Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thank you, Hezbollah!

Why for haven's sake would we have to thank Hezbollah? For almost 200 Israelis killed? For 23 billion NIS damages to the Israeli economy? Well, obviously that is not what I had in mind... We have to thank Hezbollah for a wake-up call, which may have been delivered at the very last moment.

I really don't want to join here the tired old criticism of every decision any government has ever taken. Israelis love to criticize, and they always know everything best. Every cab driver had a better plan for this war, every journalist knew from day one that we are not going to win, bla, bla, bla. Sickening.

Side track: All this bitching in the media reminds me of a totally unrelated story. A few years ago, at the height of the second Intifada, the quality control people of the public water company "Mekorot" discovered a milky pollution in water pipeline connecting the center of Israel with the Sea of Galilee, Israel's only fresh water reservoir. Not being able to identify the chemical fast enough, and not knowing exactly how far the stuff had traveled in the system already, they decided to close the valves near the end of the pipeline and flush the whole line with clean water. This meant thousands and thousands of cubic meters of scarce water literally went down the tube. Shortly afterwards it was discovered that the chemical was a relatively harmless fertilizer, which was sucked into the water system by a defect reflow protection valve on somebody's agricultural watering system. The Mekorot managers were almost lynched for wasting so much water and creating a public panic. Of course, at that time more than ever, there were very good reasons to assume that terrorist could poison the water. Therefore, in the absence of any solid data on the pollutant, the Mekorot managers took the gutsy decision to dump all that water and alert the public. Had it been a terrorist act, they'd come out the saviors of maybe thousands of people. Since it was not, everybody and their grandmother knew better and criticized them for their decision. This is Israel, you can never do anything without somebody claiming in public he or she could have done better. I have to admit, it is tiring at times.

Back to the Hezbollah. Having talked to reserve soldiers returning from Lebanon, I come to the following picture. No, we did not loose this war, Hezbollah has been hit hard and it will take them some time to lick their wounds and recover from the blow. Iran will have to spend a lot of money to replenish Hezbollah's stock piles, money they would need to buy equipment for their dangerous nuclear program, maybe. Na, I guess they'd rather save a little on education....

But we also didn't win this war. Although the threat was known and the IDF trained ever since we left Lebanon for this possibility, when the war broke out nothing worked as planned. Olmert, Halutz and Peretz ignored all the existing planning and reinvented the war as it unfolded. Instead of an immediate massive call-up of well trained and prepared reserves, and an overwhelming blow with boots on the ground and vastly superior fire power all over the South within a couple of days, Halutz went about it with the motto "let the airforce win this war", while Olmert, Peretz and Livni were worried more about European public opinion than our soldiers lifes. We were able to watch on TV bloody battles being fought about a single house in some Lebanese village, when a single artillery shell could have finished the job in a second and with zero casualties on our side. There were quite a few attempts to win a war like this with surgical strikes delivered from the air in the last 20 years or so, and none of them have been engraved as great success stories in military history - it just doesn't work. Only when this approach failed also here in front of a horrified Israeli public, did the leadership finally allow the "green" generals to operate according to established principles of ground war. They got two days to make up for the blunders of one wasted month. And so Hezbollah got away, limping and bleeding, but alive and encouraged, Israel can be beaten! being their message to all our enemies.

A gigantic opportunity to deliver a devastating blow to Hezbollah and friends has been missed. With a rare consensus among the Israelis regarding the justification for this war and it's goals, with extremely high motivation all through the IDF, only a mediocre result has been achieved. No, it is not a devastating loss, there are gains on the ground as well as in the political arena, but altogether everybody understands that one day we will have to go back and do it all over again. Already now the UN resolution regarding the demilitarization south of the Litani as well as the weapons embargo are being broken every single day, with nobody in the UN giving a damn, as usual. So at some point the whole mess will flare up again, no doubt about it.

Nevertheless, imagine the extend of the disaster if all of this had happened a few years later, with Hezbollah having added hundreds of Iranian long range missiles to its arsenal, further improved the fortified infrastructure in the South and maybe even added non-conventional war heads to their missiles. Not only would we have seen many more Israeli casualties, also the chance of this leading to a direct war with Syria and maybe even Iran would have been much higher.

