Saturday, March 23

On the Way to a Fool's Paradise?

English: Cropped version of File:Official port...
English: Cropped version of File:Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpg. The image was cropped at a 3:4 portrait ratio, it was slightly sharpened and the contrast and colors were auto-adjusted in photoshop. This crop, in contrast to the original image, centers the image on Obama's face and also removes the flag that takes away the focus from the portrait subject. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just days before President Obama's whistle stop visit to Israel, a new government coalition was born. One of the salient characteristics of this government is that it is a mix of strange bedfellows with ideological differences, but united on many issues.

The campaign of Yesh Atid in its (Haredi) ultra-Orthodox bashing had teamed up with Bayit Hayedi of Naftali Bennett. The result - Netanyahu did not have much options and had to take both parties into his coalition. This is proof that the differences between Yesh Atid and Bayit Hayehudi are marginal.
The ideology of the religious right wing Zionist Bayit Hayehudi are very settler-oriented. Naftali Bennett, the leader of Bayit Hayehudi, is against the two-state solution. The attitude of Yesh Atid towards this issue is dubious and unclear. Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, has not made much reference to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict except talking about not having any "Zuabis" in the coalition whatever that means.

The coalition is on the verge of turning Israel into a "Fool's Paradise". On examining the composition of the new coalition, there does not seem to be any improvement over the previous right wing coalition with the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in it.

The composition of this 19th Knesset cabinet portfolios that were held by the Haredim, are now held by right wing Bayit Hayehudi members. The priorities of the taxpayers' money will change. Instead of going to parasitic Haredi partisan causes, as has been the case for many years creating a massive pool of ultra-Orthodox parasitic students, destined for poverty and state funding all their lives; the money will be funding the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank. So what will be achieved in this "changing of the religious guard"? Nothing! The complexity of a solution to the conflict will increase. The areas that should be designated theoretically to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel will be usurped because of increased building on Palestinian lands. All government departments concerned with expropriation of lands for development of housing projects have extremist right wingers heading them.

The new government will be concerned in preventing any movement towards a two-state solution apart from official lip-service which we shall hear on Obama's visit. Words! Words! Words with no purpose apart from appeasing Obama.

I do not know what is worse for Israel. Funding Haredi parasites, or West Bank illegal settlers turning the occupation into an everlasting fact on the ground. I think the latter is worse for Israel's standing and also from a moral point of view.

Yair Lapid is to blame for this - he helped replace Haredim with right wing religious Zionist occupiers. He formed a pact with Bennett on the backs of the middle class in Israel. We shall see what he will achieve as Finance Minister. He will be relying on Bibi Netanyahu's expertise which is more taxation of the middle class - those whom he declares that he represents! He will be pressurized by his right wing coalition partners in the government to give bigger budgets to illegal settlement projects in the West Bank. The wimpish Hatnuah of Zippi Livni will be a non-factor in the coalition. Amir Peretz -  so outspoken in social issues will be neutralized to a squeak as Minister of Environment. Tzippi Livni, the Justice Minister and responsible for negotiations with the Palestinians, will be towing the Netanyahu line which will be the Bennett-Feiglin-Danon-Akunis line that is extremist right to say the least.

The new government will be more illegal settler and occupation oriented than the previous. Thanks to Lapid and Bennett, we can look forward to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict being relegated to almost a non-issue while the false sense of illusion of no partner with whom to negotiate will be stated ad nauseam as an excuse to maintain the status quo. Is Israel, with its constellation of right-wing settler supporting shenanigans, partners for peace?

Israelis had the privilege of President Obama's state visit to Israel for three days. He was very warmly received. His warmth and support for the Israeli people was unprecedented. It left no doubt that his love and commitment towards Israel's security is unshakable and unbreakable. His speeches were peppered with quotes from Israel's past leaders, he even threw in some Hebrew words in his speeches, which increased the bond between him and the Israeli people.

Certainly from the outside, despite all the past reports of Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama having deep differences in their approach to a solution to the conflict,  no sign of animosity between the two leaders was noticeable. The impression was that both men realize that they have to cooperate and work together despite their past differences.

The three day visit of Obama was amazing. He conquered the hearts of Israelis wherever he went and we were in no doubt that he is a true friend of Israel.

In his first term as president, Obama was a bit naive. I think of the famous Cairo Speech which he delivered at Cairo University in 2009 a year before the fall of the tyrannical Mubarak regime. In his speech people in Israel got the impression that Obama's sympathies lay with the despots of the Arab world. Rumors started sprouting all over the Jewish World that Obama is a Muslim because of his middle name Hussein and the right wing  Zionists spread so many lies about Obama, moving heaven and earth to paint him into a persona non grata and an anti-Semite.

His visit to Israel proved how wrong they were. In fact we should all hang our heads in shame because of this stigma that the Zionist right wing tried to impose on Obama.

President Obama is a great orator and he exudes warmth and love for all mankind. His famous Jerusalem Speech to students and to Israelis in general (a You Tube clip of the entire speech is in a previous blog post) makes no bones about his true feelings for Israel. At the same time he was heavily cheered for his awareness of the hardships of the Palestinians, who are subject to army harassment everyday. He is correct in saying that peace must come from the people on both sides as both sides desire it. The people must pressurize their leaders to take the bold step to negotiate a just and lasting peace.

