TERRORISTS are blowing up Israeli embassies.
A fanatic urged on by Iranian mullahs slashes and kills Israeli schoolchildren.
In Washington, George Bush declares that unless Israel knuckles under to his demand that only Arabs and no Jews be permitted to move to the West Bank, refugees from the former Soviet Union will have to shift for themselves.
This terror-bombing, throat-cutting and arm-twisting is supposed to give Israelis the confidence necessary to take risks for peace.
Bush's unprecedented rejection of humanitarian aid to a democratic ally -- while continuing loan guarantees to dictatorships with no strings attached -- followed the revelation that his secretary of state said, "[Expletive deleted] the Jews; they don't vote for us anyway."
At a Bush speech the other night, a White House aide sought me out to say, "You know, Baker never said that."
Though constrained by the rules of deep background, I can confirm that Baker did say that, with the same vulgarism that made it so memorable, to two high officials on two different occasions.
President Bush and his top staff know he did; it has been agreed that everybody would deny it was ever said. But James Baker said it -- twice -- and meant it.
By extraordinary coincidence, just before the announcement of the Bush decision to scuttle all Senate compromises to house the refugees, a spate of stories was leaked from the State and Defense departments to justify the Bush-Baker intervention in Israel's election.
Defense leakers worked through the Washington Times, which provided a banner headline, "China may have Patriot from Israel"; State and Defense had been working for six weeks through the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau, which the next day cited an unnamed official's "overwhelming" evidence that Israel had re-exported U.S. technology.
ABC News trumpeted an anonymous allegation about the Copperhead missile. And old reliable Evans and Novak had Israel abandoning America for China. (Don't Jews like Chinese food?)
The Israeli Defense minister, Moshe Arens, in Washington to get the bad news on the loan guarantee, said that "there is not a grain of truth" to the missilery allegations from ambush.
When he asked our defense secretary where this intelligence speculation was coming from about the resale of Patriot missiles, Dick Cheney told him it was classified; that probably meant our Defense Intelligence Agency was too busy spying on Israel to be able to track a slow missile freighter through the Persian Gulf.
Arens offered to take a team of U.S. military men to Israel to count Patriot missiles; he is certain that all the not-very-accurate missiles are there, accounted for. But a State Department man was assigned to do the counting, enabling the Joint Chiefs to scoff at the inspection.
When that specific story is laid to rest, it will be discovered that some component of some Israeli missile or tank contains some U.S. technology that some inspector acting at the behest of Baker, Scowcroft or the Joint Chiefs considers unapproved for re-export.
A loud "A-hah!" will change the subject from the headlines about selling the Patriot -- the charge that most offends Americans.
Here is what is going on: We are watching bureaucratic elephants fighting.
The pro-Israel elephant is part of the technology control establishment at the Pentagon, which fought for decades against accommodating dictators with our most modern arms; their allies are a handful of State officials at the fringe of policy and a few CIA men.
The pro-Arab elephant, embarrassed at having supported Iraq before Kuwait, and irritated at criticism of the intelligence blunder that ended the war prematurely, is out to seize control of mid-level policy planning. It claims Israel took in naive Bill Casey on Iran-Contra, and is now emboldened by serving a president with a lifelong pro-Arab tilt.
This bureaucratic breakout cries out for a profound study of fault lines and old grudges, of prideful Arabist starkers and intimidated supporters of Israel.
But first, let the Pentagon issue an inventory of Patriot missiles in Israel. Let objective media do the on-site inspecting. Reporters can count.
William Safire writes a column for the New York Times.