Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obama's learning curve

The Obama Administration appears to be undergoing a change, from the idealistic "yes, we can" beginning, when they had a plan for everything, to a more realistic "maybe, we might be able too."
They made serious mistakes in their Mid-East policy, in their approach to Iran, and in their domestic policy, particularly the Health Care Plan.
Their initial approach to the Mid-East was to declare that the Israel-Palestine dispute was the cause of all other problems, and in order to gain points with the Arabs, they took essentially the Palestinian/ Arab line, that Israel must be pressured to make concessions. But, in a way Obama was unlucky, if he had come to power while Olmert was still there or even Sharon, he might have been able to achieve his goal. But, he came to power simultaneously with Bibi Netanyahu who was riding a right-wing wave of the Israeli electorate against Israeli concessions without Arab reponses. So after months of negotiations with Netanyahu, Obama did get a partial freeze, or actually a complete freeze on settlement building, excluding Jerusalem, since Jerusalem is not a "settlement" but has been annexed to Israel. But, this was not enough to satisfy the Arabs, they thought that Obama would be able to deliver Israel, and since he could not they refused to make any reciprocal concessions, no recognition of Israel and no compromise whatsoever., Further the Palestinians have made a complete building freeze a precondition for the restarting of any negotiations. So Obama was stymied. In order to restart negotitions he is having to make a fresh start with both sides.
With Iran he wanted to try his "engagement" policy. Any reasonably intelligent person could have told him it wouldn't work! It is clear that the Iranian regime has set its heart on being the hegemonic power in the Middle East, and this requires them to develop nuclear weapons, which they are rapidly trying to do. So while Obama was being nice to the Iranians, showing them "respect" they were building a new secret uranium enrichment site in a Revolutionary Guard facility (nothing peaceful about it). Further, while the Iranian people were demonstrating and rioting against the regime after the stolen election, Obama did nothing. Only now that the Iranians have made him look foolish with their admission of the secret facility (and what else?) and the Iranian opposition continues to demonstrate and riot, has he finally decided that his policy is a failure and so after the New Year he is going to bring serious sanctions against Iran (!).
In Health Care, he expected to be able to introduce his own bill and push it through Congress. No chance! Not only did the Democrats make their own bills, but the Republicans resisted fiercely, and finally the Bill that is coming out is a far cry from what Obama initially wanted. Yes, it extends basic health care to millions of poor Americans, but how this is all going to work out, in terms of the economics and the coverage, remains to be seen.
This is what you get when you elect a young, idealistic President, who is learning on the job. In 2010 we expect to see a different Obama, less overtly ambitious and more pragmatic. His acceptance address to the Nobel Prize Committee was already expressing that mode, admitting that in some cases military action is necessary and there are "Just" wars. In the wake of the failed attempt to blow up a US airplane he may even admit that the "violent extremists" are actually Islamic terrorists.

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Iran unraveling?

The continuing riots in Iran after the death and funeral of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, and the current 40-day period of the Ashura festival of mourning (over the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed) that is specific to Shia Islam, may signal the beginning of the unravelling of the Iranian regime.
After the election six months ago, that was apparently fixed by the regime, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Pres. Ahmedinejad, supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its strike force the Basij, the anti-regime rioting seemed to have died down. This was partly as a result of the arrest and repression of the opposition. But, now it has flared up again following the death of Montazeri, a respected religious leader who has recently been criticizing the "dictatorship."
Whether it will continue and whether or not it will cause the downfall of the current Iranian regime is unknown. There are powerful forces at play. Iran is predominantly a young country, the average age has gone down significantly and the majority of Iranians no longer remember the revolution brought about by Ayatollah Khomenei more than 30 years ago. The current repression and backwardness of the regime has caused a major shift in loyalty of the Iranian population. The regime has declared a state of emergency over the continued rioting, and during the rioting at least 5 people have been killed and hundreds injured. It is now a matter of time before there is a major clash that will tell the outcome of the uprising.
There is of course a lot at stake. For the Revolutionary Guard, it is not only political considerations, but they now contol a major part of the Iranian economy and so there are billions of dollars worth of property and industry at stake. For the regime, the issue at stake is whether or not there can be a Supreme Leader who can dictate terms to the rest of society and limit the democratic process.
But, before we in Israel and the West start to celebrate this possible overthrow of the Khamanei/ Ahmedinejad Government, we should be aware that this is a clash between an ultraconservative regime and its conservative opposition. While freedom of choice is indeed involved, the opposition is by no means liberal and democratic. If the regime were indeed overthrown, the likelihood that the opposition would continue to develop nuclear weapons is indeed high..
The response of the Obama Administration to the riots after the elections was very cool. In fact, the White House statement at the time mentioned the "respect" that the Adminsitration had for the regime. Now a much stronger statement was issued that criticizes the regime's "violent and unjust oppression of the civilian population." The West is collectively holding it breath and waiting to see whether or not the opposition has the staying power to really overthrow the regime. If so then we can look for an improvement in the situation, but to what extent remains to be seen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Airplane security

The US Secty of Home Security, Janet Napolitano, quickly changed her tune. After first saying that the flight security systems had worked, she did an about-face after 24 hours and admitted that they had in fact failed. The question is how did (1) a Nigerian Muslim, (2) who was known to UK and US intelligence as a security risk, (3) who was on several watch lists, (4) who had been reported as a risk by his own father a month before, (5) who had journeyed to Yemen, (6) who had tried to enter the UK on false pretenses and had been refused entry, (7) who paid cash, (8) who had no luggage and (9) despite all the security checks at Amsterdam's Schipol airport when he was carrying an explosive device, how on earth did he manage to get aboard a plane bound for the USA???
The answer is of course the lack of "profiling"! If he had been identified as a young male Muslim on a watch list he should have immediately been denied entry. But, because the US authorities won't use targeted profiling, but prefer to stick to random testing, they will never catch the most likely terrorists.
Is it any surprise that Janet Napolitano is now visiting Israel, to see how security is handled here. If anyone has gone thru an Israeli airport check, and been questioned closely by young earnest security agents, they know very well the difference between that experience and the usual American case. In America they make you take off your shoes, they search each third person at random, they ask questions but without any earnestness, and they are often low paid undereducated trainees, who spend a lot of time chatting at the X-ray machines, where you get the impression that they wouldn't see a gun even if it passed before their noses.
The main difference is not only in the procedure, in other words most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims, so first concentrate on them and that will net you 90% of them. The fact that the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, was denied entry to a plane at Ben Gurion airport, but was allowed to board a trans-Atlantic plane at London, I think shows the difference. But, the main difference is the personnel. In Israel they are often military conscripts who are trained and who are doing their military service by ensuring that no terrorist gets aboard a plane at BG airport. Also, due to profiling they deny entry to anyone who raises the slightest suspicion.
Its true that the US is a lot bigger than Israel and has many airports, but if the Israeli approach were adopted at all airports that feed passengers into the US, that would cut down greatly on the possibilty of a terrorist getting aboard. But, you can never prevent every possibility.
For example, this time the Nigerian Muslim Abdulmuttallab had an explosive/incendiary device that was purely chemical and had no electrical components. But, it could have been detected in a body search, a full body X-ray check or a chemical detector system that they have at many airports. These systems must become routine at all major airports. And they needn't slow down entry or inconvenience passengers. They must be thorough without being slow and obtrusive.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oil and water

