Fear, beer and hummus
This government is scary not only because of its terrible mistakes. The Sharon team's decision-making process should also be sickening. It should be, but isn't. Channel Two's popularity poll picked Sharon as man of the year.
How can the defense minister's judgment on the budget be trusted when Shaul Mofaz was so delusional and dangerous with his recommendation to kill Arafat? What kind of trust can be given to the man above him, a prime minister who has not kept a single promise, except to invest more money in the settlements (and to bring in more foreign workers for farmers), when the cost of every new road to a picayune settlement is that of half a dozen children's day-care centers and tens of thousands of doses of medicine for the medical basket that was cut yesterday?
This government is scary not only because of its terrible mistakes. The Sharon team's decision-making process should also be sickening. It should be, but isn't. Channel Two's popularity poll picked Sharon as man of the year. None of the mistakes of this man (once told by Ben-Gurion to stop lying) shakes Israelis, who are now in their third year of seeing the mistakes, deceptions and failures mastered by him.
After being thrown out on his ear from the Prime Minister's bureau, the former chief of the Mossad said that in 15 years of working with prime ministers he has never come across such a crooked way of making decisions. The moderate Ephraim Halevy was immediately attacked by the fists of anonymous bluffers in the same bureau, who charged him with making extremist suggestions. Because the guys surrounding Sharon are endlessly dealing with spin and disinformation, from the dead negotiations with the Palestinians to the police inquiries. And they have no reason to cease if this dangerous leader is able to bask in the support of a majority of the people while he makes his calamitous decisions.
This serenity is as much a national disaster as the crisis toward which Sharon continues to lead the country. The reasons are a narcotic cocktail of hostility toward Arabs, anxieties, the weakness of the political alternative, Sharon's personality, and other factors in Israeli sociology that should be closely watched as the people's support slouches toward catastrophe.
This week, there was a preliminary screening of "The Silence of the Sirens," a film by playwright Motti Lerner and director Uri Inbar. There's nothing new in the docudrama about the weeks before the Yom Kippur War. It is chilling precisely because there is nothing new in it. Instead, there's a plastic description of the pitiful march behind an empty concept and those who promoted it. Now a similar danger is bubbling beneath the surface. In fact, it's even worse because the Israel Defense Forces, which succeeded back then, has no way to free us, despite all the Mofazs and Ya'alons, from where Sharon insists on taking the nation, deeper and deeper.
And instead of the Nixon-Kissinger administration of the time, which knew what it should do to free Israel of the trouble, today there is the broken reed of the Bush-Cheney-Powell court. America is helping this Israeli march with its stuttering and with the same deceptively blinking lights, the likes of which brought Sharon in 1982 to his previous great misadventure.
At the beginning of 1993, after he prevented Peres from continuing with the Oslo contacts, Rabin turned into what we also don't have today: According to documents now coming to light, he began speaking of "the march of folly, like in Barbara Tuchman's book" and made the change now termed a disaster by the huge spin in Israel. But a state control mechanism somehow manages nowadays to blur the fact that the country is losing its mind.
We should have headed for the shelters when Sharon said this week that "everything" must be done to bring back the kidnapped Israelis in Colombia. After all, he's the man who once bragged the IDF could reach all the way to Odessa, and he's a politician who needs every trick in the book to make sure the headlines every day erase the familial and national shame that this man of the year has wrought. Nowadays, one can hear fear of Sharon much more than in the past. But nothing will come of such talk until it isn't just more Israeli steam being let off in corridors and living rooms, swallowed back too quickly along with the beer and hummus.