Now, that we narrowly avoided a bigger disaster, we will surely be prepared much better next time, right? Well, maybe. If the self cleaning mechanism of the Israeli democracy finally starts to kick in, if incompetent military and political leaders are finally forced ONCE to take responsibility for their failures and if a minimum level of ethics and professionalism is restored to the ranks of Israeli leadership, in that case we will be prepared.

Israelis, wake up! Incompetence, corruption and other unethical conduct of our leadership must not be tolerated any longer. Has there ever been a country where the prime minister, the president and several ministers are under police investigation for misconduct at the same time? Ever? One?

Hezbollah is our crystal ball to see the future. If things don't change around here, the next time around we won't get away with just a bloody nose.

So, thank you Hezbollah!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What it all boils down to....

Found this one on Flickr. It is too good and too true to be missed, so here is the pic instead of my usual links. Don't know who is the author, so I apologize for the copyright violation right away.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"The War with Israel Is Over" - A Letter to the Palestinians from an Australian Arab

Youssef Ibrahim's letter was all over the internet. If you have seen it, forgive me, I needed to include this here for the sake of completeness. There are some sane voices in the Arab camp. Not many, but they do exist. This one is a must read if you haven't done so already (click the title).

Secular/Rational Lebanese, where are you?

One of these days I suddenly remembered one of my many plane trips to Europe, some ten years ago, that time from Tel Aviv via Athens to Frankfurt. During the last leg I was sitting in the middle section of the coach, trying to work. In the back a party was going on. People were changing seats all the time, loud discussions from row to row, distribution of home made food, blocked aisles, annoyed flight attendants, a picture not uncommon in flights in this corner of the world...

I was too far away to understand anything, but there was no doubt in my mind that those were fellow Israelis on their way to some organized vacation in Europe, also taking advantage of the cheap connection via Athens. Since it was just impossible to work I got up after a while to check out the home made food (try that one on an United Airlines flight...). Once I came closer I realized that the people were speaking Arabic, not Hebrew. I was puzzled, because they were not looking like Israeli Arabs, actually they were not looking like Arabs at all, at least not to me being a newcomer to the region at the time. I sat down in the vicinity and observed the happy crowd. It became clear after a while that this was a couple going to honeymoon, and some of their friends or relatives (ever thought of taking your buddies along with you on your honeymoon...?). I closed in and asked one of the happy people where they are from and what is going on. It turned out that the wedding party was from Beirut. A Lebanese group behaving exactly the same way Israelis would behave in a similar setting.

I also recall stories from Israeli soldiers who had been to Beirut in the first war, making friends despite their status as enemies, and feeling pretty much at home. Most of them are just like us, they said.

Well, I guess that is true for the secular Lebanese, for the Christians and some of the moderate Moslems. It is certainly not true for those fanatics which sacrifice their children in order to give shelter and international legitimacy to the Hezbollah terrorists bombarding Israeli cities.

Still, with all that is going on now, I wonder where are the voices of those Lebanese people, with whom we could make peace so easily. I would love to travel one day to Beirut, which was once called the Paris of the Middle East, sit in a cafe and have a croissant with some Lebanese friends. Is this so far fetched?

It didn't seem to be back then.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What an American-Arab Intellectual Thinks About Islam

Wafe Sultan, an Arab-American (or American Arab, which way would she prefer?) psychologist gave a short but very exciting interview on Al Jazeera. This is a must see for everybody trying to figure out what the heck is going on in the Middle East (click on the title).

I would like to thank Mrs. Sultan for her frank words, and I wish her that she will stay alive long enough to hopefully witness some changes for the better. Her reaching pension age would be one of those changes in the today's Islamic culture the future of all of us depends on.

Open letter to S. Faramarzi / Associated Press

Dear Mrs. Faramarzi,

I'd like to express first that although a certain anti-Israeli bias is visible in your work, to my opinion it is still within the limits of what one can expect from a professional journalist. This gives me a glimmer of hope that you may find some value in my following comment.

You keep repeating the statement that Israel started the current fighting as a response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, which is indeed the common opinion outside of Israel. This is a superficial and extremely misleading interpretation of the events.

If the public opinion outside Israel is shaped by such a totally wrong understanding, a peaceful solution to the current crisis, and indeed to the Middle East problem overall, will only move further out of reach. I believe that we both share the wish to avoid such a bleak future.

