Israel paid the cost in Lebanon for the simplifying working assumption of ceteris paribus. A generation of withdrawal advocates have employed this qualification in grossly understating the dangerous nature of their policy recommendations.

But all other things were hardly equal; the Arabs also made moves on the board.

Yet, despite this rude awakening, the Olmert team appears to be no more the wiser in its approach towards the ever-worsening situation in the Gaza Strip.

Yes. Security officials have warned at every available forum that the Palestinians are exploiting the security hiatus (a.k.a. "ceasefire") to transform the Gaza Strip into a possibly improved version of Hizbullah-controlled southern Lebanon. "Improved" because the sheer size of the Palestinian force being turned into a trained army is considerably larger than what Hizbullah could field in Lebanon.

There may not be money to feed hungry mouths in Gaza, but there's no shortage of funds for soldiers, weapons and a massive unprecedented series of Palestinian military construction projects that promise to make Israeli operations much more costly than anything Israel has experienced until now in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. But policy doesn't reflect this nightmarish reality.

Instead of sending a clear message that this security threat is, in and of itself, a clear and p

The Olmert team appears to be no more the wiser in its approach towards the ever-worsening situation in the Gaza Strip.

resent danger - a causus belli - the Olmert team seems to be saying that Israel is willing to not only continue with the security hiatus in the Gaza Strip, but also to extend it to the West Bank, if the Palestinians would be so kind as to limit their activities to preparing for war against the Jewish State. As if there is no significance to these ongoing developments. As if nothing is really changing in the basic equation.

Ceteris paribus.

Sheer madness.

The message should not be that we want the Palestinians to stop using their weapons, but instead that they must put down their weapons. Put down their weapons today - not at some indefinite time in the future.

The message should be that the Palestinians have exploited the security hiatus to create a situation on the ground that will require Israel to employ military tactics that, though perfectly legal, won't look good on CNN. Yes, it was foolhardy to think that retreating from Gaza would advance peace. But it is the Palestinians and their supporters who are to blame, nonetheless, for exploiting the retreat and the security hiatus that followed.

And after a massive brutal Israeli operation to chop down the monster that grew in "liberated" Gaza?

Some things are already clear: an effective Israeli security envelope must be restored, as must conditions for freedom of Israeli security action - just as there is in the West Bank. This doesn't preclude either economic development or local autonomy. But since freedom can't include the freedom to attack Israel, the Palestinians, by their behavior, have taken sovereignty off the agenda for the foreseeable future.

Now, this may not be a message that some of those at Foggy Bottom may want to hear. But it's the truth. And the sooner we face up to reality, share it with the world and deal with it, the better off all of us will be.