The national mood changes with the speed of sound, or maybe it's the speed of light. One day everyone grumbles about how tough things are - about poverty, unemployment, single motherhood, lack of personal safety, you name it. And then, overnight, this down-in-the-dumps mood switches to a great media-hyped party.
Just yesterday, they were talking about the deepening recession. Today they're talking about recovery and a halt in the economic slump. Places of entertainment are bursting at the gills, hotels are flooded with tourists, malls and stores are full of shoppers. Nearly a million Israelis will head overseas by the end of August. On a single day, 240 jam-packed passenger planes reportedly took off and landed at Ben-Gurion airport.
So what ever happened to unemployment and poverty? What ever happened to the shriveled paycheck? Even Haaretz, which beats the competition hands down when it comes to matters of finance, admitted this week in a front-page headline that "even the economists are confused."
Don't look for the answer in the wonders of the human mind. Look for it in the wonders of the hudna. This temporary cease-fire agreed upon by the militants in the territories for a period of three months has brought the color back to our cheeks. No economic recovery program could do for the marketplace what this little hudna has done.
But the relative calm achieved by the Aqaba accords is fragile, and the national mood, which is now sky-high, is skating on very thin ice.
There are a number of reasons for this. Heading the list is Abu Mazen's unwillingness to keep his pledge to disarm the terror organizations by force. And that pledge, mind you, happens to be the core of the road map. At Aqaba on June 4, Abu Mazen promised Bush, and declared publicly, that he would "invest all his efforts and use every resource to put an end to the armed intifada, and strictly and uncompromisingly stop the violence and terror." Somehow, this commitment disappeared on the way to Abu Mazen's first official visit to the White House.
In Washington, Abu Mazen and Dahlan made it absolutely clear that they had no intention of clashing with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which could get them mixed up in a civil war. "We'll do it our way," they said.
But from our standpoint, even if the truce with Hamas and Islamic Jihad is extended for another three months, the terrorist cells are still alive and well, stocking up on Qassam rockets that can reach the center of the country, testing even more deadly methods of attack, ready to renew the violence at the drop of a hat. I wouldn't be so sure it isn't in Abu Mazen's interest not to have this sword of Damocles hanging over Israel's head.
Sharon is 100 percent right in demanding a crackdown on terror as a precondition for moving ahead with the road map. He is right in not being pleased that the U.S. administration has changed its tune and is willing to live with the hudna as long as no bombs are exploding. American "discounts" like these strengthen Arafat and Hamas, weaken Abu Mazen, and could lead in the end to a brutal and bloody military confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians.
But Sharon is wrong in not being more generous and coming up with some goodies for the Palestinians, or presenting a plan that will prove to them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The trouble is that Sharon is an expert in tactics - not strategy. He has no organized political program to terminate the conflict based on withdrawal to the `67 borders, with slight adjustments that the United States and the world would be willing to support. As someone who was born and bred in Kfar Malal, Sharon's basic approach to problem-solving is that of the farmer: plow, sow and wait.
In the screw-up and myopia department, Churchill's famous quip about America applies to both Israel and the Palestinians: "They always do the right thing - after they've exhausted all the alternatives."
Thin ice, we said? To that assessment, I would add a little recommendation: Don't be in too much of a rush to fire the security guards.
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