It is said that the Arabs are big believers in grand conspiracies. When they see Israeli leaders act foolishly, the Arabs interpret the foolishness as if it were part of a sophisticated Israeli plot. But I find it hard to believe that even the most suspicious Arab thinks that the latest news from Israel is part of grand scheme.

First we have "Gaza-Bethlehem First". Under this program the Palestinians can do anything they want as long as they don't open fire. And I mean anything. The terror militias can recruit, arm, train and prepare to carry out terrorist attacks in Bethlehem. They just can't open fire. They can smuggle in weapons, build rockets, prepare poisons, you name it, and until the moment that the Palestinians decide to go into action Israel will not only stay out of Bethlehem - Israel will reward this good behavior with additional reductions in security measures so that it will be just that much easier for the Palestinians to get ready for the next round. A round that may take place when we are busy dealing with an Iraqi threat. And apparently there are plans to extend this insanity to Hebron and other places.

To make matters worse, the CIA, Egypt and Jordan are training more Palestinians to fight. Sure, the sharpshooters are supposed to fight Hamas, and the bomb experts are supposed to diffuse bombs - not prepare them - and the counterintelligence training is for defending the PA from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, rather than learning how to thwart Israeli anti-terror operations.


What is the Israeli explanation for this program? Oslo religion. Using a formula typically used in the traditional Jewish declaration of faith in the coming of the Messiah, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer declared in an interview broadcast this morning on Israel Radio's ?It is All Talk? program that ?I believe with a complete faith that the Palestinians want peace. The question is if they have the wherewithal to deliver.?


And then, to top it all off, Israel's National Security Council recommended, in its ?National Security Assessment? for 2002, that Israel retreat. The Council asserted that Israel could only choose between three alternatives: two states by agreement; Israeli retreat to borders of its choosing without agreement on what happens in the vacuum created by the retreat; or a sovereign Israeli state covering the entire area. The Council was pessimistic that an agreement could be reached and recommended the option of Israeli retreat. It is unclear from the report what planning horizon the Council used for considering the ramifications of such a retreat. Was it months? Years? And why should Israel retreat? Did the National Security Council cite a security rationale? No. The apolitical Council, adopting the ideological position of the Labor Party, ruled out the possibility of a properly monitored and restricted Palestinian autonomy as a solution on the ideological grounds that it would be unacceptable for the Palestinians residing in the autonomous area not to have the political right to vote for the leadership of a sovereign state. Put another way, the National Security Council believes that autonomy is immoral. Now that's fine if members of the National Security Council have an ideological objection to autonomy. But they aren't being paid to be on the National Security Council in order to express their political opinions. We have 120 people on the public payroll in the Knesset, along with a room full of ministers and deputy ministers, to do that.

The Arab conspiracy theorists may think that the published reports about the National Security Council's ?National Security Assessment? is a smoke screen hiding the contents of a serious piece of work. They may think that there's some hidden trick behind what ostensibly appears to be advanced security training that can be readily applied against the Jewish State. They may even think that ?Gaza-Bethlehem First? is a plot to sucker the Palestinians into making some wrong moves.

Sitting here in Ra?anana, I wish those Arab conspiracy theorists were right. But, unfortunately, I don't think we are that good.


Dr. Lerner is the Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis). His weekly radio commentary can be heard on