Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Life is unpredictable. My sister, Barbara and her husband, Allan, came to visit for 2 weeks on Sunday, Aug 26. I had arranged for a motorized chair to be delivered for her on Aug 27, since she has trouble walking more than short distances. When I called the company that is near Netanya they said they had Aug 28 down as the delivery date. So on Aug 27 evening we went out in our car to have a meal somewhere. I wanted to drive away from the center of town because there was a large concert that night and we learnt that there was also a Marathon being run at night to avoid the extreme heat during the day. Well, we got caught up in huge traffic jams and drove around, unable to pass closed streets, until we finally managed to get back home after an hour, and then we walked to the nearest restaurant (Chinese) that luckily happens to be only 2 mins from home across the main road.

On Mon Aug 28 they did deliver the motorised chair and is is perfect, except that the battery is fixed into it, and it must be charged every night. Also, the chair is too heavy to pull over the step into our lobby. So we went out and bought a strong chain to attach it to a pillar under the building. But, there were no electrical plugs we could see in order to charge it. There is a locked room there that is used by the cleaner and we reasoned that it must have a plug inside. So we went to the apartment of the Va'ad habayit, and knocked. Although they are on vacation until Oct 12, luckily for us their daughter is apartment-sitting, and she knew where to find the key for that door and gave it to us. When we opened the door we indeed found a plug high up on the wall, probably put there in order to discourage too much use. So we figured that if we could drive the chair into the small room, it should just clear the door, and we could lock it in and leave it to charge overnight.

Meanwhile, Naomi on Monday morning went by car to pay a shiva call in town and then called back around 11am to say that she could not find our car. She had parked it nearby and it was no longer there. So I walked over and searched with her, but it was nowhere to be found. One problem was that although she was sure where she had parked it, she could not find the exact spot. Nevertheless, the car had disappeared, so we called the police, and they said we should go to the station and report the car missing. I also tried to call the municipal number for towing cars, since she might have parked illegally, but there was no reply (it was a holiday). As we were standing there deciding what to do, our Rabbi came by with a friend, and hearing our plight immediately offered to drive us to the police station, a 15 min drive, which they did, a true mitzvah. At the station we were seen by a very friendly police woman who told us that car thefts are very common in Netanya (it is near an Arab area) and she called the city towing service and they said they had not towed any cars that day because it is a holiday. So she registered the car as stolen and gave me a certificate for the insurance company.

When I got home by taxi I called them and they said that they would have to deal with it tomorrow because of the holiday, but we should be able to get a hired car on the insurance, although a lot of places are closed. We really need a car in order to take Barbara and Allan on trips while they are here and to a family wedding next Monday in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, we went to dinner in the town center, where there was another concert, and Barbara drove the motorized chair like a veteran. Then Allan and I went back to search for our car, but once again had no luck. So we returned home and when we opened the door to the cleaning room, we were surprised to find two bikes inside there for safety. We managed to push them to the side and Barbara drove the vehicle inside but then we realised that the door would not close, so we took it out and reversed it and drove it in in reverse, very carefully, and we managed to get it to fit and the door closed, and we plugged it in and locked the door and left it for the night. We left my name and apt. no. on it because we expect the bicycle owners to complain this morning that they can't get them out, but so far no call. So we overcame that problem, but now we have to deal with the stolen car problem. Life is unpredictable (stay tuned).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Stuxnet is a malware, a computer worm designed to gum-up or destroy the functioning of complex operating systems, such as industrial processes and nuclear reactors. Its appearance heralds a new era in the history of warfare. Instead of bombing a plant, the introduction of a malware into its operating system can render it non-operational without ever firing a shot. It is a new chapter in the nascent area of cyber-warfare. It has become a news item because it has been reported that the nuclear power plant at Bushehr in Iran that has been built by Russia and is due to go online very soon, has been rendered inoperable by Stuxnet (the Iranians deny this).

No complex industrial process can be operated today without advanced computer technology. All computers are subject to attack by computer viruses and malware, the former tend to be introduced thru e-mail and prevent basic processes, while the latter tend to be introduced thru the internet and to be associated with system failure. Once inside the computer programs, these malware are incredibly difficult to remove, since they actually shut down operations of the computer system in an unpredictable and complex manner. To remove many bugs it is necessary to have an anti-virus program working full-time. But, very clever malware can evade detection by the defensive programs and get into the system, where they are difficult or almost impossible to find. It has been rumored that the IDF has a unit of 300 programmers who have been working for years designing offensive malware for just such a function. It has also been rumored that this unit works closely with the US in designing its products, and that both the IDF and the US have teams that work in parallel designing protections against just such malware.

In the history of cyber-warfare the cyber-attack on the country of Estonia that almost brought the whole country to a standstill in 2007, is the first and prime example. A statue had been erected under the Soviets to the brave Russian soldiers who liberated Estonia from the Nazis in 1945. Following the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the independent State of Latvia decided in 2006 to remove the statue from the main square of its capital Talinn and move it to a less prominent place in a city park. This caused rioting among the Russian minority in Latvia, and the situation became a cause celebre in Russia itself. Soon after, the Latvians discovered that their computer systems were under cyber-attack, all the banks and most of the military and government facilites were rendered inoperable. The country ground to a halt. The attack was traced, of course, to Russia, although the Russian Government denied any complicity and accused errant members of the Russian military with acting independently. Although Latvia and many other countries did not believe this denial of responsibility, in any case it was impossible to prove and once the attack had occured, the Latvian and other governments redesigned their crucial computer systems so that such an attack could not occcur again in the same way. The statue was then moved.

