Whistling in the Dark

At this point, when the spirit is soaring on the settlers' side and mournful on the troops' side, Napoleon's saying about the contribution of the troops' morale to victory looks likely to come true.

A camouflaged entrance to an underground hiding place opens in the fenced compound - a military base, nuclear reactor or strategic installation - and the `guardium' jumps out. This is a robot of sorts, which rushes to the "penetration point" the alarm system has signaled. Within a minute or less, much faster than any unit on alert duty and without any risk to those who confront the penetrator first, the guardium will reach the breach. It will transmit to control pictures and sounds from the event, and if given the order fire on the attacker, stun him with gas or order him to enter the empty driver's cabin where he will be locked in on his way to custody.

Guardium, a creative development of the Israel Aircraft Industries' Lahav Division, will be exhibited for the first time in two weeks at the 46th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. It symbolizes state-of-the-art smart security, the kind that prefers technological rather than human contact with possibly hostile targets.

This applies to the field of homeland security, which has been expanding since September 11, 2001, and to miniature warfare pitting brains and innovations against terror and guerrilla organizations. This is exactly what the 17,600 soldiers and policemen evacuating the Gaza settlements will not have at their disposal.

The sophisticated secret developments make it clear why the Israeli government and its operative branches could be dealt an embarrassing, scathing defeat in the evacuation campaign. Two-and-a-half months before the official start of the operation, the defense forces are incapable of making use of their strength and relative advantage. They will be operating in the IDF's weakest mode - person-to-person rather than system-to-system.

At this point, when the spirit is soaring on the settlers' side and mournful on the troops' side, Napoleon's saying about the contribution of the troops' morale to victory looks likely to come true.

The question is how each side will define victory. Here too the advantage is on the side of the evacuation opponents. To win, that is, to force the government change its policy, all they need is a local victory that would serve as a lever to a larger political move. They are like Anwar Sadat, who realized that to drive Israel out of the territories, he would be better off not trying to conquer Sinai and invade Be'er Sheva; rather, he focused on crossing the canal (while the Israeli effort was split between the Sinai and the Golan fronts) and achieving a limited hold, then enlisting the world powers to take it from there.

Strong resistance to the evacuation, in Gaza and even more so in Israel itself, will shock the members of the Likud Central Committee and Knesset faction into demanding a halt to the evacuation before the elections. It could even dissuade Ariel Sharon from paying the rising cost of the evacuation, which is threatening to trap him because the Palestinians will either hold their fire and thus convince George Bush to move to the final status talks, or resume the terror from Gaza and the West Bank, making it difficult for Sharon to explain the benefit of a unilateral evacuation.

Such a victory on the part of the settlers would not be unprecedented. After all, Sharon and Shaul Mofaz, together with the outgoing chief of staff, the Central Command's top brass and the entire Israel Defense Forces, are eager to surrender to them and to avoid enforcing the law in the affair of failing to evacuate the West Bank outposts.

The military maneuvers in the sophisticated presentations and on the slim plasma screens in the commanders' offices transmit a tempting illusion of preparing for an operative success. This confidence, which is conveyed from the top, is whistling in the dark, to allay fears. It is divorced from what is going on below, in the ranks of the privates, sergeants and first lieutenants. Even if these junior ranks do not explicitly refuse orders and defect to the other side, they will drag their feet with grumbling indifference in the face of the fired-up, impassioned evacuation opponents. They will resemble the ineffectual IDF of the early `50s, prior to the retaliation operations of Major Arik Sharon and his paratroopers - a weak IDF that used to go through the motions and fail to carry out its missions.

The top command, which is by nature competitive, does not like to lose. It is enveloped by self-deception without malice, made up of the wish fulfilment of generals who talk to each other and marvel at the tighter-than-ever coordination between the military and the police.

Police Southern District commander Major-General Uri Bar-Lev and OC Southern Command Major General Dan Harel have an egalitarian relationship, devoid of the traditional IDF condescension toward the police. Only four officers - Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, Police Inspector General Moshe Karadi, Harel and Bar-Lev - will share the secret decision that will be made at the last minute, namely, in what order and at what pace to evacuate the settlements.

But the endurance or collapse of the Bar-Lev line of 2005 will not be determined among the high command ranks but down below, among the junior troops and up above, by the politicians.