Last week two major announcements were made in Israel, the discovery of oil deposits at Rosh Ha'ayin and the opening of the taps at the largest water desalination plant in the world at Hadera.
Rosh Ha'ayin means "head of the spring" because this place has water bubbling out of the earth thru a fault between the coastal plain and the Samarian hills. So this is the kind of place where prospectors also search for oil, and lo and behold they found some. It is not clear at the time of writing that the amount is sufficiently large to make a big difference, but the announcement certainly has caused a sharp rise in the value of the shares of the company, they shot up 220% in a day.
Due to the lack of sufficient water, especially fresh water, due to the continuing drought conditions in Israel over the past 5 years, Israel is in dire need of a source of fresh water. There are processes for treating used water to be applied to farming and gardening. But, a plan has been implemented to build three large desalination plants near the coast, and this week the first one started functioning. The first drops of fresh water was fed into the national water carrier purely from desalination. The plant near Hadera is the largest desalination plant in the world, and two more are under construction.
What is desalination? It is the process of removing salt, generally sodium chloride, from water in order to make it potable. To do this, saline is passed thru what are called ion-exchangers, large columns of material that is negatively charged. The ions of sodium are stripped from the water and become attached to the column and are bound there while the water itself flows through. Of course, this process takes energy, for the pumps that must be used to pass the water through the columns, as well as the process of regenerating the columns after they have absorbed their quota of sodium. This is an expensive process, and so the cost of desalinated water is higher than that of water that wells spontaneously from the ground or falls as rain, and the consumers of course have to pay for this. But, when you have too little water, the cost is not too high.
Although oil and water don't mix, Israel needs both of them separately.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Israeli escalation?

The news media are reporting that IDF forces killed 6 Palestinians on the West Bank on Saturday, and Palestinian sources are labelling this an Israeli escalation. But, this is not correct, three were killed on the West Bank in Nablus and three near the border in Gaza in seperate incidents.
The three killed in Nablus were responsible for the shooting death of Rabbi Meir Chai on Thursday, probably timed to coincide with the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. IDF forces tracked the perpetrators to a house in Nablus that is a center of Fatah-Tanzim activities, and surrounded it and called on them to surrender. Fire was exchanged and in the shooting the three terrorists were killed. The men were identified as Raed Sukarji (38), Ghassan Abu Sharkh (39), and Anan Subih (40). The wife of one of them was wounded and she was later helicoptered to hospital. No IDF soldiers were injured and a cache of weapons was found in the house. None of the media accounts I have seen so far mention the prior shooting of the Israeli near Nablus as the cause of this reaction.
The three killed near the Gaza border with Israel were armed terrorists attempting to inflitrate across the border. They were detected and shot at, then a helicopeter gunship was called in and they were killed. The two incidents have nothing to do with each other, except perhaps being attempts by both Hamas and Fatah to commemorate the start of Operation Cast Lead with attacks. By doing so they were trying to send a message of militancy to their Palestinian constituencies. This had nothing to do with an Israeli escalation, but does show Israel's deterrent capability.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas?

Last night, an Israeli, Meir Chai (45) father of 7, was shot dead while driving home in the northern West Bank region of Samaria. This was the fourth Israeli murder in a year in the West Bank, which the Yesha Settler's Council attribute to the removal of IDF checkpoints and the transfer of military control from the IDF to Palestinian Security Forces. The Israeli Government is prepared to spend so much of its political and security capital to release Gilad Schalit, while it allows the conditions for killing other Israelis to increase.
Pres. Abbas of the PA, whose position now is essentially illegal according to PA law due to the cancellation of the January elections, has said he is against terrorism, but so did his predecessaor who chose him, Yasir Arafat. And Abbas has found every excuse to avoid negotiating with PM Netanyahu, producing new preconditions when his precondition of a settlement freeze was accepted. French Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy is planning another Mid-East Conference in the New Year in order to try to persuade Abbas to re-enter negotiations with Netanyahu.
Meanwhile there is even more uncertainty in Israeli politics than usual. Six members of the Kadima Party have announced that they intend to leave the Party and maybe join Likud. This caused opposition leader and Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni to issue a harsh statement criticising Netanyahu for deliberately poaching her members and trying to split her party. Netanyahu countered by inviting Livni to a meeting and then reiterating his offer for Kadima to join his coalition. Kadima seems unstable, although it has the largest number of seats of any party, 28, it is rife with dissension, maybe because as a centrist party it is an unnatural amalgam of leftists and rightists, and the latter are feeling that they would prefer to be in the Government with Bibi. So at present the future of this party founded only 8 years ago by Ariel Sharon is in the balance.
While Christmas passes hardly noticed in Israel, nevertheless the festivities go on as usual in Bethlehem. A group of 30 Palestinian Christian pilgrms from Gaza were allowed to cross Israeli territory to attend Mass in Bethlehem, and they found it more difficult to get permission from the fundamentalist Muslim Hamas Government in Gaza than from the Jewish Israeli Government. If there is a genuine message of peace it is hard to hear it above the noise..

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Humanitarian crisis?

What is the alternative to exchanging 1,000 convicted Palestinian terrorists for Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Apart from trying to rescue him, which could be very dangerous, Israel could cut off all supplies to Gaza and then say, "no supplies until you release our hostage!"
There is a great downside to such a policy, namely that Hamas will continue to hold Schalit and people in Gaza will start to starve or die and Israel will be accused of causing a humanitarian crisis.
But, we have already been accused by a consortium of 16 so-called human rights organizations in the UK of just that, that we are not supplying "enough" to Gaza to stop their suffering. It appears that this claim is more politically motivated against Israel than intended as a humanitarian gesture. They never seem to have enough space or time to criticize Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, for getting them in that situation in the first case.
Maybe Israel could supply more. But, the real question is why is Israel supposed to subsidize and keep our enemy alive, why exactly are we supplying food, water, petrol, medical supplies and electricity to Gaza when it is governed by a terrorist organization sworn to our destruction. Would they do the same if the situaton were reversed?
Also, Israel is not alone in blockading Gaza, in fact the Egyptians have a much more complete blockade, they don't allow any food or other supplies to enter Gaza officially, although an enormous amount, as well as armaments and military supplies, enter Gaza thru the tunnels that honeycomb the Egypt-Gaza border.
Finally, the Egyptian Government is doing something about this problem, they are installing a metal barrier buried in the ground along the border in order to prevent the tunnelling. As a result Hamas has officially complained to Egypt and there have been Palestinian demonstations against Egypt at the border. But, the human rights organizations fail to criticize Egypt, a fellow-Arab country, for denying Gazans the right to obtain basic supplies for survival, they only blame Israel. I haven't seen a single complaint against Egypt for building a "wall." What one-sided, biased and prejudiced criticism of Israel.
So, to return to the original point, a real blockade of Gaza might be a better way to try to force the release of Gilad Schalit than releasing 1,000 terrroist murderers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Exchanging Schalit