All computer systems have operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, that contol the hard disk drive, so that the computer can read and write from the internal hard disk. But this mechanical device can break down after many millions of processes. So people designed computer systems with virtual hard disks, that had no mechanical parts. Large industrial plants, like oil refineries and nuclear plants that cannot be allowed to fail, are run by such computer programs without mechanical hard disks. But, in an era of viruses and malware this is not enough. They also have a firewall (named after the fireproof curtains that were used in theaters) to prevent any access. However, clever hackers found ways to get around this. In many secure computer systems, such as the CIA, it is forbidden to attach an external device such as a disk-on-key to prevent any possibility of uploading a virus or malware inadvertently into the system. Such are the defenses that have been employed, but the clever originators of Stuxnet have got around them and it is reported have brought the Bushehr nuclear reactor to a standstill. If it works maybe we won't have to bomb their nuclear facilities after all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has been elected Leader of the British Labor Party. This is historic for two reasons, first he is Jewish, only the second Jew to become Leader of a major political party in Britain, Manny Shinwell was Labor Chairman in the 1930's and Michael Howard was Leader of the Conservative Party in the early 2000's. Ed will run the next election campaign against the Conservative-Liberal coalition and if he wins would become the first Jewish PM of Britain (although Disraeli was PM he was a convert to Christianity. Second, the unexpected defeat of his elder brother David, formerly British FM, shows a move away from the Blair-Mandelson-Brown New Labor that was all the rage from the 90's until a few years ago. It is felt that David Miliband was connected to the Blair wing of the Labor Party, while Ed represented a new face and a break from the recent past. Many Labor members were opposed to the war in Iraq and regarded Blair as slavishly following US policy. Ed is known to be more to the left and more ideological than David, a fact that earned him the nickname "Red Ed." Many think that this is a choice that will consign the Labor Party to electoral oblivion, but of course that may be wishful thinking. It depends on how Ed leads and how he combats David Cameron and his coalition Government.

Searching for a paradigm, one is immediately faced with the choice of Barack Obama in the US as the Democratic candidate for President. He was from a minority group, he was liberal and to the left of the Democratic Party, he was fighting an electoral campaign against a conservative opponent. But, most of all it was as if he came from nowhere, and that is the same attraction of Ed Miliband. It is well known now that the Miliband parents were committed Marxists, and the brothers have displayed a strong commitment to socialism in their lives and campaigns. One aspect that might become a future weakness is that David Miliband was the front runner thru most of the campaign right until the last moment, and Ed pipped him at the post with support from the powerful Trade Unions. So Ed will be seen not only as the left-wing candidate, but also as the Union candidate. If he supports their policies and supports unpopular strikes that could be his downfall. It is also noteworthy that the main Trade Union, the TUC, has recently passed an anti-Israel resolution, although this is not unusual.

While the Brown Government was quite pro-Israel, nevertheless David Miliband as FM was quite open in criticizing Israeli policy. The problem with Jews in power in the Diaspora is that they tend to bend over backwards in order not to be accused of being overly pro-Israel. This might be a problem with Ed too, who as a more leftist ideologue, might disfavor the idea of a Jewish State. Ed's mother Marion Kozak is a member of the Jews for Justice for Palestinians that is sponsoring a boat currently headed for Gaza. Nevertheless, Israel exists and he will have to bend his ideology to deal with it. It is also noteworthy that the new British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, is also Jewish. The good news is that is doesn't seem to matter to anybody nowadays that these Jewish citizens of Britain have achieved such influential positions, particularly as Ed won in a secret ballot. Maybe things are changing for the better.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Some thoughts on an accord

In a Letter entitled "The terms for an accord" published in the Jerusalem Post this Friday, former (disgraced) Prime Minister Ehud Olmert comments on the current direct talks underway between PM Netanyahu and Pres Abbas. He starts by dismissing the issue of the settlement freeze as a non-issue, raised by US Pres Obama and then stuck to by Pres. Abbas, that had never been an issue before in 18 years of negotiations, including those carried out between him and Pres. Abbas for 2 years.

He then defines five issues that are of importance and must be agreed to by both sides, namely borders, status of Jerusalem, status of the "Holy Basin", i.e. the area of international religious concern, the refugee problem and Israel's security needs. He suggests that the Arab suburbs (villages) around Jerusalem should be transferred to a Palestinian State, thus effectively dividing Jerusalem. He also proposes that the "Holy Basin" be placed under international control. Notably these are the concessions that Olmert offered Abbas at the end of his stint as PM, but they were rejected by Abbas. However, these concessions are not binding on the current Netanyahu Government or any subsequent Israeli administrations.

