12 Helpful Hints for the Newly Democratic

Below, Mr. Chairman, is a list of 12 hints to get you started on the reforms that will turn the Palestinian Authority into the democracy founded on tolerance and liberty that President Bush is calling for.

Below, Mr. Chairman, is a list of 12 hints to get you started on the reforms that will turn the Palestinian Authority into the democracy founded on tolerance and liberty that President Bush is calling for:

1. Instead of trimming government ministers, as you've done, you should double and triple the number. Appoint ministers, deputy ministers, committee chairmen and so on. Give them fat salaries, fancy cars and plane tickets to foreign countries. Make sure that approximately half the parliamentarians are officeholders. This will insure that those with vested interests - think Peres and friends - will not topple the government. As your colleague Ariel Sharon, a veteran democrat, once said: "It's hard to say goodbye to deerskin seats."

2. Keep the threshold for election to parliament as low as possible - lower, even, than the percentage of votes needed to get into the Knesset. This will prompt at least 20 parties to run for election. The more small factions in parliament, the larger the government and the greater your control over them, given your skillfulness as a manipulator. Allow the Jews who stay behind in your temporary state to vote and be elected. You won't have to crush them; they'll fall apart on their own.

3. The bigger your government, the less you will have to include your ministers in your decisions. You can be the big cheese by employing that fiction known as the kitchen cabinet. In Golda's kitchen cabinet, which met in her real kitchen in Ramat Aviv, Pinhas Sapir and Israel Galili settled national affairs over a glass of tea and almonds. Sharon may offer more substantial refreshments, but he's the one who decides.

4. Keep up good relations with your Haredim - Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Ply them with generous budgets and be respectful of Sheikh Yassin. Anything so long as they die on the altar of Koran and not in Israeli population centers.

5. Even if they call you "president," be a prime minister. Turn the presidency into an honorary position and use it to lock up your most dangerous rival. In this gilded cage, as President Chaim Weizmann used to say, the only place you can stick your nose is in your handkerchief. The real dictators of the globalization era are prime ministers.

6. Turn the ambitious young guard of the Palestinian revolution, seeking to inherit your mantle, into a corps of Prince Charmings, attending parties and giving interviews until they are old and gray.

7. Joblessness may turn out to be your worst enemy. Learn from the Jews: Pay your citizens unemployment benefits and import workers from Thailand.

8. Over time, the right of return could start the pot boiling. The best way to deal with it is to place the question "Who is an Arab?" at the top of the agenda. Is the son of a Coptic mother and a Sunni father a Palestinian, or the other way around? Can the grandchild of a Palestinian be considered a returning refugee even without producing his grandfather, alive or dead?

9. Don't be afraid of establishing a bona-fide legal system like ours. With your population and our brand of efficiency, no verdict will be reached until the litigants are ready to croak. As for the High Court of Justice, Sharon will gladly give it to you as a present.

10. Make a lot of festive announcements about grand projects like a suspension bridge to Cairo, a West Bank subway system or hanging gardens between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Money and aid will pour in from all corners of the globe - a little for your non-profit associations, a little for your private democratic election fund. When it comes to implementation, as they say, God is great.

11. Be sure to establish a committee of inquiry for anything that goes wrong. There is no better trick for evading responsibility and reassigning blame for government screw-ups.

12. And most importantly, when democracy finally arrives, take off those ridiculous khakis, treat yourself to a shower and a shave, get rid of the kaffiyeh and buy a dark suit at Segal's. Short, round, elegant, amiable, bald - you'll be so different that one fine day you might find Sharon accidentally shaking your hand. And then peace will reign forever between the only two democracies in the Middle East - or in the mind of George Bush.