Text size

Once upon a time, the apprehensive citizen lived here. Now he is being replaced by the alarmed citizen, and he is every citizen. Indeed, the black prophecy is fulfilling itself, the red telephone is ringing in the middle of the night. It's Fuad - Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the National Infrastructures Minister, sorry for calling so late. He has just received the public opinion poll findings: Defense Minister Ehud Barak is continuing to crash, the Labor Party is on the skids, an emergency situation. And as he speaks, there's another phone call: The Nili affair is getting more complicated. But who's this? Shalom Kital, Barak's new media adviser.

The alarmed citizen recalls decisions that were taken in the middle of the day and is appalled by the thought of decisions that will be taken in the middle of the night. He is covered in cold sweat and can't fall asleep. He tries to lull himself with the idea that such-and-such things have already happened - altercations, insults. He tries, but unsuccessfully. Even indefatigable-subversive (as Yitzhak Rabin once said of Shimon Peres) sounds to him like a compliment, compared now to the scorn that is being sprayed about these days and nights.

From every epithet springs a counter tendril: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is a pretty birdie - like her full Hebrew name, Tziporah - but she is a featherweight; an acting prime minister is straining with all his might to reignite the ashes of his term in office, and a few more potential prime ministers who tripped in their previous positions are hoping to rise in their next, exalted position.

All the while, the alarmed citizen is wondering whether his security is in good hands, as he was promised by the local politicians as they huddle over the budget.

This week, he received a brochure from the research department of the National Security College: "Studies in National Security: Government Corruption in Israel." Even in the Israel Defense Forces, they have come to the conclusion that corruption at the top of the tree rots the roots. However, in the budget debates, not a word about the corrupt was heard. So much timber and underbrush needs to be cleared away. Is this security?

And the bells also toll in the home of the petrified citizen: This week, an elderly man phoned him and asked him to meet his granddaughter and her friends, who are refusing to be conscripted into the army for reasons of disgust and conscience. They met, he tried his best to wield his influence, and he failed. He would wish that this group be invited to a government meeting for the sake of clarification: It is much more important to trust leaders and commanders than it is to trust budgets. Is this security?

And another phone call: A general retiring from the IDF asking citizen M., whose eyelids are untouched by sleep, to participate in a film in his honor; he agrees. Some 10 soldiers and civilians show up at his home with their cutting-edge equipment. Television crews who would visit him, he recalls, would consist of two or three people, at most. And they are still positioning Barak's young people opposite Buji's old people. And Buji's ineffable name is Isaac, specifically Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, which is as funny as Tziporah. But this is not funny at all, nor is it security.

And Education Minister Yuli Tamir could have been the one to afford a pleasant surprise, had she contributed an insight of her own, had she stepped outside the confines of the Finance Ministry.

Recently a team of Israeli high-school students returned from the Mathematics Olympics; they placed 27th out of 97 delegations. Students from Iran, by comparison, took fifth place, ahead of the Israelis by 22 spots. It is they who are enriching uranium, and it is they who will launch a satellite into space.