I disagree vehemently with his proposals, transferring the Arab villages around Jerusalem to a Palestinian State is simply asking for future trouble. It's bad enough that Sderot and now Ashkelon are being rocketed from Gaza, from which Israel withdrew, and Haifa and the north were rocketed from Lebanon, from which Israel withdrew. To have the heart of Jewish Jerusalem sitting before them on a platter would be more than any red-blooded Palestinian terrorist could resist. There is rioting currently going on in the village of Silwan in which a Palestinian Arab and a Jew were killed because the Jerusalem Mayor proposed to build a park and historic center there. There was also rioting on the Temple Mount, with Palestinians throwing rocks down on the Jewish worshippers at the Wall, and at other Arab villages. This rioting has been contained, but it represents the continued fury of Palestinian Arabs against the Israeli State in any form. If they had the topological advantage they could bombard the Knesset with one mortar and bring the city and State to a standstill. It would be suicidal madness to give them the suburbs, just because they speak Arabic there.

In 1967, the Jews realized a millenial dream of unifying Jerusalem under Jewish control. The UN proposal for international control of Jerusalem was rejected in 1948, and has never been seriously discussed since then. Let it not now be resurrected by Israel, as if Israel were a weak entity pleading for international intervention. Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel and must remain so, without foreign interference. Anyway, who is going to define the "Holy Basin", a name I have never heard of before. Does it include the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, etc? No, getting into such an issue would be stupid.

Certainly borders can be tackled, given minor adjustments of ca. 5% of the West Bank to accommodate the major Jewish towns, with some equivalent transfers of Israeli territory. Regarding the refugee issue, Olmert is on record as saying that he would have agreed to accept 20,000 refugees and US Pres. Bush had agreed to accept 100,000 into the USA (this has subsequently been denied by Elliott Abrams). This issue can be resolved, if only the actual refugees still alive from 1948 are included, not their descendents, children and grandchildren born elsewhere, and they can be accomodated within the future Palestinian State.

Netanyahu has emphasized that Israel's security is paramount, and this would be protected by ensuring a demilitarized Palestinian State. The PA would have an armed militia to protect law and order, as it currently does with Israel's consent, otherwise it will descend once again into the thugocracy it has been for most of its existence.

Such Letters as that of Olmert are worthwhile, because they allow ideas to be exchanged in Israel's open democracy. But, in principle they are quite useless, because they have no actual validity, as anyone can come up with his or her "ideal solution" to the problem. It can in fact only be "resolved" in intense and intricate negotiations between the two sides. At present such a negotiation is going on over the temporary settlement building freeze, which is due to end today, and whether or not a compromise can be reached to prevent the talks from failing. The left in Israel want Netanyahu to continue the freeze, while the right want it to end. Netanyahu cannot continue the freeze in its present form without endangering the stability of his coalition government. It is clear that Pres Abbas does not care if the Israeli Government falls, in fact he probably wants it to happen, so why equally should Netanyahu care about the consequences in the PA if the freeze continues. If Abbas leaves the talks, or resigns, or whatever, that is an internal Palestinian matter. To conduct negotiations on the basis of trying to "help" the enemy is ludicrous.

I feel the same about the settlement freeze. Israel should continue to do what is in its interests, since it has a perfectly legitimate claim to the land. Just because the BBC incorrectly calls the West Bank "Palestinian Land" does not make it such, it has never been under Palestinian sovereignty, and "saving" it for the Palestinians as the left in Israel and most of the world want is prejudging the issue. It is far better for Israel to continue to build and thus put pressure on the Palestinians to come to terms, than to stop building and thereby remove the enticement for the Palestinians to make peace.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Pope's visit

The Pope's visit to Britain was historic and it was a media event. It was theater, with the Pope dressed all in white against the constrast of the Bishops who were in Black, what a charade. And the Pope uttered more platitudes than any other person I have ever heard (except maybe some fellow politicians). But, it was also a time for re-assessment of Catholicism.

In Belgium, at the same time as the visit to Britain, the police raided the offices of the Catholic organization tasked with gathering internal information about child abuse. They found that in every Parish in every school and in every Catholic institution in Belgium there was evidence of child abuse, sexual and physical. In some cases it amounted to torture. Yet, this was allowed to continue for decades, and when cases were reported, first the guilty party, priest, nun or schoolteacher, was transferred and given the opportunity to pray for forgiveness, and the information was kept secret and not passed onto the State authorities as was required by law. In one case a Bishop admitted molesting his nephew for years, but was taken into hiding by the Church authorities. The same things have been found in Ireland, Canada, the US, Germany and so on.

Two things were historic about the Pope's visit to Britain, the first was that it was the first State visit to Britain by a Pope and the first time that a Pope prayed in Westminster Abbey side by side with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Head of the Anglican Church. The other historic event was that the Pope admitted the "unspeakable" treatment of children within the Church, admitted guilt and asked for forgiveness. For many who had been abused this was not enough, such a general admittance and a request for prayer for the victims was hardly considered sufficient. A demonstration of some 10,000 people, with various causes, but mainly including those protesting the reaction of the Pope to this terrible travesty, marched through the center of London. However, they were out-numbered by gatherings of the faithful, who conveniently ignored these failings of the Church to celebrate Mass with the Pope.

