Judah Maccabee He's Not

The gap between Sharon the legend - one of his friends calls him Judah Maccabee - and his performance as a leader, is about as big as an ocean. Ten months into Sharon's term, one cannot point to a single achievement.

There's a new word in fashion nowadays, and that word is "strategic." Strategic change, strategic decision, strategic strike, strategic bombing, strategic threat, and, of course, strategic debate (of which there has been none since this government came to power). They've learned a knockout of a word but we're still here to tell the tale.

The only strategy the Sharon government can boast of is no strategy at all. We have no leader and no leadership. This elephant, with its 40 ministers and deputy ministers, and a parliamentary majority of 84 mandates, is actually waging a war of attrition against its own citizens. From every possible perspective, we are being pushed off a cliff. This administration is not functioning in any sphere: not defense, not economy, not social welfare, not foreign policy.

From its inception, Israel has been fending off military attacks and terrorist bombs. But this has not kept past governments from persisting in the dream and turning Israel into a modern country in all respects, to the point where nations large and small court us and seek our assistance in every field. Any logical human being can see that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved any time soon. There is no hocus pocus that can end the struggle - not on the battlefield and not at the negotiating table.

So what does this mean? That forever after, we will spend our days bombing and retaliating and encircling and pouring more fuel on the fire set by Arafat? What about the other problems in this country?

Ten months into Sharon's term, one cannot point to a single achievement. Rabin, in his first year, which wasn't a raving success, at least built overpasses to unsnarl the country's traffic. Sharon has nothing to offer: not inspiration, not wisdom, not even a national agenda. With the nostalgia typical of people his age, he wings back into the days when he was a determined young officer. The military operations inspired by him are magnified copies of small-scale operations he once led. But the outcome is the same: Nothing has changed and nothing has been solved. The atmosphere in this country has never been so depressing. "Things can't go on this way" is today's mantra.

The gap between Sharon the legend - one of his friends calls him Judah Maccabee - and his performance as a leader, is about as big as an ocean. Over the year, Sharon has made a series of peculiar decisions, from declaring Arafat irrelevant to endorsing operations that are more acts of revenge than the product of long-range strategic thinking.

Maj. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon has hinted that Israel may reoccupy territory handed over to the PA. Is the move into Tul Karm a portent of things to come? Where is it leading? To the expulsion of Arafat? The establishment of cantons surrounded by barbed wire? Total destruction?

The fact that Arafat is a bag of trouble doesn't mean we don't need an agenda of our own. It is doubtful that Sharon himself has any idea where he is going, much less the government, which only knows what it reads in the papers. Sharon rarely speaks to the people, and for good reason. Once he said "taxes will not be raised - that's a promise." On another occasion, he said the time had come to lead with determination and not back down on the budget. He didn't keep either vow. Now we have higher taxes and a budget that caters to vested interests. The disabled have simply chosen the wrong strategy: All they have to do is join Shas and register at a yeshiva.

There were times when the economic situation in this country was very bad. We went through a period of austerity when people could barely make ends meet. But our leaders set an example. An Mapai MK who built himself a villa (by the standards of those days) was expelled from the party. Today the stink of money rises from the top. Those who sit in the Knesset and work in the public sector are high-salaried executives with fancy cars and exclusive pension plans, living in the lap of luxury.

Amid this orgy of cynicism, is it any wonder that bitterness is overflowing? The Labor party, unable to come up with an alternative strategy, trails after Sharon, who has no plan to speak of. The government is too cumbersome to function properly. Personal survival and sectorial interests are all. Failure cries out, no matter where you look.