What is usually omitted from interpretations of Israel's motivation for the current fighting are the events since the withdrawal from Lebanon, and even more so since the withdrawal from Gaza.

In both cases the withdrawal to an internationally recognized border has not increased the security of Israel's citizens. In the North Hezbollah has pledged to "liberate" the so-called Sheba Farms, a meaningless shred of dirt, the future of which could easily have been settled in a wider regional peace agreement with Lebanon and Syria. However this provided the justification for a massive military build-up right at Israel's border fence, regular cross-border raids, and worst of all, occasional bombardment of Israeli townships and villages with Katjusha rockets, bluntly targeting the civilian population.

The same picture emerged after the withdrawal from Gaza. Instead of providing the critics in Israel with proof that the formula "Land for Peace" works, Hamas and other organizations proved to the Israeli public that loss of control means loss of security. In the months from the withdrawal and widely applauded razing of the Israeli settlements to the day the hostilities in the North broke out, Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip absorbed over 600 Qassam rocket attacks.

Hezbollah crossed the border to ambush an Israeli patrol, initially killing 3 soldiers and abducting 2 more. At the same time a barrage of mortars and Katjushas was fired into Israel, wounding several civilians. Those Katjushas, being numbers 601-751 of missiles fired at Israeli civilians recently, triggered the Israeli response.

What we are now witnessing is the final collapse of the ailing "Land for Peace" doctrine and the forced return to a doctrine of "Deterrence First". Misrepresenting the Israeli response as a maniac's head rush over two miserable soldiers could well be the last nail in the coffin of hope for peace.

(Formalities omitted from the original letter sent directly to AP)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Qana - A Nightmare Repeated

For the second time Israel has lost a war in the Lebanese village of Qana. As in 1996, some kind of mistake lead to the bombing of a place filled with civilians. The public outcry lead to a halt of the military operations then, and it seems it is the beginning of the end also this time.

But why is that? Sure, it is terrible when civilians get killed, and even more so when it is children. I am a father of three, and seeing the pictures of those little bodies dragged from the ruins made me sick to my stomach. It is very easy to imagine that this could happen to my kids, too. After all, we are not living in Switzerland. And, unlike the Swiss, we are surrounded by neighbors who want nothing more than exactly that: Kill my kids, and celebrate it. Celebrate it to the silence of the UN and a probably not very deeply distressed Annan, as we have seen when 400 Israeli civilians were blown up by Palestinian suicide bombers in 2002 and 2003.

And that is the difference between Israel and Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the other medieval warrior societies around us. We kill because we are fighting for our survival, and because the Hezbollah tactics leave us no choice. Hezbollah kill - for what? For the Sheba Farms, a small piece of dirt not even viewed as occupied by the UN? Bullshit.

Nobody other than the idiotic Al-Jazera (et al) propaganda can believe that Israel wanted to kill those Lebanese kids. (By the way, were there ever images of Israeli kids killed on a bus by a suicide bomber on Al-Jazera? Ever? Well, I didn't think so. Although, on second thought, there actually might have been - with victory music and a heroic poem about the martyr who just slaughtered them...)

I don't believe in the intentional killing because I live here, I know the people, the same people that make up the army, and they are not like that. My kids are drawing peace doves in the kindergarten, they learn that people come in different colors and with different cultures. At the same time kids in Palestinian kindergarten learn to hate Israel and the desire to become martyrs. A thin strip of land separates two cultures who are actually 500 years apart from one another. No wonder that some Arabs still talk about the crusaders when they refer to the West. They haven't yet realized that crusaders are an extinct species, and they themselves have turned into modern day crusaders. I just hope they will last a lot less than their medieval ancestors.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Where is the Diaper Truck?

I start to hate reading the Israeli newspapers. Apart from a few stories about heroism of individual soldiers, it is all just one big whining. Daily pictures of wounded soldiers being evacuated, soldiers crying over fallen comrades, articles about soldiers afraid to go into combat, mothers worried for their sons. The purpose of a heroic battle always seems to be rescue of casualties, not whacking Hezbollah's behind. This may all be very touching and human, but the IDF is not a congregation of social workers, it is a war machine that should make the enemy tremble from fear.

The only thing missing (so far) is a diaper truck bringing urgently needed supplies to the front line!