Those of us who are not Catholic find it impossible to imagine accepting a Church in which such widespread corruption has been tolerated and is endemic. Apart from this, the basic idea that the wine and the wafer consumed at the Mass are in fact the actual blood and body of Christ is nauseating. And no, they don't accept that these items are symbolic, a long and deep rift between Catholicism and Protestantism was fought over the significance of the terms consubstantiation and transubstantiation. Such are the idiocies of religion.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The plot thickens

PM Netanyahu cannot extend the 10 month freeze on settlement building on the West Bank. The opposition in Israel is strong, not only from the right wing. The feeling is that Israel negotiated with the US, acting on behalf of the Palestinians, to get a concession out of Israel. The US and Israel agreed to a compromise period for the freeze of 10 months. What is the point of the PA waiting until the last month of the freeze and then trying to force Israel to make a further concession? We would like to see at least one concession from the Palestinians for a change. If the US failed to move the PA to direct talks in all that time it's not Israel's fault. In any case, by extending the freeze it might appear that Israel is already giving up Judea and Samaria to the PA, while Israel still has a strong legitimate claim to what many refer to as "Palestinian Land." It is not their land until we say it is in a negotiation, until then it's just as much Israel's land. It is important in dealing with the Arabs that one stands firm and not give way to their first demands.

Now Pres Abbas of the PA has added another twist to the plot. He has once again threatened to resign if the current talks fail. SInce most commentators think that there is only a slim chance of success, that leaves the PA in a very difficult position. Not only have they failed to do anything about finding a successor to Abbas, but if he left the PA leaderless there would be a power vacuum that various condidates from Fatah and the PLO, as well as Hamas, would try to fill. So we could be in for an extended period of chaos, just as conditions seemed to be beginning to improve on the West Bank.

However, along with this improvement in economic and organizational aspects, comes a parallel increase in tendency towards extremism. Those who for years have said that poverty leads to desperation that leads to terrorism have been proven wrong. Most of the terrorists leaders and even a majority of the suicide bombers are/were educated and middle class. The current surge in economic improvement is accompanied by an increase in Palestinian extremism. Note that the recent terrorist incidents carried out by Hamas against the peace talks, including the killing of four Israelis, have received positive support within the West Bank that is dominated by Fatah. And when a Hamas terrorist leader in Kalkilya was killed by the IDF a few days ago, hundreds managed to attend his funeral without intervention by the PA security forces. Also, a PA cabinet member attended a ceremony in which a school was named after a shahid, a martyr.

It is possible that if things don't work out in the peace talks and Abbas resigns then the PA might go into a period of chaos and then collapse. This could be good for Israel in one respect, that out enemy's disarray is our advantage. But, out of the chaos could come Hamas, and Israel must intervene and make sure that this does not happen., Otherwise we will have rockets raining down on us not only from Gaza, but from Kalkilya and Nablus and the Jerusalem suburbs.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fear of the new

Those of us who are Israelis or Israeli-supporters wax lyrical over the latest Israeli hi-tech innovation, the importance of Israeli products for the cell phone or the computer, the strength of the economy and the growth of Israeli cities, etc. But, it is a mistake to think that these impressive developments in any way reconcile our enemies to Israel's existence. On the contrary, the Arab and Muslim enemies of Israel have always feared Israel as a western implant in their midst, not being prepared to recognise the organic relationship of the Jews to their Land. Every success of Israel means that the "rejectionists" become more certain of their need to attack and defeat us.

Even though the British ruled vast swaths of Arab land, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, the Gulf States, the Muslims feared the introduction of western culture into their region. They opposed the "equal" treatment of women, they feared Christian proselytizing, they hated the idea of democracy, rather perferring the "Caliph" approach of the powerful leader, from the Mahdi in Sudan to Nasser in Egypt. The only countries that have officially reconciled themselves to Israel are Egypt and Jordan, only because Egypt was beaten comprehensively by the IDF and Jordan is so weak it is dependent on Israel for protection. All the Arab states have more or less strong non-democratic rulers (Mubarak of Egypt), sometimes Sheiks (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf States) or sometimes military dictators (Assad of Syria). They are all more or less backward, and the Arab region is the second most backward in the world after Africa. All of these rulers and all of their peoples fear western modernization, sure that it will undermine their archaic system of rule and Islamic control. So boasting of Israel's successes will not persuade them to make peace with Israel, it will only strengthen their determination to oppose western influence and destroy all that Israel represents.

Now it could be argued that for the first time the Palestinians have leaders, Pres. Abbas and PM Salam Fayyad, who are not commited to the use of terrorism, but after a lot of experience trying it, see that it is not useful to accomplish their goals. Perhaps they have overcome their fear of the West and Israel. They instead have turned to economic development and negotiations, albeit with very intransigent demands. This is typical of Middle Eastern bartering, where the first demand is always exaggerated and expected to be rejected, but Israelis being inexperienced at this technique, usually give ground immediately. Now perhaps the two sides have met their match and hopefully something good will come out of the current talks, even if they fail. At each stage we get further ahead and both sides get used to dealing with each other and intransigent demands become less rigid. The problem is that once the Palestinians agree to compromise with Israel, they will certainly gain more than they give, and in the end we'll end up with a more successful Palestinian entity or state to deal with than we dealt with before. WIll this be a net gain for Israel? Only time will tell.

Friday, September 17, 2010


After receiving the letter from the lawyer, Elektra responded promptly. A woman rep. phoned on Tuesday and said they would send a "special" team, the next day, and I specifically asked them to bring with them the replacement part and she said they would.

On Wednesday I received a phone call from Elektra saying that the technicians would be late, and I responded angrily. When the two technicians finally arrived they admitted that they did not have the part. But, this time one of them made several phone calls, and although they had said it was an old machine and they would have to make the part, etc. etc. it turned out that in fact they had it in store and all that was needed was to deliver it here. So they had it sent by taxi from Rishon Lezion.

