To the reader who wrote in to complain that I'm always criticizing Sharon and painting things black, I have two answers.

Number one: I'm critical of Sharon because he's the leader of this country and the one who runs the show. If the tea lady were the head honcho, I'd criticize the tea lady. The only thing that counts, when push comes to shove, is results, and in that subject Sharon gets a big red "F."

Think about it: According to the American road map, between Wednesday and Thursday of this week there should have been a Palestinian state with temporary borders in place. Instead, the only state with temporary borders is Israel, busy fighting with itself over where the line should be.

And number two: I paint things black for the simple reason that there is nothing about our lives that is not black. In honor of the new year, I made a desperate attempt to list all the good things that have happened to us. In the end, I realized that the editor of the op-ed page would never agree to print such a short piece.

Justice Minister Tommy Lapid has described 2003 as Israel's worst year ever. The only thing left to ask what he and his party, who have pumped us full of hopes, have done to make it any better.

A couple of things did happen that worked in our favor, but it's not as if we had anything to do with them. The global market is starting to recover, and it feels better when the world is less worried about its pocket. The Arab world didn't pose as much of a military threat as in the past, and no longer has a joint agenda that revolves around attacking Israel. There is certainly a new Middle East that could be to our benefit if we only knew how to take advantage of it. The one remaining sore spot with the potential to erupt is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The question is what we are doing to defuse this time bomb that is wrecking our lives.

It's hard to argue with a reader who says that it's all because of Oslo, it's all because of Arafat, it's all because of terror, and altogether the Arabs should burn in hell. But our leader is not the tea lady or Yasser Arafat. It's Sharon. Why hasn't he come up with any initiatives? Why hasn't he tempted the Palestinians with a political vision instead of stoking their fierce hatred of us to the point where it burns in their bones like fire? This is hatred that not only nourishes the next satanic mega-attack but will propel Hamas into power when the Palestinians get their state. The road map a la Sharon is dead, and the only protest in these parts is coming from the Palestinians - not us.

Sharon personified the myth that "only the Likud could." Like many others, I believed the hints he dropped in public and private. I, too, thought he was the man who could do it. But as time goes by, it turns out there's a big gap between what he says and what he does.

For example, he made a festive promise to make the city of Lod his pet project. He hasn't been back to Lod since. This is the man who said that 3.5 million people couldn't be held under occupation. Now he's doing everything in his power to keep things that way. A year and a half ago, he was the chief opponent of a fence. Since changing his mind, he's been using it to unilaterally annex Palestinian Authority territory.

Sharon, always thought of as a man full of ideas and the courage to put them into practice, has been struck by a kind of paralysis since reaching the top. Personally, I would never have believed that Sharon would cower behind his two sons when accused of bribery; that he would be afraid of knocking down outposts; that he would allow himself, as leader of the majority, to be pushed around by a minority.

Regardless of Assad's reasons for offering us peace, what could Sharon possibly gain from trotting out preconditions and insisting that the talks start from scratch? Speaking to the government, Netanyahu noted that Syria's star was going down while Israel's was steadily rising.

Steadily rising? The last three years have been a fiasco of historic proportions. Political stagnation, poverty, unemployment, crime, ignorance, corruption at the top - there is not an issue on the agenda that hasn't been screwed up. The country has slid back so far, we'll have to start over again from zero. But Sharon is not the man who is going to help us do it.

And so, dear reader, stop quarreling with reality. There's no point in smashing the mirror or shooting the messenger. We're all in the same boat.