After several late night sessions the Israeli inner Cabinet have nearly come to a decision to accept the deal with Hamas in exchange for Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Except that the hold-up is that they don't want released terrorists to be allowed to return to the West Bank, where they can stir up trouble again. It seems that the Cabinet members have overcome their concern for releasing nearly 1,000 terrorist prisoners, actually convicts, many of whom still have to finish long sentences and including many who have Israeli blood on their hands.
Even though all Israelis would like to see Schalit restored to his family after over 3 years in captivity in Gaza, I and many others are against such a deal, for the following reasons:
1. It is known that terrorists previously released in such deals have returned to active terrorism and have killed ca. 108 Israelis in 10 years.
2. The sheer number is obscene, yes an Israeli is worth 1,000 Palestinians, but releasing such a large number will flood Palestinian society with extremists.
3. Releasing terrorists in exchange for Israeli hostages will only encourage Hamas and other terrorist groups to take Israeli soldiers hostage in future in order to release more terrorist convicts.
4. Releasing prisoners with blood on their hands makes a mockery of the Israeli judicial system which gave them severe sentences for the murders they committed.
5. Such an exchange shows that the emotional appeal of parents and family supersedes considerations of state, in other words the family's interests trumps society's interests.
6. Whatever happened to the Israeli policy that we never negotiate with terrorists.
Finally, the Jewish morality of redeeming captives, which is a religious charge and which unfortunately has had to be done many times in our history, is not appropriate here. Now we have a state and any soldier who puts on the IDF uniform and goes into battle accepts a certain risk of losing his life and/or being captured. Of course, he/she should expect the IDF and the State to do everything reasonable to recover them alive. But at the cost of another 100 dead Israelis, who is prepared to take that risk? Also, there is no doubt that this deal with Hamas will empower them relative to Pres. Abbas of Fatah in the West Bank, who is supposed to be our "peace partner." If the Government decides to go ahead with this deal (500 prisoners when Schalit is released and 500 afterwards), then after the euphoria of the release of Schalit wears off, and the celebrations in Gaza are over, the upsurge in terrorism and the death of the first Israeli at the hands of a released terrorist will cause Netanyahu to lose much support.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rachel the poetess

To say that Jews are supportive of Israel and that some are nationalistic is commonplace. But, it doesn't go anywhere near the true feelings of love that many of us have for our Land.
How many of those who demonstrate against Israel's "right to exist" know anything, know about for example Rachel Bluwstein, known as Rachel the poetess (Rachel hamishoreret), one of the first poets in the renascent Hebrew language.
Rachel was born in 1890 in Russia, the grand-daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Kiev. At the age of 19 she went on a tour intending to go to Europe, but came first to what was then the Turkish province of South Syria, but to her was Eretz Yisrael. She immediately fell in love with the under-developed, rural country and spent the rest of her life here.
She had written poetry in Russian, but here wrote in Hebrew, which was quite novel at the time and she wrote beautiful, simple, evocative, lyrical poetry which is still widely read. For most of her early stay she lived at Kibbutz Kinneret on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.. She did not marry and had no children, but she wrote some beautiful love songs, and one of her lovers was Zalman Rubashov, who later became as Zalman Shazar the third President of the State of Israel.
On a trip to France in 1913, due to WWI she could not return to Eretz Yisrael and returned to Russia instead until after the war. But she contracted TB there and after her return in 1919 was unable to work. Eventually she retired to a sanatorium near Tel Aviv and lived there writing poetry until her death in 1931 at the age of 40. Apart from the lyrical beauty of her verse, expressing regret, solitude and longing, she wrote poems that have become classical Hebrew songs, such as the immortal "Perhaps" or "Kinneret sheli" (my Kinneret).

Perhaps (1927)

Perhaps all this never was,
Perhaps I never rose at dawn to till
The garden by the sweat of my brow?

Nor even on long burning harvest days
Atop a sheaf-laden cart
Raised my voice in song?

Never purified myself in the quiet blue and innocence
Of my Kinneret,

Oh Kinneret,
did you truly exist?
Or were you only a dream?

For a really nice performance on You-Tube:

To those who argue the pros and cons of the Israeli-Arab conflict in purely political or moral terms, you are missing a lot. Listen to the performance and think again, there is so much you don't understand.

(This article was inspired by the moving performance of "Perhaps," at our weekly Monday Shearim concert by soprano Maya Gutman, an immigrant from Russia).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Environmental equality

As part of the Copenhagen deal on the environment the Sahara nations demanded that the northern nations supply them with their excess water, so that their people will not suffer the effects of drought. After all is it fair that some nations have excess water and some have too little. The Scandinavian nations led by Norway agreed that in principle this was correct, they could not bear to see human suffering when it could be alleviated. So they have agreed to a 10 billion euro deal to build a water pipeline from the tip of Norway to the coast of Libya, from where the water will be distributed to neighboring countries. Initially water will be delivered by tankers and trucks until the massive pipeline is completed in 2025.
In the end it is conceived that all men will be equal and that the rich counties will share their wealth and their water with the poor countries. So eventually, around 2050, the Sahara will be "greened" and the local inhabitants will throw off their dashikis and turbans and run around in skimpy swimming trunks under the sprinklers, just like Norwegians, and in the end everyone will be the same!
Of course, the above is not true, but the outcome of the climate conference in Copenhagen sounds very much like this. The poor countries, some of them extensive polluters, like India, will be paid a huge sum amounting to billions of dollars to repay them for the damage and suffering that has resulted from global warming due to the industialization of the rich countries. But, the situation is getting to be farcical...Iran is demanding that the West repay it for the restoration of the Shah that took place in 1953, the Sudanese President, Head of the developing countries bloc at the UN, compared the environmental damage done by the West to the Holocaust, and Pres Chavez of Venzuela called all such repayment schemes an American plot.
Certainly there is a danger that some poor low-lying countries like Fiji and Bangladesh will be flooded in the future and their people will be in danger. But, if the rich countries became rich by industrializing why should they pay for this unanticipated phenomenon, surely they can voluntarily pay to help people avoid drowning in specific cases, but why they should pay an indemnity as if they carried out some criminal act. The Copenhagen Conference will not only be remembered as a turning point for the world tackling global warming, but also as the beginning of the blackmail by the world's poorest countries of the richest ones to assuage their conscience at despoiling the earth.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


