The ministers could not believe their ears. Instead of discussing the problem of the Falashmura, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began to relate how he visited Ethiopia in the 1960s and got stuck in the jungle in a jeep that would not start. He heard voices in the trees and the situation became tense, until, to his great fortune, a jeep carrying several Britons suddenly appeared and rescued him. They told him that the place was very close to a village whose inhabitants had a custom of giving a very special gift to brides on their wedding day - a man's testicles - and that just that day, the village was celebrating a big wedding.

The message: Sharon now knows only how to speak about himself.

Sharon stopped thinking about Israel and began thinking only about himself and his family a long time ago. Instead of initiating a diplomatic breakthrough that would lead to an end to the conflict with the Palestinians, he is focusing on survival. He wants to remain in power as long as possible, and at any price, in order to protect himself, his sons and his family's property from the criminal investigations being conducted against them.

The peace process and Israel's future do not interest him anymore. His tactic is, therefore, not to do anything, and certainly not to initiate anything, but rather to let the days pass, to procrastinate - in the hope that all the suspicions of bribery and fund-raising for shell companies will evaporate.

There are those who try to find the differences or similarities between the Herzliya speech and that in the Knesset this week; but they were both designed to achieve the same strategic goal - survival. The main thing is that the vote in the Knesset passed peacefully. The things he says are not important, because his government (with Shinui's backing) is investing more and more in construction and roads in the territories; and it is actions that are the determining factor.

Thus, Sharon succeeded in effectively delaying any diplomatic initiative, including the Saudi one of April, 2002, which did not mention the Palestinians right of return. And when Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks now of negotiations, Sharon adopts the response of Khartoum's "refusal front" - no, no and no.

Assad has to first halt the terror, then stop supporting Hezbollah; and finally, we must not forget the torture our soldiers endured in Syrian captivity (And what did they endure in Egypt? And what did their captives endure here? And why is this relevant at all?) - because Sharon is not even dreaming about moving from the Golan Heights. He simply does not want a diplomatic process, and is, therefore, turning Israel into a refusenik state that will live forever by the sword and will be considered a pariah among the family of nations.

On February 23, a trial will open at The Hague that may cause Israel to be accused of war crimes. This may prompt the United Nations to impose economic sanctions on Israel, similar to those imposed on South Africa's apartheid regime - and all because Sharon has decided to use the separation fence to annex territories, shedding and brutalizing, like some writhing snake whose role is to prevent any possibility of the establishment of a Palestinian state. Thus, the occupation will be perpetuated forever - thus also the war, the terror attacks and the social-economic crisis.

When it concerns the interests of his family, Sharon does not balk at anything. When Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents Sharon with economic plans, Netanyahu is always rewarded with an apathetic response to every clause - except the ones regarding water, land and foreign workers for agriculture.

It has become difficult to follow the host of scandals associated with Sharon - from the bogus associations that illegally financed his election campaign for the leadership of the Likud, to the "loan" from Cyril Kern and the Greek Island affair.

This week, security company owner David Spector said that Sharon was involved up to his neck in the raising of funds for the associations - the opposite of Sharon's claim that he did not know and had not heard anything. This is the chosen mode of defense for the Sharon family: Send the boys in first, to cover for the father who is carrying the protective umbrella of the government.

It seems that after three years as prime minister, Sharon has exhausted his public agenda. He has no more strength. He is preoccupied mainly with himself. He cannot or does not want to get Israel out of the political, economic and social murk, so it would be better if he left the government.