Slapdash and Slipshod

But the picture painted of Israel's government does reveal weakness in the leadership department and redundancy in the decision-making and implementation process.

What happens when a country finds itself with a governmental vacuum? The head of state is replaced by a player on the bench, the opposition takes over, or some authoritative De Gaulle pops up to grab the reins and put the country in order with the support of the masses. In this country, there is no worthy player on the bench, there is no genuine opposition, and there is no De Gaulle.

What we have in abundance are investigations, investigative committees and commissions of inquiry. Of course, these committees and commissions do not only probe the events of the day. They go digging in the past and try to understand why things happened the way they did. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't.

The State Comptroller's Report on the Israel Defense Forces goes several years back. Does the fact that some of our top commanders never studied at a military college explain our failure in the Lebanon war? Not necessarily. In the United States, officers go to fancy military academies. So what good has that done them? America hasn't won a war since World War II.

But the picture painted of Israel's government does reveal weakness in the leadership department and redundancy in the decision-making and implementation process.

Governments cannot tolerate a vacuum. Because a vacuum invites screw-ups and breeds oligarchs, and also promotes the growth of judicial activism beyond what is desirable in a democratic country.

Too many matters in the realm of politics and diplomacy are determined by judges. Without a constitution and a clear code for running the country, the elected government cannot act as the sovereign and exclusive shaper of government policy. Our leaders come out with their sweeping visions in time for the evening news, and "long term" means the opinion polls at the end of the week. The public is not always clued in to what is important and what is not.

So there was a screw-up and a dangerous criminal escaped from jail. It happened here, and it happens all over the world. For that we need to appoint a commission of inquiry and get rid of the police commissioner? Are we nuts? All we need to do is catch the guy and learn our lesson for the next time. You don't run a state with investigative committees. Rather, you need an elected political authority that knows how to govern and where the country is headed.

It's beyond comprehension that a government should be unable to solve the problems of the state using its own judgment. It's beyond comprehension that thousands of local council workers should be forced to work without pay for over a year. It's beyond comprehension that a government should not be able to fire its own accountant general, regardless of what kind of concrete and steel-lined contract he has.

Finding some corner of this country where everything works has become almost a mission impossible.

Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of citizens have been left without flu shots. Two million citizens do not have access to properly equipped bomb shelters. Thousands of settlers evacuated from Gush Katif are still wandering around with no jobs.

The incompetence of the civil government is intolerable. Decisions are not decisions, and appointments are made for the wrong reasons. You don't appoint a welfare minister to avoid angering someone. You don't appoint a permanent justice minister until the kiss case is closed.

Likudniks have always believed more in the power of words than in doing. Ehud Olmert gave a speech, but did he sit himself down and prepare a blueprint for the day after? Everything is slapdash and half-baked. Think about the mad rush to appoint Avigdor Lieberman minister of strategic affairs. If my guess is correct about what this job entails, we should be appalled. Now that we have a ministry "whose function is unclear," to quote Menachem Mazuz, why don't they add a "tactical coordination" ministry into the bargain?

This is no way to run a country. Investigating committees are not a substitute for wrongheaded or madcap decisions by the elected leadership.

As the Iranian nuclear threat looms on the horizon of our pseudo-government, we are racing to sharpen our nuclear fingernails.

In this department, it may be worth paying attention to the warnings of America's new secretary of defense, Robert Gates.

If America attacks Iran, he says, there may be hell to pay. Those are the words of a leader who considers the outcomes in advance - not afterwards, in a room full of investigators.

We can only hope that this lightweight, trust-me government of ours realizes that playing the independent macho man in its dealings with Iran will land Israel in front of the world's biggest commission of inquiry ever.