The Hesder Yeshiva program is a joint program of the IDF and the yeshiva movement that was approved by the IDF in order to ensure that young men who are Orthodox could continue their religious training program while also serving in the IDF. Of course, many of these religious Jews are very Zionistic and patriotic to the State of Israel and often they are superb soldiers. However, a problem arises if their religious authorities differ from IDF policy.
A case in point is the military support for the Government's decision to enforce the 10-month freeze on building in the West Bank. Since the settlements are mainly religious and since the settlers are physically trying to prevent the implementation of the freeze, this puts the religious soldiers in a bind, since they do not want to enforce such a policy. What makes this even more difficult is that some rabbis have come out publicly against the freeze and have encouraged religious soldiers to disobey their orders.
The issue came to a head when the Head of one of the Hesder Yeshivas, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, came out openly and advised soldiers to disobey their orders to enforce the freeze. Note that these are legal orders, they are not immoral or unethical in that no life is being taken or threatened. Refusal to obey a legal order can result in court martial and dismissal of the soldier from the IDF.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is ultimately in charge of the Hesder program, then removed Melamed's Har BrachaYeshiva from that program. This caused the Head of the Hesder movement to step in and try to bring about a compromise. Otherwise it looked as if the whole program might be discontinued. As of now Rabbi Melamed has somewhat climbed down and issued a statement making a distinction between a military order based on political considerations and a religious requirement. There is no doubt that the Army will not allow religious authorities to interefere in correct military practice. A meeting is to be held today by 50 Hesder yeshiva heads to discuss the situation.
Note that when the disengagement from Gaza took place, religious soldiers obeyed orders with very few exceptions, so there is no reason why they can't do this now. Also, it is axiomatic that all soldiers whatever their personal opinions must obey military orders. However, it might be better if the police were used to enforce the freeze rather than using conscript soldiers.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Livni's reprieve

The threat to arrest Tzipi Livni if she landed in England this week is an abomination. The warrant was issued by a judge in a local court at the request of a Palestinian, charging Livni with "war crimes" because she was a member of the Olmert Government when Operation Cast Lead took place in Gaza in 2008. Fortunately she was forewarned and cancelled her trip, although she said it was cancelled for other reasons. It is obviously a misuse of the "general jurisdiction" power that British courts have in cases of human rights abuses elsewhere in the world. But, Livni is a politician from a friendly democratic state, she is leader of the opposition in the Israeli Knesset, and has no such crimes alleged against her.
The Israeli Government views such attempts to politicize the British legal system with cases against Israeli leaders as a supreme example of selective anti-Israel activity. Apparently all politicians from throughout the world can enter London except Israelis! The British Government apologised at the highest levels, first FM David Miliband and then PM Gordon Brown called Livni. They assured her that she would be able to enter the UK without any hindrance, but when? An unexpected outcome of this notoreity was that it made Livni popular once more in Israel.
The Israeli Government is disturbed with the British in that this situation has been discussed at the highest levels several times over a period of years, and nothing was done about it. It was reported today that in future all such "political" cases in the UK would first have to be approved by the FM before they could be allowed to go into effect. In that way the Government could prevent the misuse of the provisions without actually directly interfering in the legal process itself.
Britain is a hotbed of anti-Israel activity. There is general Union opposition to Israel, cloaked under the rubric of leftist anti-"occupation" activity, and this has led to many attempts to have anti-Israel boycotts. The British Government has advised stores that they can now legally distinguish between Jewish and Arab produce from the West Bank, Arab produce is allowed and Jewish is not. If that isn't a case of outright discrimination, when the political outcome of the West Bank territory has not yet been decided, what is? Recently the UK supported the Swedish move to divide Jerusalem and to unilaterally establish a Palestinian State. Further there are all sorts of anti-Semitic articles in the British press, including a recent one in which a reporter accuses Israelis of killing each other "all the time." Yes, it is ignorant and stupid, but it is typical. Following some members of the Israeli Knesset, we Jews should boycott Britain and its products until the anti-Semitic atmosphere in Britain changes, if ever.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Out of control!

About two years ago as I was driving on the main highway near Acco (Acre) out for a trip with some friends, suddenly my Toyota Yaris car lurched forward and began accelerating by itself! I had never experienced anything like this before and I did not know what to do, so I automatically braked and then tried to release the accelerator pedal, that I realized must be stuck, with my foot. Meanwhile the car was accelerating and I was very afraid. I reached down and tried to pull the pedal up, but I could hardly reach it while driving, when suddenly the car reverted to its normal behavior. I told my passengers what had happened and we were all worried about getting home safely, but the experience did not recur.
At the first opportunity I took the car into the Toyota dealer. A word about this company, when I first bought a car from them I met the owner, an old man who had been one of the first to start a dealership in the industrial zone there, and he was very friendly since his wife was Scottish and he liked to speak English with me. By then his sons were running the dealership and so he had time to chat and he told his sons to look after me, and so whenever I go there they call me "the Professor." Anyway they give excellent service and I had no complaints. So when I took the car in I told one of the sons what had happened and he said that one of their mechanics would examine it and then he told me that he could find nothing wrong with the pedal.
A few months later, when I was driving to Jerusalem alone, once again the car suddenly lurched forward and began accelerating by itself. It was a weird feeling, of not being in control. Luckily there were no cars ahead of me and once again I braked and tried to fiddle with the pedal to release it, when suddenly it stopped accelerating. This time I pulled to the side of the road and examined the pedal closely. I could see nothing wrong with it, but I noticed that the pedal did not pivot from its base, but rather from about 1/4 the way up its length and as a result the bottom of the pedal went up as the top went down during acceleration, and as I was examining it I noticed that the top edge of the rubber mat was very close to the base of the pedal. With the engine running I did an experiment, I pushed the edge of the mat under the bottom of the pedal and lo and behold the engine started racing. I had found the cause of the problem, the thick edge of the mat was getting stuck under the bottom of the accelerator pedal. There were originally hooks on the floor to hold the mat in place but these had been plastic and had broken off. So after that when I drove I made sure that the mat was pulled back down to the bottom of the seat so that its top was well below the pedal.
It still happened twice more, but knowing what was the cause I simply jerked the mat back and it stopped, so I had definitely found the cause of the problem. In a way I forgot about the problem since I had solved it, but then a few months ago I read about a recall of about 1 million Toyota cars in the US for just such a problem, for replacement of the accelerator pedal. It was reported that a Toyota Camry had suddenly accelerated out of control, had turned over at high speed and the four people in it had been killed. This had triggered a huge recall. Since I knew the origin of the problem I went back to the Toyota dealer and told them. They said that they had heard of the problem and the recall and they would fix my car. So after a half hour or so I got the car back, and the mechanic had cut a large chunk out of the mat so that it could no longer get stuck under the accelerator pedal! A simple solution to a dangerous problem. So if anyone out there owns a Toyota car, an excellent machine, please make sure to trim your floor mat, you can do it yourself with a heavy-duty scissors.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Copenhagen and the environment