Israelis always know better than anybody else what has to be done. This is in particular the case with journalists. Now every commentator is a better general than those who serve in the IDF, so nothing the army does is right, they should have done this or that. Worst are the "we won't achieve the goal" articles. This kind of bullshit could very easily turn into self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecies.

I can see the Hezbollah shmocks sitting in their bunker, or hidden among Lebanese civilians in some village, and browsing the internet for Israeli publications, having a big, fat smile on their faces.

It is time military censorship kicks in. The news media cause a serious damage to the war effort. They can and even should show what is happening on the home front, but please, no more images of crying soldiers - or I will send the diaper truck!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Finally the Truth: From an UN Official!

The western press is slowly picking up the following statement made by the UN Humanitarian Chief Egeland, published after his visit to Beirut:

"Consistently, from the Hezbollah heartland, my message was that Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children," he said. "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men."

Apart from explaining to the world why there are so many civilians victims in Lebanon, the statement is also most noteworthy from an Israeli point-of-view, as it is the first time ever any UN official is (at least indirectly) blaming anything happening here on Israel's enemies, not on Israel. There is hope!

I am dying to know if there is even a single publication in the Arabic or Muslim world citing this statement. Just one, maybe????

Monday, July 24, 2006

And all this because of two soldiers?

This is the most stupid sentence I have heard in a long time, and one can hear it a lot on TV these days. Very few of the journalists flown in to cover the new Lebanon conflict apparently take the time on the plane to read up a little before they go live with nonsense of that sort.

Of course it is not because of the two kidnapped soldiers, just like the army's return to Gaza was not because of one kidnapped other soldier. Those were just triggers. The current war on two fronts means that we have finally been forced to realized that "Land for Peace" is a formula which does not work. It has been the guideline of most governments in the last 15 years, but it has failed. Every time we have ceded territory we got punished for it, rather than rewarded.

Example Lebanon. The UN-verified Israeli withdrawal to the international border has created a certain lull in the daily small intensity fighting that was the routine ever since the creation of the buffer zone in South Lebanon, but in fact it did only produce an illusion of security. And, the final result was written on the walls for a long time, we just didn't want to know it. Israeli intelligence knew that Hezbollah was amassing missiles, hiding them among the civilians in South Lebanon. We knew they are building bunkers and observation points right on the border. We may not have know the full extent of those efforts. But that those efforts are not meant as confidence building measures was also clear from the frequent violations of the border by Hezbollah raids and occasional Katjusha fire into the towns and villages of Northern Israel. On the day of the kidnapping the North was hit by 150 Katjushas. At some point it had to boil over.

The same thing in Gaza. Instead of getting busy with building the first part of their anticipated State after the total withdrawal including the destruction of the Israeli settlements, the Gazans were busy producing Quassam rockets, and digging tunnels to smuggle more weapons in from Egypt. From the day we left Gaza for good (or so we thought) to the decision to reenter Gaza with ground forces, the Israeli towns and villages near the border were hit by 600 Quassam rockets. At some point it had to boil over.

I have heard this argument from the Israeli right many times and never believed it: "The Arabs will interpret such a withdrawal as weakness and result of their terror tactic. They will use the new freedom to intensify the terror rather than to lessen it." Well, I have to admit, they were right on.

Hamas and Hezbollah have convinced one more Israeli dove. There can not be peace without the total destruction of their capability to terrorize the Israeli population. Only once those organizations have been totally destroyed, by all means and whatever the cost in terms of Israeli and Arab casualties, only then the remaining forces among the Palestinians and all other current enemies will have learned the lesson: Israel can not be defeated by violence. Only then they will be ready for peace.

This also means that Olmert's plan of further unilateral withdrawals has no future - unless it is backed up by the credible threat of total destruction of any entity daring to attack Israel from any territory returned, whatever the cost may be. I hope Olmert has the stomach to build that lost credibility now, once and for all.

May the force be with you, Ehud!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Home, sweet Home!

Made it back home, not just in time, well in time. Very well in time, actually. This war in the North is quickly becoming part of the status quo. I start to suspect that I will be going and returning a couple of more times, before there will be a dramatic change in the news.

Oh yes, the news. While in Germany I was starving for news. The hotel deep in the forests of the "Schwaebische Alp" had neither cables nor satellite TV, so I could get only the local and two national German stations. The good souls have news in the morning and twice or three times during the evening program, that's it. Well, there is not much to talk about, is there. How many times can you look at a traffic jam caused by vacationers going south? Or see the dropping water levels in Lake Konstanz?

