(November 3) - The media roared. Reporters and commentators vied with each other to come up with the best insult: "Sharon slapped in the face," "Sharon, the big loser," "Barak duped him again," "We've beaten Sharon." And I ask you whether you've really beaten the enemy.
Barak is not playing games with me - but with the security and fate of the country. My honor, my status, and my political future are much less important to me than the fate of the Jewish state. Evidently, there are political commentators who fail to grasp the gravity of the situation. It was not I who was slapped, but the State of Israel.
I wanted an emergency government to unite the Jews as much as possible.
United, we could have put down Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's month-long war of attrition. United, we could have averted the terrorizing of tens of thousands of residents of Gilo and many other settlements. United, we could have prevented the cruel lynchings.
An emergency government was meant to prevent this war of attrition from deteriorating into an all-consuming conflagration. Arab states are gathering. Threats rain down from every quarter. Despite its military and economic power, Israel appears weak - and this is extremely dangerous. The wave of antisemitism sweeping the world is another outcome of Israel's apparent weakness, and this too is our responsibility. A cohesive emergency government would have regained personal security for Jews throughout the world.
What's happening here?
The citizens of Israel - the only state in the world in which Jews have the right and the power to defend themselves - fear leaving their homes, and stay away from public places.
This can, and must, change. I explained in detail to Barak what he should do and how he should act to avoid escalation. Unfortunately, no one was listening - Barak thinks he knows what is best, and yet everything he has tried to do has failed.
It is a strange situation. Arafat orders murder, Barak orders "warning signals." Arafat tells Barak to go to hell, and Barak sends an emissary to pacify him. Arafat mocks Barak, Barak orders security forces to shoot at the ground and warns terrorists to kindly evacuate their command posts so he can attack.
I do not regret any move I made this week - including my request to Barak to quickly reach an agreement with me on one crucial issue: how Israel will respond to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and what preparations it will make before UN observers arrive in Judea and Samaria. The "borders of the separation," as the prime minister calls them, will be the borders of the State of Israel for many years, perhaps permanently - and we are unprepared.
And I do not regret telling Barak that the day he comes to an agreement with the Likud about our borders is the day the Likud joins the government.
I am in support of unity. Unity is vital. But I am not willing to support the division of Jerusalem, giving up the Jordan valley, or allowing Palestinian refugees within Israel's territorial borders. The majority of the nation is against these concessions, as is the Likud. I do not see the Camp David brainstorms as even a basis for diplomatic dialogue.
Arafat has violated every one of the Oslo Accord stipulations, reneged on all the obligations he made at the Wye plantation, and has made a mockery of all the ideas cemented at Camp David.
If the prime minister thinks it is right to give in to Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and to Meretz Chairman Yossi Sarid and to continue with the Camp David lines we have no choice but to act as an opposition. And an opposition's role is to replace the government. Perhaps it will take a month; perhaps it will take a few months. But this government is in its death throes at a time when we need a government to be alive and strong.
I deeply regret that this situation has been brought about by petty political considerations. This is no game - the situation is critical when people are murdered every day. We all have our own considerations, but in this difficult hour we would do better to rise above them and consider the good of the country.
A united people could have striven for a peace to which we can all be committed - a peace according to another, more realistic program which I presented to Barak a number of times.
This program is based on an interim arrangement, akin to a non-belligerence pact, with no timetable but with a set of expectations.
We would monitor the development of security, economic, and international relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
We would expect the abolition of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure - especially as the two are planning to collaborate on attacks within Israel's borders and across the world.
We would expect the establishment of joint economic projects. I have already proposed a seawater desalination project, to be worked on by both Palestinians and Israelis.
Interdependence is vital.
We would expect the development of an education program geared towards peace and the cessation of incitement.
It is hard to be a Jew. It is also hard to be a Palestinian. Thus we must, in the framework of this interim arrangement - and while strategic assets are still in our hands - find solutions to make life easier for both. And there are solutions.
Had we united, we could have changed the situation from the bottom up, because we still hold all the cards. Unfortunately, Barak rejected unity. Now the responsibility rests on his shoulders.
The writer is the chairman of the Likud.©Jerusalem Post