I have avoided writing about the Copenhagen Conference on the Environment so far, since we have all been bombarded by the media about if for what seems like weeks. Given that the media is predominantly left-wing, and that the conference is about the environment, you could predict a wave of self-righteous chest thumping news bites about global warming, the excesses of the rich western developed nations and the sufferings of the poor developing nations (they don't talk about under-developed nations any more since it's considered demeaning).
In these snips of information it is of course the rich nations that are causing all the pollution by burning too much carbon-containing fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline) and it is the poor African, S. American and Asian countries that are suffering as a result. But, wait a minute, China is the second largest polluter in the world followed by India, and both of them are supporting the poor countries in demanding money from the developed coutries in order to make up for the effects of global warming. This includes the melting of the ice caps and glaciers causing the sea to rise and thus inundate low populated areas such as the Pacific islands (Nauru, Fiji) and estuaries (Bangladesh, India).
This is all based on the presumption that not only is Global Warming a fact, but that it is due (at least in part) to the pollution of the industrialized world. But, then if China is regarded as a "developing country" that means that the US and Britain should be paying China because of their contribution to global warming, when China itself is a major polluter. So the whole system reeks of hypocrisy, and the walk-out of the poor countries demanding huge payments from the West is an example of industrial blackmail on an international level.
This week the heads of state are due to arrive to decide on the practical outcome of the conference. They will have to agree to a reduction of pollution levels (CO2) in each of their countries according to an international standard. At present the levels of reduction required are in the range 12-50% by 2020, but after some grumbling and trading, they may well end up between 20-40%, with the industrialized countries paying fines to the poor countries if they don't meet their target in time. There are also issues of water pollution and health outcomes that are being discussed.
Pres. Shimon Peres, representing Israel, has said that he will aim for a 30% reduction by Israel, even if the agreed limit is 20%. Israel is not a highly industrialized country, yet it causes much of the air pollution in the area, mainly from auto emissions and power stations. It would be greatly in Israel's interest if the reduction in carbon emissions worldwide resulted in a move away from oil and gasoline to alternative means of power production, such as solar, wind and wave power. The greater and the quicker the reduction of dependence on Arab oil the better for Israel's future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

UK policy?

Last Wednesday we went to a brunch in Netanya in support of Laniado Hospital, where British Ambassador Tom Phillips spoke. He was a very nice fellow, very friendly and pleasant, but to tell the truth I can't remember a single thing he said. He mostly spoke about being a diplomat and gave amusing quotes from various sources. He also mentioned that being a diplomat in Israel is even more difficult than elsewhere because so many senior government officials visit and so many international agencies are involved. But, he completely avoided any specific comments.
He agreed to answer questions and even "hard" questions, so I asked him one. "Why did the UK support the Swedish initiative in the EU to divide Jerusalem and unilaterally establish a Palestinian State, when all previous peace processes were based on UN resolutions that require negotiations between the parties." His answer was typically diplomatic: both sides have interests, you musn't forget that the Palestinians have their ambitions, but as far as the reports are concerned "don't believe everything you read in the press." In other words, the widely reported support of the UK for Sweden in this case was not true?!
So I wrote him the following letter:

Dear Ambassador Phillips:
It was a pleasure seeing you today at Laniado Hospital. I was the person who asked the question regarding the policy of the British Government in the negotiations over EU Middle East policy. According to all reports I have seen, the UK supported the Swedish proposal to divide Jerusalem between Israel and a putative Palestinian State and supported the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State.
In your response your main point was "don't believe what you read in the press," the implication of which is that this was not British policy and therefore the press was widely misrepresenting the British position. I think that is an important distinction, and I am writing to ask if you can provide any evidence for your implication that this was not British policy. Is there any UK Government statement, memo or document which supports your position, rather than that of the whole of the media?
According to media reports it was France, Poland, Slovenia and several other EU countries that opposed the Swedish initiative, and that resulted in a compromise EU statement that was more conciliatory and more in line with previous EU policy. Until now all peace processes have been based on UN resolutions that require Israel and the Palestinains to engage in negotiations to mutually resolve the conflict. Such a policy of unilateral action would be dangerous, since it also releases Israel to carry out unilateral actions, and the whole situation could deteriorate.
Those of us who wish to see peace in the area cannot but be concerned by this supposed British policy, that you have so diplomatically sidestepped.
Yours sincerely
Jack Cohen
Professor Hebrew University (retd.)
British citizen

So far I have received no reply.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yasuf and the National Priority Map

Last Friday a mosque in the village of Yasuf on the West Bank near Nablus was vandalized by Jews. There was some physical destruction and a fire was started that burnt some prayer books and Korans, and a slogan was spray painted on the floor "Price tag, greetings from Effi." "Price tag" refers to the cost of the freeze of Jewish building in the West Bank and is considered by the Jewish extremists to be a "pay-back" for the losses that they are suffering.
This act was immediately denounced by the Israeli Government, by the PM, FM, and President Peres. Even the settler council rejected this as a way to oppose the freeze. Nevertheless, the feelings of the settler community are running so high, that other acts such as this can be expected and they may be trying to cause a breakdown in security.
On Sunday, a group of moderate Rabbis and settlers came to Yasuf to offer their condolences and brought Korans to replace those destroyed. However, the villagers were very upset and did not want this group to enter the village and the IDF blocked them. After some time the village Mukhtar came with a delegation to meet with the Jewish group, that was led by Rabbi Froman, and they were told that the Rabbis wanted to help renovate the mosque. However, the PA anounced that they would carry out the renovations. The Rabbis and others met with the village delegation and assured them that they and the vast majority of Jews, including the settler community, opposed such acts of vandalism. The PA Governor of the region said he feared that someone might do something similar in revenge. Meanwhile the Shin Bet are intensively seeking the culprits.
On Sunday, the new Israeli National Priority Map was approved by the Cabinet. This had been suddenly introduced by PM Netanyahu, possibly as a means to try to mollify the settlers. For the first time many settements were included on the map. This included some blocs of settlements, such as Etzion, but not Maale Adumim. Also some smaller settlements were added, while some Israeli towns near the "front-line" such as Ashkelon were left off. Being on the map means that the location will receive a share of millions of dollars mainly for improving security. During the discussion in the Cabinet some changes were made to the list so that Ashkelon and Maale Adumim were replaced, but this gave an impression that the list was compiled in a hurry. Five Labor Party leaders voted against the acceptance of the map. The US State Dept. issued a statement criticizing the list and some EU Foreign Ministers also protested. This move was seen by them as a means to reverse the effects of the freeze.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close supporter of Netanyahu, voiced the opinion that if the PA leadership rejects the freeze offer by Netanyahu and does not come to negotiations, then the freeze could be cancelled sooner than 10 months.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jewish assimilation