The part involved is the heat exchanger, the largest part of the a-c, in fact the heart of the a-c where the cooling takes place. It is about 3 ft x 3 ft and is made of copper coils and is quite heavy. To take out the old heat exchanger, the technician climbed over the balcony, and since he was of normal height, he could reach the screws at the bottom that were holding it in. To do so he stood on the metal support of the a-c and held onto the balcony with one hand while leaning out and unscrewing the screw with his other hand, very precarious. Since the screws were rusty it was very difficult to remove them, but he managed, and then they removed the old heat exchanger from the unit. Since it would take over an hour for the part of get here (actually it took 2 in the rush hour) and since it was getting late (5 pm) they left and promised that they would return and install it in the morning. Later they called and confirmed they would be back at 8 am. When the taxi arrived I helped the driver bring the heat exchanger up and it was wrapped and shiny new.

Today (Thurs) morning the techs arrived at 8 am prompt (surprise) and they proceeded to install the new heat exchanger. Once again one of the techs stood most of the time on the metal frame that supports the a-c, hanging perilously out from the third floor with no net (see photo)! He screwed the new part in and then welded it top and bottom to the connections to the fan unit. The latter required him to be practically upside down in this situation. However, he must be used to it, because it didn't seem to faze him. Finally when all was connected, including the electrical wiring, he refilled the coil with freon, checked that there was no leak, and then turned it on. It worked perfectly and we are now basking in cold air, what a relief.

Although we suffered for 3 weeks due to the intense heat, nevertheless the repair to the a-c did not cost us anything (although we paid $750 for the service agreement in 2006). Since an estimate to repair the a-c was $500, but we were advised not to bother but simply to replace the whole unit at ca. $1500, you could say that we saved a lot of money. On the other hand, maybe something else will go out on the system either before 3/11, which is the end date of the service agreement, or after that date. Meanwhile we have a new heat exchanger, which is the unit that always goes first, so maybe we won't have any problems for another 6 years. One can live in hope. There must be other things going on in the world, but I can't think of anything else important right now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's too darn hot!

August is the cruelest month in Israel, it is searingly hot (90-100 deg F/30-35 deg C) and humid (ca. 65%) in Netanya every day. In the middle of August our air conditioner, a large Elektra model, stopped cooling. I had someone come in June and fill it with freon, so I guessed it had run out again.

The guy came the same day I called and checked it and said he would fill it again (cost $100), but it would probably run out faster, and it's not worth trying to repair it, particularly since its outside our balcony, and the pipes corrode because we are near the sea and it would cost about ca. $500 to repair and maybe it wouldn't work, so the best thing is just to replace it, cost ca. $1,500. But, he asked me what are the details of the machine, so I looked in my file and found a paper (in Hebrew) that I assumed was a receipt for the a-c since it had the heading Elektra and I showed it to him. After he left I looked at the paper more carefully and found that it was in fact a service agreement for 5 years that I had completely forgotten about. I had paid about $750 in 2006 for an agreement for them to come and repair it or replace it until 3/11.

Sure enough the gas ran out after a few days, so I called Elecktra and they said they would send a technician to check it out, but it would take 5 days. So we waited in the heat and when he came he told us that it wasn't working, well we knew that, and that it had a leak, we also knew that, and he couldn't fix it, but he would report it to Elektra and they would be in touch with me. Eventually I found someone at Elektra who spoke English and I told him I wanted them to fix it, and he said they would send a "crew" with the new part and they would replace it.

After a few more days the "crew" came, and it consisted of two men, both very short, about 5 ft each. They proceeded to take apart the a-c, which is fixed outside our balcony and is 3 ft deep. But they couldn't reach most of the base of it, so one held the other over the balcony by his feet, and it was terribly perilous and I asked them if they had insurance. But, they could not reach the bottom and so could not take it apart. They were trying to remove the heat exchanger which is the part that holds the freon but they did not have a replacement heat exchanger, they intended to take the old part to the factory to repair it and it would take about a week, but they couldn't remove it anyway. So they told me I would have to pay about $200 for an "installer" to come and remove the part. Then they left and the a-c was literally in pieces. At this point I realized it was a scam.

So I called Elektra again, and told the English-speaking guy that I didn't see why I should have to pay. He said that it was not covered by the agreement, and so I agreed if only to get it working and he said they would send someone. Then Rosh Hashanah came and went and I called again, but could not reach the English speaker. They told me they would call me back, but they never did. After another fruitless call, I decided that I had had enough. So I went to my friendly lawyer and took all the papers I could find, and luckily in my files for 2006 I found the actual agreement with Elektra that said they had to respond in 4 days (it had now been 3 weeks!) and also the receipt for the a-c dated 2004 (they are supposed to last for 7-10 years!).

My lawyer wrote a strong letter (in Hebrew of course) giving them 48 hrs to fix it, and if not I will buy a new one and they would have to refund me the cost and pay me $1,000 for discomfort. The same day I received a call from them saying a "special" team would come tomorrow and would fix it (stay tuned, watch this space).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fly on the wall

This dialog was released to me exclusively by the proverbial fly on the wall at the peace talks in Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Pres Abbas: I am very serious about this, we will leave the talks unless Israel extends it's building moratorium in the West Bank. We cannot accept that the future Palestinian State will be dotted with Jewish settlements, these talks cannot continue while Jewish building goes on on our territory.