News in Israel are something else. For starters, there usually is something new to see, every day, every hour, somewhere somebody is trying to kill somebody else. Or gets killed. Or could have been killed. Whatever. So whenever you turn on the national channels, it will be only a few minutes before you get some news update thrown at you. Soap - commercial - news - commercial - news - promo - commercial - news - soap. That is roughly the typical programming sequence. This is how Israeli TV manages to spread a single episode of "24 Hours" over 24 hours actual viewing time.

Well, the thing is that even when it occasionally happens that there simply are no news whatsoever, how much news can 6 Million people generate after all, the pattern continues unchanged. When poor Ariel Sharon had his stroke all we could watch on TV for a full week were commercials and news bulletins. By the end of the week TV news crews had managed to interview every person Sharon ever talked to in his entirely life, and many more he hadn't, including hospital cleaning staff and random patients in other wards. Waiting for the next 30 seconds of "24 Hours" I had to watch Moshe from Moshav Galia, telling live about his abdominal pain, which is not entirely unlike the feeling Ariel Sharon must have had at the beginning of his stroke, being finally relieved by the same capable doctors, even with somewhat similar probing instruments. When Sara from Kfar Saba started to talk about the traffic jams on the way to the hospital, I changed channels for the 67th time that evening, only to return to the recorded version of Moshe's abdominal thriller.

It won't take long and the current news will decay to the same level. That will be the moment to finally go on summer vacation without the fear of missing another historic moment.

A peaceful weekened to our soldiers in the North, to frightened families in damp shelters, and to the poor Lebanese civilians who have nothing to do with the Hezbolla shmocks and get into the way of the IAF by bad luck only. May God watch out for all of you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

At War!

This is my ultimate nightmare. I don't mean the mini war going on in Israel at this very moment. I mean that I am not there! My family is preparing the shelter and I am traveling in Europe, green and summary, one big, peaceful Disneyland. Filled with people utterly clueless about what is going on in the Middle East, now more than ever. Besides being a bit worried for my folks, but not too much really, I have this tendency of missing the historic moments. The fall of the Berlin wall I experienced glued to the TV in an Israeli student dorm, instead of climbing over the wall myself. By the time the Iraqi SCUDs fell on Israel in the first Gulf War I was back in Germany and talked to people in Israel who were wearing gas masks during the conversation. When Rabin was shot I was in Hong Kong, stunned and sad about not being able to be with all the mourners on what is now called Rabin square in Tel Aviv. I did experience the return of the British colony Hong Kong to China, better than nothing, I guess.

And now this. Israel is finally getting tough with the maniacs, who have fired over 600 missiles into Israel since we have withdrawn entirely from the Gaza strip, and I am having croissant for breakfast - but good ones, I have to admit. The rightists in Israel were proven right - instead of getting less terror we got more. And now the Katjushas raining down on the North, with Syria and Iran getting a good show for their money.

However, I don't think we are doing the right thing with bombarding bridges and air strips in Lebanon. Of course Hezbollah has to be turned into dust, whatever it takes, but at the end of the day Hezbollah is just a group of demented Mafiosi, who live off the Lebanese people like blood sucking insects. They could do nothing without the support from Teheran and Damascus. And this is exactly where we have to go to stop the madness. If Assad has to witness the whole military and administrative apparatus of his governing clique turned into trash by the IAF, he will probably be smart enough to understand that a few Katjushas on Israel are not worth this price, as much as he may enjoy them. The same is true for Iran. The mullahs think they are out of reach and therefore they can support terror and call for Israel's destruction without any risk. This is the time to show them that Israel's arm extends all the way to Teheran. And, by the way, it is an excellent opportunity to finish their crazy nuclear ambitions. But whom am I telling this - Olmert and Peretz, do you read me?

I just hope I'll make it home before it is all over, once again.

You people out there, have a nice and peaceful weekend.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Italy, finally!

Not exactly a happy day in Israel's history is behind us. The election results are in and we are starting to realize that nothing is as we expected.