Thursday I went to the first of a three-part lecture series given at the AACI by Prof. Shlomo Sharan, a retired Professor of Tel Aviv University. Dr. Sharan is originally from Milwaukee and has several degrees in different areas (psychology, Hebrew) but specializes in Jewish history. His talk today was on "the collapse of traditional Jewish society in Europe" due to assimilation. Dr. Sharan based much of his analysis on the work of his former mentor Yehezkel Kaufman and his study "Exile and alienation: a sociological-historical study of the question of Jewry's fate from antiquity to today" (1932).
From the end of the 18th century onwards attitudes of both Jews and gentiles began to change, resulting in political assimilation. Acceptance by the gentile world allowed the Jews to come out of their all-encompassing Jewish world (ghetto), in which religion, culture (including language) and nationality were all wrapped up into one. Particularly the decision in 1805 by the Sanhedrin assembled in Paris by order of Napoleon resulted in the concept of French Jews becoming "Frenchmen of the Mosaic persuasion." This concept spread throughout Europe as the enlightenment, that accepted the Jews into the general Christian and increasingly secular society, resulting in robbing of Jews of their national character. Only after the Holocaust with the success of Zionism in re-establishing a Jewish State was this political assimilation reversed.
Another form of assimilation was cultural assimilation as a result of the wider European society giving Jews rights like all other citizens. These cultural changes resulted in the closing of Yeshivot throughout Europe and the release of what would have been Jews brought up in the traditional Orthodox manner into general society, where many assimilated. It should be noted that all minorities assimilate into the greater society, this is a general phenomenon. Being able to participate in general society, its language, literature, theater and politics, robbed the Jews of their cultural cohesion. Certainly a lot of it remained, but in those cases where Jews were forced to convert, either under Islam or Christianity, the loss of cultural ties became complete. In Germany, conversion to Christianity became the path to social success, but in other regions Jews rarely actually converted to Christianity, rather they assimilated culturally. Some became identified with other tribes, adopting Hungarian, Czech or other nationality as their main national and cultural identity.
In the USSR ironically there was a partial reversal of this process. Jews like all other nationalities, under Stalin's definition of nationality, had to carry ID cards that specified their nationality and it was "Jewish." So Jews who had notionally rejected all ties with their Jewishness in order to become true communists were nevertheless labelled as Jews. This was similar to the ideology of the Nazis who labeled as Jews anyone who had at least one Jewish grandparent, thus making the definition racist.
Also, up until modern times, totally assimilated Jews are often anti-Jewish in order to emphasize their alienation from Jewishness and to express their universalism. Thus, there are academics in Israeli universities who oppose the establishment of a Jewish State and who act as pro-Palestinian agents, and this is taking the process of Jewish assimilation into European culture to its extreme logical conclusion. However, one must note that these people are a small although vociferous minority.
So the breakdown of traditional Jewish society in Europe resulted in robbing the Jews of both their national and cultural identity, leaving mainly their religion as the residual determinant of their Jewish identity. For those who gave this up too, their Jewish identity became shallow indeed, perhaps remaining only gastronomic Jews, or was replaced by Zionism.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just war

In his eloquent speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize today, Pres. Obama acknowledged that although war itself is terrible, there is such a thing as a "just war." Of course, Obama was trying to justify receiving the Peace Prize while at the same time being the Commander-in-Chief of the US Army that is engaged in two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. While the war in Iraq is "winding down" he categorized the war in Afghanistan as a Just War in which a group of allies are responding to unprovoked attacks by a ruthless enemy.
Obama said that "the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it." He acknowledged that "evil exists in the world" and so the civilized nations must be prepared to defend themselves. He noted that "a non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies." And Obama admitted that diplomacy may not be enough to halt Iran and N. Korea.
A Just War is defined as one that is justified for self-defense or for overall maintenance of peace. To be just, a war must be fought as a last resort, i.e. after all attempts have been made to avoid war and to placate an enemy, and it must be fought in such a manner as to avoid loss of civilian life, and should be fought in a proportional manner, i.e without attempting to totally destroy an enemy, its culture or its habitations.
Israel's war for survival as a Jewish State from 1948 to Operation Cast Lead in 2008 in the face of constant Arab attacks has been just such a Just War! In this continuously ongoing war, the Arabs have tried on every occasion to destroy the State, its civilian population, its culture and its habitations. In contrast, Israel has responded in self-defense, has avoided civilian casualties (hence the small number of Arab casualties overall) and has not tried to destroy their villages, towns or cities.
Contrast the degree of destruction in Gaza and the West Bank with that of the destruction of the Kurdish areas in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. During the "Anfal campaign" of Arabization of Kurdish Iraq between 1987-8, Saddam had 4,000 Kurdish villages razed to the ground, murdered ca. 100,000 Kurdish men, women and children, and transferred the rest of the population. Israel has never done anything like this and so cannot be accused of anything other than waging a just war of self-defense and survival.
One of the criticisms of Israel in Operation Cast Lead was that the attack on Gaza was "disproportionate," but in fact relatively few civilians were killed (ca. 300-750 depending on the source), and while the destruction of property was extensive, it was not part of a campaign undertaken to destroy Gaza, but rather only in direct response to firing from those locations, i.e. in self-defense.
In the Goldstone Report, allegations of 36 serious cases of Israeli "war crimes" are cited, usually based only on Palestinian eyewitnesses without any corroboration. The IDF has investigated these 36 cases and by interviewing the participants (Arabs and IDF soldiers), and using photos and video taken at the time, has found 30 of these cases to be "baseless accusations" and the remaining 6 to have been "operational errors." These findings were presented to the UN Secty. General and the Head of the UN Commision of Human Rights and to ten other countries in a meeting in New York this week. A full Report will soon be finalized and distributed by the IDF. Israel is a civilized democracy that fights only if and when it has to for self-defense and survival and Israel's wars are just.