PM Netanyahu: First of all, Pres Abbas, these talks were supposed to be secret, and I strongly resent your use of the media to try to bring pressure on me and my Government. Second, you knew for a long time the date of the end of the moratorium, so why did you deliberately delay the start of these talks until it was imminent. Third, you are supposed to be sincere about reaching peace and the establsihment of a Palestinian State, and you know none of this can be accomplished it you stick to this ridiculous charade.

Pres. Abbas: This is no charade Mr. Prime Minister, either you extend the moratorium or we are out of here!

PM Netanyahu: Mr. President we are in a negotiation. You know that I cannot continue the moratorium without losing face in my country and jeopardizing the stability of my government coalition. However, if you offer me a concession to make it worthwhile I could consider making a compromise on the building freeze.

Pres. Abbas: What kind of concession do you have in mind?

PM Netanyahu: I was thinking that we could extend mutual recognition to each other, we will recognize the right of the Palestinian Arab people to a State, if you will recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people. Why is that so hard? If you do this I will extend the moratorium to all of the West Bank except the major Jewish settlement blocs in Ma'ale Adumim, Ariel and Etzion and of course Jerusalem.

Pres. Abbas: This is unacceptable, this is blackmail, your have the occupation and so you think you can pressure me to do what I cannot do. The Palestinian people can never recognize the right of the Jews to a State in Palestine.

PM Netanyahu: In that case, Mr. President, you are insincere in your pretense to these peace talks. Fine, don't make any concessions and the stalemate will continue and more or your people and mine will die. But, the Jewish building will go on in the West Bank, in Judea and Samaria, that are inextricably linked to the history of our people, and in the end you will find that you will not even be able to build an outhouse in the remnants of what you call Palestine.

Secty of State Clinton: Gentlemen, gentlemen, please keep calm, if you immediately reach a stalemate these talks will quickly fail and we will all look ridiculous. As you know, Pres. Obama will be very upset at such an outcome and he will vent his anger on both of you.

Pres. Abbas: He should blame the Israelis for the building in our territory.

PM Netanyahu: He should blame the Palestinians for being intransigent. We came here ready to compromise and they came here only with the same sterile demands.

Secty of State Clinton: What about the talk of a historic opportunity? Are these talks going to end the same way all previous talks did, in failure?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Compromise with whom?

PM Netanyahu has a difficult task as he seeks to walk the tightrope between the demands of Pres Obama, Pres Abbas and his own coalition.

In his statement at a press conference in Washington on Friday, Pres. Obama said that he had asked Netanyahu to extend the moratorium on building in the West Bank "while negotiations [with the PA] remain constructive." Of course, it is very subjective as to whether or not the negotiations are indeed "constructive." PA Pres. Abbas has stated that he will leave the talks tomorrow at Sharm el Sheikh if the freeze is not extended. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has to deal with growing opposition in his own Likud Party as well as other partners in the coalition, to decide whether or not he can afford to extend the moratorium. To some extent he is cushioned by support from the opposition to compromises he might make in the talks. But, even though Kadima might join the coalition in place of for example Israel Beitanu, Lieberman's Party, or Shas, this would require a complete turnaround of the whole Netanyahu Government, not easily accomplished.

In theSunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu hinted that there might be room for compromise, the kind of thing that has been suggested, for example restraining building in most of the West Bank and only allowing necessary building in the major Jewish settlement blocs. According to statements by PA spokemen this would be unacceptable to them. But, it appears that Netanyahu is prepared to do this and risk the fall of his Coalition, in exchange for recognition by the PA of Israel as the State of the Jewish people. Until now Abbas has admantly refused to do this, and probably would not now either. But, in the end, if there is to be any progress in the peace process, this mutual rcognition, that Netanyahu seeks upon, must eventually come about.

Whether or not Netanyahu can compromise enough, but not too much, to keep all the parties happy remains to be seen.

Monday, September 13, 2010


The following letter was published in the Jerusalem Post on 7 Sept. 2010:

Several articles in the Jerusalem Post comment on the direct talks currently going on in Washington ("Theatre of the Recurred" by Herb Keinon; "Meanwhile on the Right" by Gil Hoffman; "Hopes and fears" by David Horovitz, 3/9/10). However, no one comes up with a really novel idea that is distinct from either the "two state solution" or the "one state solution." I propose a confederation, a State that consists of Israel and Palestine, each governed separately, but that are unified in economic, security and other matters. This would be similar to the States of the US or the countries of the EU. By having such a confederation the right of Palestinians to live in Israel and for Jews to live in Palestine would be reciprocally protected. Of course, this confederation might take some time to develop, and could be joined by Jordan, making a stronger and more equal cultural balance. I owe this idea to Christian Anfinsen, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry (1972), who saw clearly that this would answer the needs of the two peoples.
Jack Cohen

As indicated in the letter the idea of a confederation between Jewish and Arab mini-states in Palestine was suggested to me by Chris Anfinsen, a wonderful man, a Nobel Laureate, and a devoted convert to Judaism. While it is easy to criticize this idea, and it is an idea that has little basis in current reality, nevertheless what the J. Post was seeking was new thinking and there was precious little of that in the articles cited and others. The idea of a confederation goes beyond the separate mini-states currently being proposed in the "two state" solution, but does not go as far in terms of integration as a "one-state" solution, which could be envisaged as a state in which both sides must coexist. Since that resembles Lebanon, it is not likely to be successful, and the Jews will rightly fear being out-voted or violently attacked by the Palestinian Arabs.

