Blaming It All on Arafat

Instead of being creative and innovative in coming up with a solution to the national crisis, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon trudges about in the existing rutted path.

The defense establishment says it is currently providing the state and its citizens with the optimal level of security in the face of Palestinian terrorism. What they mean to say is that given the current constraints and the government trying to avoid waging an all-out war against the Palestinian Authority and escalating the conflict to something beyond a regional one, the combination of assassinations, bombings, closures and raids is the most effective prescription currently available to Israel to combat the attacks.

The Israel Defense Forces estimates that the sum total of these methods used by Israel foils some 90 percent of terrorist activity. This means the state has been sentenced to continue living for an indefinite time with the level of deaths and injuries seen recently, and the deep oppressiveness that comes with it.

This evaluation explains the prime minister's declaration last week that Israel has found the way to deal with terrorism. Ariel Sharon believes the state and its citizens should grit their teeth and adjust to the harsh reality that Palestinian terror throws them into from time to time, while taking comfort from the fact that the number of casualties and the level of disruption to daily life is only 10 percent of the terror's fatal potential.

This attitude assumes that this harsh reality is a decree of fate and is the result of Yasser Arafat's scheming and swindling. What the prime minister is asking of the public is to come together, and not to complain about the situation nor undermine the government's policies. He uses the reaction of the American public to the September 11 attacks and the administration's response to it as a model example.

Sharon is not the only one. Other ministers too, each one within the confines of his office, tend to hang the blame for their ministerial misery on external factors, topped off by Arafat. The financial ministers declare that the security crisis currently facing the nation, whose origins lie in Arafat's treachery, is the principal cause of the budgetary plight (along with the negative developments in the global market).

The rest of the ministers, including those charged with overseeing assistance to the weaker strata of society, also cling to reasons beyond their portfolios (budget problems, an inflexible treasury and the like) to explain the sub-standard operation of their offices, and they too point at Arafat as the chief villain.

The ministers' area of enterprise is undoubtedly influenced by the basic conditions in which they operate and clearly the security crisis in which the country is currently mired significantly influences its economic vitality. But even once this is taken into account, there is room to question the completeness with which the ministers accept the situation.

They were elected to innovate, to improve, to leave a mark, and not merely to add their signature to a divine ruling, so to speak, that sentences the state to stagnation and atrophy during this period.

But moreover, beyond each one's responsibility for the area covered by his office, the question arises as to why there are not enough voices challenging the essence of the passive basic understanding which accepts this harsh reality as it is.

Sharon points to the Oslo Accords as the source of the evil engulfing this country. He explains his failures as prime minister (in defense, the economy, development, welfare services) by pointing to the mess he received from his predecessor. After almost a year in the job, this explanation is once again unconvincing: Sharon has had enough time to alter the situation from its foundations upward, as he saw fit.

But instead of being creative and innovative in coming up with a solution to the national crisis, he trudges about in the existing rutted path. He is not trying to bring the conflict to a military decision, or alternatively, to a diplomatic solution which will put an end to the hostility. He makes do with maintaining the status quo, and the results speak for themselves: The situation is deteriorating.

According to the logic used by Sharon and the rest of his ministers, it does not matter one iota who fills their positions: The external conditions are so rigidly set that it is impossible to alter them, no matter who heads the state. And after all, the majority of the public chose Ariel Sharon, and not Shas MK Yitzhak Gagula, to manage the state's affairs, believing his personality and outlook have a deciding role in shaping their lives.