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The captain has to go
By Yoel Marcus

It's not an easy thing to say that the prime
minister is at a crossroads, fast approaching his
last stop. It's no lightheaded matter to say that
the prime minister, wildly applauded at the
opening of the General Assembly of the United
Jewish Communities of North America now in session
in Jerusalem, has failed in his job of leading the
country.



But these nice people from the
GA will be going home in a
few days and the problem will
remain in our laps - a prime
minister with no vision, no
plan, no horizon; a prime
minister who has brought the
country to where it is now
and stands at a critical
juncture where he is doing
more harm than good, no longer capable or
worthy of manning the controls.

From this omelet, we'll never get an egg.

At the end of Sharon's third year in office,
Israel's standing - here and abroad - has taken
a turn for the worse. At various symposia, the
question of whether its establishment was a
mistake has become a popular topic. From the
first intifada, waged with stones and
slingshots, we have reached the point where
people are asking if Israel will still be a
Jewish state 30 years from now. Surveys in
Europe show that Israel is perceived as a
threat to world peace, the root of the problem.
It's only a matter of time before it is saddled
with all-out responsibility for global terror.

Sharon and his oversized presence have blocked
out every last ray of light.

An interview with four former chiefs of the Shin
Bet security service in Yedioth Ahronoth's
weekend magazine presented a powerful
indictment against Sharon. The very fact that
this damning article was printed in a newspaper
read by a large proportion of
Arik-King-of-Israel fans goes to show that the
ground is ripe for criticism.

Under the headline, "We fear for Israel's
survival," Yaakov Peri says the state is going
downhill and hurtling toward catastrophe in
every possible sphere. To continue living by
the sword is to destroy ourselves. Avraham
Shalom says it's time to admit once and for all
that there is another side and we are treating
it shamefully. Israel is courting disaster.
Carmi Gillon says the country is going from bad
to worse, preoccupied more with preventing the
next terror attack than finding a solution to
the whole rotten mess. Ami Ayalon says the
problem is loss of hope. The fact that neither
the Palestinians nor the Israelis foresee a
better future is a consequence of what we are
doing today, and that's the worst thing of
all.

Statements of this kind are not new. They have
been appearing in Haaretz for years, and now
they're cropping up more and more among the
general public. The importance of this
interview is that four heads of the security
services are talking to the people and calling
a spade a spade.

Sharon did nothing to help Abu Mazen with an
initiative that might have strengthened him
vis-a-vis Arafat, thereby hastening his
downfall. What he got instead was an
administration that won't wiggle an eyebrow
without Arafat's permission.

The question now is how will Sharon treat Abu
Ala. To shore him up, Sharon should be making
gestures - not telling him what to do. He
should be lifting blockades, easing
restrictions on the population, freeing
prisoners and, most importantly, moving to
dismantle illegal outposts as a prelude to
evacuating settlements. Washington is warning
Israel that if Abu Ala loses his job because of
us, all hell will break loose. On the other
hand, Israel will be heavily pressured to carry
out its part in the road map if Abu Ala does
manage to curb terror.

But Sharon has no political plan. From the look
of things, he's trying to insure that none of
those "painful concessions" rear their head
while he's on duty. With his escapist policies,
Sharon is like a radar-evading plane. The man
is a serial shirker when it comes to keeping
his promises to bring peace and security.

There are no signs that he intends to change
this policy of marching in place, as if
somehow, time will smooth out the wrinkles. But
looking at the deteriorating
economic-social-defense situation, the grim
national mood and Sharon's unwillingness to
present any kind of platform or vision, time is
clearly working against us.

As Ayalon astutely observed: "When the captain
doesn't know where he's heading, no wind in the
world will get him there."

There is only one thing we can say to a captain
like this who endangers his ship and his
passengers, and it is not said lightly: Go
home.
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