Perhaps the main criticism of such a confederation is that both mini-states, Jewish (Israel) and Palestine (Arab) must be established before they can be joined together. But, certainly Palestine cannot survive without Israeli support, and Israel cannot survive in the long run without satisfying the Palestinian Arabs with a State of their own that will separate them from the Jewish State demographically. In the fulness of time, when Arab antagonism to a Jewish State may be modulated, then perhpas the wisdom of joining together for the betterment of both will become persuasive.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Defacing Islam

Some of you have surely noticed my anti-Islamic views. For example, I oppose the building of a triumphal Mosque and Islamic Center near "ground zero." I am certainly against Islamism, the politically extremist element within Islam that seeks by violent acts to destroy and overtake Western civilization. But, I am totally against the craven act of burning the Koran.

To insult Muslims by defacing the book that they consider sacred is not only morally wrong, it is deliberately provocative and stupid. There have been predictions that there will be a "war of civilizations" between the West and Islam, and in fact that is already occuring. But, by burning the Koran we will reinforce precisely the view of the West that the extremists already believe and we will antagonize millions of Muslims who have not themselves taken up arms against us. Whether or not Islam is in fact a religion of peace, as some contend, the act of defacing the Koran will persuade them that we are inherently their enemies. Once we start burning their books, they will burn our and so it goes.

The Muslim world is a sea in which the terrorists swim. It should be our aim to make their presence in that world much less comfortable rather than making it more so. This is a test of our own civilization. Just as we would resent Mulsims burning our sacred books, they will resent us doing so to them. We militarily attack the Islamists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but we should not provide them with ammunition in their struggle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim majority. Of course, only a very small minority of stupid extremists would actually burn the Koran, but their act will cling to all of us like tar.

In their war against western civilization (which they regard as Judeo-Christian) the Islamists have carried out despicable murderous acts, on 9/11 in New York, on 7/7 in London and in Madrid, etc. We must take the war to them, while at the same time trying to persuade the majority of non-militant Muslims that we provide a civilized and honorable alternative. This has been the policy of our Presidents, Bush and Obama, and our Prime Ministers, Blair and Brown. To undermine this strategy on the anniversary of 9/11 would be self-defeating and dangerous.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

In an interview with the PA newspaper Pres. Abbas stated, regarding the current direct negotiations, "I can't allow myself to make even one concession." Actually, in the current negotiations the positions of the Israeli and PA Governments are quite similar. For example:

1. Israeli representatives emphasize that both sides must be prepared to make significant compromises. The Palestinian side agrees that the Israeli side must be prepared to make significant compromises.

2. The Israeli side insists that there are no preconditions to the talks. The PA side agrees, but insists that the talks cannot proceed without Israel extending the building freeze on the West Bank after its 10 month period ends.

3. The Israeli side is prepared to make concessions, such as removing checkpoints on the West Bank and allowing hundreds of Palestinian businessmen to enter Israel. The Palestinian side agrees with this concession.

4. The Palestinian side insists that the borders of the future Palestinian State must be the pre-1967 ceasefire lines. The Israeli side mistakenly assumed that there was going to be a negotiation on borders.

5. The Palestinian side insists that no Jews can be allowed to live within the West Bank area that will become the Palestinian State, since they ethnically cleansed the area of Jews from 1929 to 1949 (including massacres in Hebron and Etzion).

6. The Israeli side points out that there is a 20% minority of Arabs who are Israeli citizens, but the Palestinian side considers the Israeli denial of the "right of return" of the so-called Palestinian refugees as "racist."

7. The Israeli side proposes mutual recognition between the Palestinian Arab State and the Jewish Israeli State. The Palestinian side agrees that Israel must recognise their sovereign rights, but they cannot reciprocate, since after the Muslim conquest of Palestine in the 8th century the whole of Palestine was ethnically cleansed of Jews, and so they cannot therefore recognise the right of the Jews to a State in Palestine.

Whoever is optimistic about the outcome of the current talks, due to reconvene in Taba in Egypt in two weeks, must face the reality that the Palestinian side is not ready to actually negotiate on anything, except Israeli concessions.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Three lies

There are three widely believed lies that form the basis of most anti-Israel propaganda:

1. The West Bank belongs to the Arabs/Palestinians and Israel is the occupying power and should get out. I challenge anyone to produce any legal document that supports this opinion. In fact, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is unattributed or disputed territory since the end of the British Mandate in 1948. It was captured by Jordan but has never been under any recognized Arab sovereignty. The direct negotiations that are going on now are precisely to determine the fate of every part of the West Bank.

2. Israel has no right to build settlements on occupied land: This is not true, the land was occupied by Israel after a defensive war in 1967, but Israel's legal claim to the land predates that war and is no less than that of any Arab entity. The West Bank was part of the original British Mandate and there was no legal distinction between the West Bank and the rest of the Mandate that now constitutes Israel. As such, Israel has every right to build there and settle its citizens there. However, the longer the Palestinians wait until they come to terms with Israel the more Jews will be settled there.