Happy Hanukkah to all my readers.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


One of the main stated aims of the Palestinians and many of their left-wing supporters is to replace Israel with a "binational state," i.e. a state in which Jews and Arabs will supposedly live together in peace, rather than the "two-state solution," in which a Palestinian State and Israel will (according to the mantra) "live side by side in peace." I wish they would make up their minds.
Currently the Swedish Government is pushing for EU policy to support the division of Jerusalem between Palestinian and Jewish states, notwithstanding the fact that united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Sweden also supports a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State, even though the Palestinians have explicitly excluded recognizing Israel as a Jewish State and even though that might trigger unilateral Israeli countermoves, and the whole situation could end in war.
So it would seem that Sweden officially supports the two-state solution. Yet, ask most Scandinavian politicians what they would prefer and they will of course say a "binational state." This is based upon the myth of universal human brotherhood and multiculturalism. But, go ask the Swedes if they prefer to have a binational state with Denmark? Not too many people realize that what is now southern Sweden was once part of Denmark and that several wars in the 17th century were fought by Sweden to wrest control of this area from Denmark. In fact the Swedish dialect in the south is similar to Danish (according to Danish friends).
Also, Norway was once a part first of Denmark and then Sweden, but the Norwegians wanted their independence and finally gained it only in 1905. Why wasn't Stockholm equitably divided into a Swedish and a Norwegian half? Why couldn't they live together in a binational Swedish-Norwegian state?
Over the past century the three Scandinavian countries have manged to gain for themselves the reputation of being pacifist, but that was only after the vicious blood-letting that preceeded that period. Now within the EU these national distinctions seem to fade, no passport is required to pass from one country to another, but suggest that they merge into a binational or trinational state and see what response you get, Scandinavian leftists don't even mention that. If such a combined state is so "sacred," Jews and Palestinians should consider it only after the Scandinavians merge again. Jews know that in such a binational state they would once again be treated as second class citizens as they have always been throughout the Arab world ("dhimmi" status) and the whole reason for founding a Jewish State was to regain our sovereignty and self-respect! So a binational state is a non-starter and the leftist ideologues should give it up!
So if we are left with a "two-state solution" as envisaged by the UN partition plan of 1947 (Resolution 181), then why has it taken so long for the Arabs to come around to this solution. After all they tried for the better part of 50 years to destroy Israel in 5 wars (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982) and then there were the two Palestinian intifadas (1987, 2000). Now they want to return to what they rejected for 60 years!
It is the Iranians who have now taken up the anti-Israel "cause" as the leaders of the so-called rejectionists, supporting their proxies Hamas and Hizbollah, that gave us the Second Lebanon War of 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008.
At the same time the leadership of the PA is paralyzed between trying to retain popular support by not dealing with the Netanyahu Government of Israel and trying to appear as peace loving to the Obama Administration. Why should they even raise a finger towards peace or reenter negotiations when they can sit back and have the US and the Swedes do the heavy lifting for them. If they can gain national status without doing anything why should they risk their anti-Israel reputation.
One final point, it is not surprising that the UK is supporting the Swedish move in the EU, given the degree of anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) rhetoric that is prevalent in Britain today (and always was, which is why I left). But, it is disgusting that a Jewish Foreign Minister, David Milliband, is supporting this anti-Israel campaign. He should rather resign than do this, but unfortunately some Jews prefer foreign kudos and power (like Goldstone) before their own self-respect and the interests of their own people.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A man's work is never done

On Wednesday night, as my wife went out to see her mother as usual, she called out to me "I put something in the oven for dinner, when you hear the buzzer go, turn it off, get the oven gloves and take the dish out of the oven."

I was sitting watching junk on TV when the buzzer went off. So I got up and turned the buzzer off, put on the oven gloves, but when I opened the oven it was cold. She had apparently forgotten to turn the oven on. So I called her and told her and she said she would put it on when she came back. But I said "Don't worry, I'm a man, you think I can't handle that, I'll turn on the oven."

So I turned the oven on, but since it was already getting late and I was hungry, I turned the oven up to its maximum setting. Just as I was sitting down, suddenly all of the lights and the TV went out. There had been an electricity failure!

When I went outside and checked the fuses, I found that one of the main switches was down. I tried to turn it up but it would not go. So I went back inside, got a flashlight and turned off the oven, and the TV and computer as a precaution, before I went back outside and tried again. This time the switch stayed up and all the lights came back on. So I realised that there must have been a short circuit in the oven.

When my wife came home she heated the dinner in the microwave. Then we found that the refrigerator was not working. So I called an electrician and he said he would come over that evening. When he came, he did some tests, and told me that there was a problem with the oven (!) He un-screwed the oven and took out the plug in the back and then the refrigerator worked, so he charged us 100 shekels (about $30). but he said that he did not deal with appliances so we would have to call someone who did.

So the next morning I called an oven expert who came, took out the oven and tested everything, and told me that the convection heating element had a short (this proves that Naomi never used the convection part of the oven!). He took that element out and replaced the oven so that we could use it, and now we are waiting for a replacement element. He charged us 200 shekels for his time, and that's without the cost of the element. So the moral of this story is that a man should never mess with ovens or making dinner when the wife can do it so much easier and with less cost.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Freeze consequences

There are some serious consequences of the current building freeze. The most serious is that it has split the right wing coalition that has been running the country since PM Netanyahu was elected, and has brought demonstrations and divisive political disputes.
On Thurdsay PM Netanyahu met with a delegation of settler leaders and West Bank mayors. The meeting was confrontational and tense, with some of the leaders accusing Netanyahu of double-crossing them. They consider this freeze a "left-wing" policy and regard Netanyahu's about-turn as similar to that of Sharon when he forced them to accept the Gaza disengagement. In response, Netanyahu told them that he and they are not enemies, and that the freeze is temporary and the day after the exiry date normal building will resume.
Nevertheless there were several major demonstrations on the West Bank with settlers blocking entry of building inspectors to their settlements. In some places the inspectors left, in other places they were able to enter and declare some building sites closed. There were also clashes between setters and IDF forces and police. In other places, such as Efrat, the close orders were ignored as a group of settlers began laying the concrete foundation of a synagogue that was about to be built. Once the inspectors leave there is not much the Government can do to stop these spontaneous building efforts. There have also been political schisms, but most of Netanyahu's coaltion have stuck with him, realizing that this freeze is more to placate Obama than Abbas. However, it has achieved one Palestinian aim, that is to split the right-wing camp in Israel.
Another unforeseen consequence of the freeze is that the Palestinian construction workers are out of work. They have been appealing to the Mayors and others in the West Bank not to stop construction because that is their livelihood. Some are desperate and fear starvation, while others have gone to seek work in Jerusalem and elsewhere where there is no building freeze. Perhaps Obama and his advisors did not realize that the two sides are so inextricably intertwined, that hurting one side will hurt both and he has now dealt a severe blow against Palestinian prosperity in the West Bank.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Splitting Jerusalem?

