1. The default option
You know what I would expect of Ariel Sharon? That he get up one fine day and tell the public in no uncertain terms that he has nothing to hide from the police. And if they call him in for questioning, that he not reserve the right to keep silent, but answer all the questions they ask him, to prove that he isn't involved in any criminal dealings and has nothing to cover up. But that's pretty much a pipe dream, and here's why: Sharon is Israel's national Teflon man.
Surveys published in two of the weekend newspapers revealed that most of respondents believe the Sharon family is concealing something from the police, that Gilad's insistence on pleading the Fifth is fishy, and that Sharon himself is mixed up in corruption and gets low marks in the honesty department. Nevertheless, the majority of Israelis are satisfied with Sharon's performance as prime minister.
This has been a recurrent phenomenon over the past year. People were not happy with the economy, did not feel personally safe and disapproved of the way Sharon handled himself in virtually every sphere. But even after getting an "F" in nearly everything, most of the public was willing to give Sharon a passing grade as prime minister.
In Israel, contrary to the norms in civilized countries, there is not always a correlation between poor performance, unethical conduct and popularity. This is because, first of all, we have no opposition, and second of all, there is no one in our meager stock of leaders who is genuine prime minister material. Sharon is the default option.
2. The semifinals
The hudna has already reached the semifinals and nothing good has happened yet. All we can say is that the time is flying and the Palestinians haven't done the most important thing they've been asked to do, by Israel and the U.S. administration, which is to disarm the terror organizations. And what makes that so important? Because we're talking about a really tight schedule here. The road map calls for a Palestinian state with temporary borders by the end of the year, and a Palestinian state with permanent borders by the end of 2005.
If dismantling the terror organizations is tough, let the Palestinians ask for an extension, or explain to us how they intend to go about achieving a one government/one army administration. Without snuffing out these organizations, the road map will not be implemented. Because if the Palestinian Authority, which claims to be ripe and ready to establish a state, is not capable of carrying out its very first commitment, Israel's right-wing extremists will have an excuse not to withdraw to the `67 borders or evacuate settlements. Israel can't shut its eyes while the terror organizations are enjoying a breather to organize and build up their strength.
Sharon and Bush are right to stick to their guns and insist that the Palestinians confront their own Altalena. If the central government can't get a handle on the terror organizations, the region is marching to hell with its eyes wide open.
3. A privatized government
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from Senderowitz, Rinkov, Hemed and Associates, a Ramat Gan law firm, demanding that within 10 days I pay two old parking tickets issued in Herzliya, NIS 70 apiece, which had meanwhile swelled to NIS 931. If I did not comply, I would be subject to punitive measures such as having my car impounded, my household appliances seized, and a lien placed on my salary and bank accounts.
Before I had time to figure out what was flying, namely who gave a law office in Ramat Gan the right to threaten me with the seizure of my property with no possibility of appeal, Minister Meir Sheetrit announced that as part of a revolution in the tax collection system, the state is planning to use lawyers as debt collectors in return for a 10-20 percent cut of whatever monies they recover. To do the job, they will have access to the bailiffs' office and other means of enforcement that until now have only been used by the state.
If confiscating property, breaking into homes and impounding cars by the state haven't done the trick, what will these private debt collection companies do? Break arms? Booby-trap cars like they do in the Mafia? And once they're privatizing branches of the government, why not privatize the income tax authorities, the army and the police? In fact, why not have a law firm take over the operation of the whole government?
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