The front runner Kadima disappointed with 28 seats instead of the 35 expected, and will have to yield important ministries to the needed coalition partners, probably Labor, two religious parties (Shas and UTJ) and the Pensioners - who appeared out of nowhere to claim 7 seats. This coalition will control 74 of 120 seats in the Knesset, enough to push through Olmert's plan of further unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank. But this is where to good news end.

34 seats of that coalition have the reversal of the current economic policies as their main goal ( policies that have saved Israel from bankruptcy after the burst of the hitech bubble), and they will extort Olmert at every and each opportunity. For every settler leaving the West Bank they will demand a million Shekels to stuff the pockets of their clientele, the weak segments of society as they are called, and the Ultra-Orthodox. Millions and millions, which the so-called rich middle class will have to earn, and what can not be earned will increase the budget deficit and simply be left for our children to deal with. The money will not be invested into infrastructure, education, R&D or other drivers of economic growth, it will be distributed in form of unproductive hand-outs, unconnected to personal commitment, effort or performance. The necessary result will be higher taxes, slower growth, higher unemployment, inflation - it is all soooo predictable and yet Israel is falling into the old trap once again. How depressing. And on top of all that, we'll be back at the polling stations in 2 years max. That kind of coalition will disintegrate over the first real crisis. We may not have managed to copy Italy's quality of life, but we sure have mad great progress in achieving Italian sort of government survival times. (Thinking about Italy - we are also nowhere near Italian style in fashion. Too bad.)

By the way, you can think about Netanyahu what you want, and I am by no means a fan of his political maneuvers, but his leadership as Finance Minister and iron guard of the budget will soon be missed - note my words.

However, in my opinion the biggest damage to the country will be caused by the failure of the secular parties to keep the religious out of the government. The return of the inherently anti-democratic ("who votes for us goes to heaven") and chronically corrupt Shas party is going to cost us more than all the security measures against the Hamas terror together. As Sam Harris ("The End of Faith" - a must read!) says: If iron age philosophers hold power over modern society, things can only change for the worse.

Shinui (="change"), my personal pick, was the secular watch dog in the last government (at least for the first two years or so), keeping religious sticky hands out of the public coffers. This time they didn't even make the minimum number of votes to send a representative into the Knesset. Their demand to audit the reports from religious schools with the subsequent discovery of tens of thousands of bogus students saved the public 500 million Shekels every year! With Shas running the show those reports won't even be reviewed - note my words. You have 80 students called Moshe Levy in a school of 100? What a strange coincident. Shas already now demands control of the Ministry of Communications, so they can ban access to porn via mobile phones and the internet, and have sermons of their "spiritual leader", Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, distributed via public TV stations. Worse yet, their anticipated control of the Ministry of the Interior will allow them to meddle also in the future with the secular public's wish to marry or divorce in a civil act without the consent of the rabbinical court. Reminds you of Iran? It should!

An interesting news bit is the low voter turn-out, only 67%, the lowest in Israel's history. Everybody has offered a different explanation, I believe many Israelis concluded correctly that this election will return mostly corrupt, self-centered and incompetent politicians to power and do nothing good for the country.

So why even bother to vote? It was such a nice day to BBQ on the beach...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Winter Day

Browsing through my last posts one could get the totally wrong impression that I don't like Israel all that much. Well, here is a short one from a totally different perspective.

This afternoon I had a meeting in Herzelia Pituach, a trendy HiTech center on the Mediterranean coast, a bit north of Tel Aviv. Before the meeting I had lunch in the Herzelia Marina, sitting in the sun - 23 deg C in the middle of February, people! - and watching the yachts. After the meeting I went down to the beach, bought a beer, dropped into the sand and watched the sun set. Two hours like that and a lot of the daily hassle just dissolves into background noise.

Could have been a worse day.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ever feel really, really sick?

Omri Sharon was sentenced yesterday to 9 months in prison and fined 300,000 Shekel for his central role in raising and hiding illegal campaign contributions in the 99 Likud primaries. Nobody expected a serious sentence, and the shockwave went through all layers of society. Serious is relative here though, since the maximum sentence is 5 years, but hey - it's a beginning.

Anyway, all afternoon I had to listen on the radio to Omri's fellow politicians whining about the severe sentence, about the judge overstepping her mandate, about the heartless legal system not taking into account the tragedy surrounding the Sharon family, bla, bla, bla. What a load of bullshit. Not one had the guts and/or the character to say "he got what he deserves for doing what he did". Not one.