The news that Sweden, as the current chair of the EU, has introduced a resolution that the EU support the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a putative Palestinian State is a shocker. But, in fact Sweden has been a strong supporter of the Palestinians and of a two-state solution for a long time, and they are stepping in now because the Palestinians have let it be known that they will not return to negotiations with Israel under US auspices because Netanyahu has not accepted their precondition of a total building freeze, including Jerusalem.
In order to make the threatened unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State real, some in the EU are now seeking to replace the US as the arbiter of Middle East peace, and by supporting the Palestinian side, they are trying to enforce their left-wing vision of a two state solution onto Israel.
There is some irony in this, since Germany, one of the leading sympathizers of the Palestinian cause, notwithstanding their so-called "special relationship"with Israel, was certainly against the divison of Berlin,and no EU member would support that either.
But, Israel can use its influence with some of the EU members, including Britain, that generally supports the US position, Germany, that would not want to be seen as a leader of the split Jerusalem movement, and France, that under Sarkozy has shown a more pro-Israel tendency. Also, some of the East European members of the EU, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, tend to oppose the more left-wing policies of some of the older western EU members. Already a bloc of EU members are coming out against the Swedish plan.
However, if this combined threat of a division of Jerusalem and a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State take wings, in the absence of ongoing negotiations between the two sides, then it could be a rough ride for Israel. No conceivable Israeli Government and certainly not the present one could countenance the division of Jerusalem, and so we may be on a collision course with the EU, apart from our usual clash with the Palestinians and the Arabs.
While there is a freeze on Israeli building in the West Bank for 10 months, there is no such limitation on the Palestinians. They are beginning to build a new Arab city called Rawabi, close to Ramallah. This is the first planned Arab city and is a kind of insult to Jewish settlers who see it as an affront to their objectives at this time. What has really riled them is that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has agreed to donate funds for the planting of trees in Rawabi, at the same time as this would be banned for any Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Sometimes the stupidity of Jews is astounding.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

After the freeze

After the imposition of the freeze, it didn't take long for the Yesha Council, the organization of the settlers in Judea and Samaria, to come out strongly against it. Netanyahu was supposed to meet with them, but his sudden illness, that caused him to cancel his planned trip to Germany for a joint Cabinet meeting with the German government, also caused him to miss a crucial meeting with the settler representatives. Maybe it was a convenient "political illness" because it was well timed to avoid him having to be confronted by them. Anyway, the settler groups quickly came out against the freeze, and some of them started direct action, preventing the building inspectors from reaching construction sites in order to shut them down. In at leaat two places there were minor scuffles and confrontations.
Nevertheless, inspectors in the past few days have issued about 50 stop-work orders at construction sites on the West Bank. To forestall major opposition, Netanyahu went public on Tuesday emphasizing that the freeze is temporary and a one-time thing. It should be remembered that all this contruction is in already exisiting settlements for natural growth. The ban on new settlements and appropriation of Palestinian land remains in effect.
In order to make the process more efficient, Netanyahu announced the deployment of 40 more inspectors, because now there are too few to carry out the task. But, the process is not so simple. The rule is that once a foundation has been laid, then the construction work can proceed, but the question arises, how much of the foundation, and what if the foundation is laid after the inspector has supposedly closed the site, will it then be allowed to continue.
The 300,000 Israeli settlers living on the West Bank and their supporters are not going to be easily discouraged. Apart from anything else, some of them have put their money into mortgages for houses, and finance for shopping centers and factories, while the local authorities have put up money for kindergartens, schools and medical centers.
No-one I know thinks that instituting this temporary freeze will make any difference to the so-called peace process. Not only was the American-mandated freeze immediately rejected by the Palestinians and the Arab States, notwithstanding the nice words that Secty. Clinton said about it, but noone thinks that the Palestinians will change their attitude at all. They will simply take this as an accomplished concession and demand more. The question is whether or not, after seeing the negative response to this US-demanded concession, Obama will say enough of this nonsense, or will he accept their position as he has before, and demand further Israeli concessions, in order to get the Palestinians back to the table. Is it worth it to him to continue to play this losing game?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Patterns of rejection

There are certain repeating patterns in relation to the Arab-Israel conflict that any policy maker would do well to take note of.
The first pattern is of a right wing Israeli PM making concessions to the Palestinians that would normally be considered left wing policies. This is a result of American pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to evince some reciprocal response from them.
Here are some examples: PM Rabin was a relative hawk, he was opposed to the division of Jerusalem, he believed that in any agreement Israel should retain densely Jewish populated areas of the West Bank, and that Israel needed to retain the Jordan Valley as a security barrier to Arab attack. But, under pressure from Pres. Clinton he agreed to the Oslo Accords, which proved to be a disaster for Israel and presaged not a reciprocal response from the PA under Yasir Arafat, but instead the second intifada and deadly terrorism and also resulted in his assassination. PM Netanyahu in his first term negotiated the Hebron agreement with Arafat under pressure form Bill Clinton. PM Barak of the Labor Party was a former IDF Chief of Staff, yet under pressure from Pres. Clinton at Taba he was prepared to give Arafat almost everything, including 100% of the West Bank, half of Jerusalem and recognition of the Palestinian's "right of return," but Arafat rejected it. PM Sharon, a former champion of the settler movement, made an about-face and under American pressure carried out the unilateral "disengagement" from Gaza, and formed a new centrist political party, Kadima. Instead of peace, Israel got rockets. PM Olmert of Kadima, under less pressure from Pres. George W. Bush nevertheless made a series of offers to Pres. Abbas, all of which were rejected. Finally, PM Netanyahu has been under intense pressure from Pres. Obama to make a major concession to the Palestinians by freezing all settlement construction, including East Jerusalem. After months of negotiations with the Americans, Netanyahu finally announced a 10 month freeze on all settlement construction, excluding East Jerusalem, and what happened, the Palestinians rejected the offer out-of-hand as inadequate.
The second part of this pattern is that whatever any Israeli PM concedes is automatically rejected by the Palestinians and becomes the basis for the next round, not of negotiations but of demands. For a more detailed analysis of this pattern see the article in Monday's Jerusalem Post, "More, more, more! no matter what Israel does the Palestinians and the Arab States will complain that it is not enough, that it doesn't mean anything and that they have more demands" by Barry Rubin (
Isn't it about time that a review of Middle East policy by the Americans would reveal these patterns and result in a more intelligent and purposeful policy than repeated pressure on Israel to make concessions that are going to be rejected anyway? Isn't it about time that the US put pressure on the Palestinians instead? If you say that there are no Palestinian leaders that the US can put pressure on, then what is the point of pressuring Israel?