prevent a situation in which Palestinian murderers inherit the homes of their victims, and dance on the roofs while calling for the destruction of Israel."

Netanyahu (who is not at all disturbed by the negative economic consequences of canceling the disengagement) is enlisting the best of Holocaust rhetoric to his aid. From his point of view, the settlers are victims rather than the representatives of a cruel occupation, who seized lands that didn't belong to them, who made the Palestinians work at starvation wages, who turned the lives of the residents of Gaza into a prolonged hell under an apartheid regime. He doesn't even hesitate to use such false emotional terms as "the destruction of Israel." Everything is permitted in order to prevent the disengagement and to bring down Sharon.

His hatred for the Arabs is so profound that he is incapable of seeing them as human beings who also have dreams and hopes for a normal, quiet life. He is afraid of "a great moral victory" for the Palestinians. But anyone with a brain knows the victory does in fact belong to them. We fled the Gaza Strip because of the terror attacks, the military and economic burden, and the firing on Sderot - because we understand only force. That's why they'll dance with joy in any case, with or without the houses.

After we have demolished thousands of houses in Gaza and on the Philadelphi route, and left families to the mercy of the sun and the rain, Netanyahu and his friends want to strengthen Israel's destructive image in the eyes of every television viewer throughout the world. The hatred that already exists toward Israel and the Jews is not enough for them. They want all the inhabitants of Europe and North America to see the bulldozers turning the houses into piles of ruins, and the Palestinians watching them from their miserable tin shacks. Is there a worse image than that in terms of the Israeli interest? What condemnations will be leveled at Israel for destroying buildings that can serve as vacation villages, hotels, entertainment facilities, universities and conference centers?

We are approaching the 11th hour, but there is still time to turn back the wheel of demolition. Demolishing houses is a barbaric act, it is inhumane, immoral and un-Jewish. Those in favor of demolition want to imprint the withdrawal with the dust of the demolitions, and thus to raise higher the walls of hatred - in order to prevent any possibility of reconciliation between the two nations. They must not be allowed to do so.