3. There are now millions of Palestinian refugees who should be allowed the right of return: At the end of the 1948 war of Israeli Independence there were ca. 750,000 Arab refugees and ca. 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, most of whom settled in Israel, in other words an exchange of populations. The Arab refugees have remained so-called "refugees" for several generations, while the Jewish refugees have long since been successfully integrated into Israeli society. The Jewish refugees started in camps (ma'abarot) worse than most so-called Palestinian "refugee camps." According to international law a refugee is one who leaves his/her country, so legally after 62 years there are only a handful of actual Arab refugees left. Their descendents (who are not legally refugees) should be settled in the countries where they are living. Under international law the "right of return" is a fiction.

These truths should be borne in mind by the negotiators in Washington and by the critics of Israel.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Peace casualties

Throughout its history Israel has tried negotiating with the Arab side, but always under the threat of terrorism. The usual refrain, often heard from Arafat, was that if you don't give us what we want then violence will break out. In fact we knew that the terrorism was another side of the two-faced Palestinian approach. It may be that the 4 Israelis killed in a drive by shooting near Hebron yesterday were killed in just such a way, a warning to Israel to give in to Palestinian demands, or otherwise there will be more killings.

But, this time there is one big difference, there is a split between the so-called moderates of Fatah, now engaging with PM Netanyahu in talks in Washington, and the extremists of Hamas in Gaza. Notably the Hamas military wing Izzedin-al-Kassem claimed credit for these killings and it is reported that the Palestinian security forces on the West Bank are cooperating with the Israeli security forces. According to Hamas they are doing Israel's work, according to Israel they are finally showing their opposition to terror. Reports say up to 300 Hamas supporters were arrested throughout the West Bank. The PA spokesman specifically criticized the killings, although he mentioned all killings, including those of the Israeli occupation (which ones specifically?) and the incident was labelled a "military operation" by the official PA news agency.

It is a great pity that once again Jews have to pay with their lives so that one group or another can show their opposition to peace. By this act 7 more orphans have been created and greater enmity of the settlers against the Palestinians will understandably be generated. In a strong reaction to the killings the settler's Yesha movement announced that they will ignore the Israeli freeze and start to rebuild in the territories starting tonite, instead of waiting until Sept. 26, the official end of the freeze. It will be difficult for the civil administration of the WB to stop them.

Meanwhile another 2 Israelis were shot up in a drive by shooting in Israel on Wednesday at the Rimonim junction in the Galillee. The occupants, a couple, were able to escape and hide in trees even though injured. The IDF and security forces are on high alert. The problem is that in order to achieve peace there must be more Israeli casualites.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Middle East mix

The "direct peace talks" are due to start tomorrow in Washington, following suitable dinners and occasions. Will these talks change history or merely be another in a long series of formal arrangements that end in stalemate and take us no further ahead? Israel has engaged in such talks with commitment and enthusiasm before, but at every step advance has been thwarted.

After the Madrid Conference of 1990, when the ice was broken betwen the Jewish and Arab sides, there were hopes for progress. But now we are 20 years later, and very little has changed. It's true that there are no longer fears of attack by the Arab countries themselves, but in place of that we have the Iranian axis, Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, and Hamas. We do have peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but at every turn they do everything they can to undermine and delegitimize Israel. Thru the Oslo Accords and the Camp David negotiations successive Israeli PMs tried to entice Arafat into making an agreement, but to no avail. At Camp David he simply left without responding to the Israeli offer and at Taba he refused everything. PM Olmert, whatever one may think of him, tried hard to establish a working relationship with Arafat's successor, Pres. Abbas, and also promised him much, unavailingly. Even the "Road Map to Peace" failed to provide the necessary directions. PM Sharon's idea of unilateral Israeli withdrawals, i.e. if they won't agree with us we'll do it ourself, has foundered on the reality of 8 years of rocket fire from Gaza.

PM Netanyahu's Government has accepted the idea of "partition" of the land between Jews and Arabs, he has acknowledged that only a Palestinain State can satisfy the ambitions of the Arabs. But, this must be accomplished without surrendering Israeli security. So any such State must be demilitarized, and there must be mutual recognition, including Arab recognition of Israel as the Jewish State, and there must finally be an "end of conflict" agreement. The Palestinian leadership have shown no interest in dealing with these crucial issues, preferring to dwell on "settlements" and "refugees." Both sides must make compromises in their maximal postions, but there is no hint of this happening from the Arab side. Perhaps Abbas is too weak to compromise on anything.

At every meeting such as this, held by every US President in turn, in Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, Annapolis and so on, maybe there are little steps ahead that are not obviously visible at the time. But, can we afford to wait for this glacial progress. Don't the Arabs realize that with time, unless they come to terms with Israel, their little Palestinian cake is being legitimately nibbled away, and if they wait too long there won't be even a slice left for them.

Of course, Hamas, that violently opposes these talks, has no role to play in them, except as spoiler. They did this last night by attacking a car near Kiryat Arba and killing four Israelis in cold blood. Nevertheless, despite this tragic murder, the talks will go on, but parallel to them the IDF must exact its price on Hamas for its murderous terrorism. Fortunately, the PA issued a statement opposing such attacks, and so they won't have an excuse to call off the talks when Israel responds against Hamas. So this is the mix as usual in the Middle East, peace talks and terrorism.