International Papers

Lost Leaders

The bodies continue to pile up in the Middle East: As many as 21 Israelis have been murdered since Saturday, while Israeli forces have killed at least 45 Palestinians during the same time frame. The Israeli public, which, as Ha’aretz observed, “has grown accustomed to a chronicle of terrorist attacks and death,” was particularly shaken by the weekend’s losses: An entire family was wiped out in a suicide bombing Saturday, and on Sunday, a sniper shot and killed seven Israeli soldiers and three civilians at an isolated checkpoint in the territories. As the violence intensifies, Israelis are losing patience with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: According to a survey published last Friday by Ma’ariv, 61 percent of Israelis believe Sharon has failed to deliver on his promise of security; 68 percent feel the situation is worse than it was when he came to office; and only 27 percent expect things to improve in the year ahead.

In an editorial headlined “Heading for a Crash,” Ha’aretz fretted that without strong leadership, the vicious circle of violence will continue to spin out of control. “Yasser Arafat and … Sharon are doing nothing to end the mass killings. Arafat has in effect stopped trying to call a cease-fire and he creates the impression of being in a kind of daze in the face of the difficult price his nation is paying. Sharon is a prisoner of his own idee fixe—that more aggressive actions will attain calm for the nation.” Britain’s Guardian agreed: “On both sides, the victims of this latest bout of blood-letting are the victims of failed, incompetent and self-serving leadership. Both sides, both nations, both peoples deserve better than this.”

The Jerusalem Post compared Israel to “a car in an intersection getting hit from all sides. The required decision is, of course, to get the car out of the intersection to one side or the other, but definitely not to leave it there.” Another Post editorial urged the government to get tough since “acting helplessly will surely cause terror to continue and to escalate.” It continued:

The cardinal rule of the post-September 11 world order being established by US President George W. Bush is that the price of supporting terrorism is regime change. In the case of Yasser Arafat, Sharon and Bush hoped they could make a temporary exception, in order to go after an even bigger fish—Saddam Hussein. But maintaining a pre-September 11 enclave of tolerance for terrorism, even temporarily, does not contribute to this larger fight and in fact could threaten it.