Not that Omri's crimes were in any way unusual for the political establishment. To take just the latest examples, Naomi Blumenthal (Likud) was convicted of bribery during the 2002 Likud primaries (remember the political joke?) and Tzachi Hanegbi (now Kadima) is under investigation for having filled up the ranks of the Ministry of the Environment with all kind of cronies during his term as (Likud) minister. And every year the State Comptroller's report is full with stories like these, conveniently ignored by most.

The real scandal is however that not a single soul in the Likud or Kadima is even suggesting that those dubious characters should not run for the Knesset, be expelled from the party, or whatever self-cleaning measures one might think of.

That is the message: No matter how much shit you have on your hands, as long as you are buddies with Bibi Netanyahu (Likud), Ehud Olmert (ex-Likud, now Kadima) or the Shas Torah Sages (kind of the Shas central committee), you are going to be okay.

I had enough. I think I will vote for Meretz. They are hopeless dreamers, but at least nobody there can be seriously corrupt, as they never had the power to do anything for anybody. No power, no corruption. And dreams are a rare resource these days.

Reminds me of a lawyer joke, which I will modify a little bit:
Q: "How do you call a hundred Likud central committee members chained together on the bottom of the ocean?"
A: "A good beginning."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Banana Republic, Part II

Couple of days ago I picked up the "flag joke", and then I saw the Haaretz article ( - see for yourself. Reality can get pretty wierd our here.

Well, we have a nice little winter storm outside, electricity in parts of the country is down and it will take several hours to get fixed. Ample of time off work to get a few words out on the state of the affairs.

The election is approaching and with it the same old question: Shall I vote for the party that can maybe fix the trouble with the Palestinians (Kadima), or shall I punish my only possible choice for selecting Ehud Olmert as replacement of Ariel Sharon? Olmert is politically correct (literal meaning) in the sense that he will continue the path of unilateral separation from the Palestinians, which is the only way forward (hence "Kadima") feasible at this time, and with the emergence of a Hamas-controlled PA this time will last at least another 5-10 years. But Olmert also continues in the path of shameless mingling with criminals and is suspected to be even more corrupt than his precessor. Having much less of a track record to lean back on, Olmert can not afford to be arrogant about this. He was criticized twice by the attorney general for connections with and intervening on behalf of the Gavrieli clan, a known organized crime family, a fact which he bluntly denied two days ago in a TV interview - lying into the public's face about an established fact, how stupid can one get? This blunter cost Kadima 2 seats in the polls and it is going to get worse as more and more dirt is uncovered about Ehud Olmert, a man without a Teflon layer, unlike Ariel Sharon. Arik will be remembered as the man who founded a new centrist main stream to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Olmert as the man who sank it.

A few more words about the Gavrieli clan. Long suspected to be in the illegal gambling business, a number of family members were finally arrested this week (see link in the head line). The really disgusting thing about this is that the family is very well connected to the Likud leadership (see "A Political Joke" in and thus even managed to send their daughter into the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament). Of course Inbal had no problem to use her immunity in order to protect her parents' home from a police search related to the gambling investigation. Abusing their immunity to cover up dirty business has become a common theme among political thugs and low lives in the current Knesset. The really disturbing thing about all of this is that not a single Israeli public servant has resigned from his or her job for being associated with corruption scandals, connections to organized crime or other severe misconduct. I can not think of a single western democracy with so low standards of responsibility and honor among the political elite. Israel, the Banana Republic. Sad, very, very sad.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Interesting Times

Well, at least we can not say that things are boring around us. Since I last wrote basically everything has changed. Sharon is out of the game, which is too bad, the peace loving Scandinavians are getting whacked by Muslims all over the place, and even the weather is going nuts - Kibbutz Eilot (near Eilat), where I just spent a couple of nice days, is now covered with 40 cm of mud after the heaviest rain falls since 1956 or so. Gee, cool stuff, but I am a bit busy right now with other things, so for today only a nice joke I picked up today:

Arab shopper in the store: "I'd like a Danish, a Norwegian and a German flag, please."
Shop keeper: "No problem, I just got a load of really nice ones. Shall I pack them as a present?".
Shopper: "Oh, no thank you, too kind. But I think I'll burn them on the spot!"

You've got to love them...