The last contribution Obama made was getting Netanyahu to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan  for the deaths of Turkish citizens in the fiasco of the Mavi Marmara incident. This was a great move that will end the bitter relations between Turkey and Israel. There is a well known saying in Hebrew that says that one must be wise rather than be right.

 Netanyahu telephoned Erdogan minutes before Obama's departure thus tying last unfinished business. Improved relations with Turkey is important in forming a pact against Iran and proxies and the increase of Al Qaeda influence in lawless, violent Syria which creates further instability in the Middle East. It is a great pity that Israel did not apologize to Turkey after the Mavi Marmara incident, but better late than never.

Now all that remains is that after these incredible speeches, words will be translated into action and that peace negotiations for a permanent solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict will begin. The priorities of the new government must be a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians, followed by a solution to its internal social problems. The one is dependent on the other.

If the government ignores the importance of peace negotiations with the Palestinians by placing its emphasis on internal problems and maintaining the occupation status quo, Israel will become a Fool's Paradise.

President Obama's visit was a breath of fresh air and one cannot feel indifferent to the positive messages he issued to all of us.

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Friday, March 22

End Times Watch: Obama's Speech To Israeli Students

There is no doubt in my mind that this speech was one of the highlights of his whistle stop tour to Israel. His words about the Palestinians mentioned in his speech were well balanced and fair.I am sure that it was not exactly to the liking of the Bennetts and Netanyahus in the Knesset. Wishing all my family and friends חג שמך לפסח It is important to remember that freedom for the Palestinians from the occupation and working for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is part of the lesson of Pesach.

Saturday, March 2

We need a Nelson Mandela!

A peace movement poster: Israeli and Palestini...
A peace movement poster: Israeli and Palestinian flags and the words peace in Arabic and Hebrew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesh Atid Election Night Party
Yesh Atid Election Night Party (Photo credit: The Israel Project)
So much is happening in the Middle East. In Syria the Butcher of Damascus, Bashar al Assad, is having a field day murdering innocent men, women and children by the thousands. The various "Arab Springs" have not yielded results moving towards democracy. Not only is there no democracy the economic situation has not shown any signs of improvement. This means that poverty, unemployment and a poor health system all has to be addressed and there is not much time left in the hands of the rulers for achieving this. Instead, the vacuum created by the fall of the various autocratic regimes have been replaced by Islamist regimes which have made Sharia (Muslim Law) the basis of rule. Freedom and democracy replacing the tyrannic old order has not been achieved.

The Arab countries, who were at the forefront of the Arab Spring, Tunisia and Egypt, have not achieved democracy and the people are becoming dissatisfied because of the lack of progress towards that goal. Demonstrations are becoming common place and the results often end in violence and death.

The situation in the Middle East, especially in Syria, has not ruffled the world as much as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has and still does. This does not mean that the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan is justifiable. It is not. Of course the situation is not ideal and the lack of trust and hate between Israelis and Palestinians is dead-locked. If anything, the situation between Israel and Palestine is becoming more radicalized as a solution to the conflict is receding further away. The two-state solution is viewed as being unattainable as illegal Israeli settlements are being built rather than being frozen.

The Middle East is so volatile.One isolated incident can ignite the whole area. Israel is so busy with coalition building as two right wing parties, Yesh Atid and Bayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home Party) have signed a pact rendering the formation of a coalition under Netanyahu very difficult to achieve if he includes the ultra-Orthodox paties with whom they are not prepared to sit in the Netanyahu coalition. The difference in ideology between these two parties is marginal today. The Yesh Atid Party (There is a Future Party) is such a misnomer because it is a one issue party. It represents a hatred of the ultra-Orthodox parties whom they feel should support compulsory military for ultra-Orthodox who do not share the military burden. It is a pity that many Israelis view this pathetic one-issue party as a panacea to Israel's national priorities. Their attitude towards peace is no different from the right wing settlement oriented parties, who are eroding the two-state solution. It is doubtful if they have any policy on peace which should be Israel's priority, but instead, is being buried in the sand.

Netanyahu is unable to build a coalition because of the Bennett-Lapid bond, which have much in common. Both parties are right wing. Yesh Atid is moving to the right despite its anti ultra-Orthodox stance. They are dragging Bayit Hayehudi into that stance as well. Lapid is no democrat. He has even forbidden his party members not to attend Geneva Initiative meetings which should give us all an idea as to what he really represents. He is showing megalomanic symptoms and wants to be in full control not allowing divergence of opinions on a solution to the serious problem of peace negotiations. Well what can one expect from a party that engages in ultra-Orthodox bashing instead of encouraging the finding of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is a tough and necessary challenge that we all need to face.

A very much weakened Likud-Beiteinu has emerged. It is faced with two options:

1. Signing a coalition agreement with the right wing Yesh Atid-Bayit Hayehudi-Kadima bloc which will give Netanyahu's coalition 70 seats
2. Signing a coalition agreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties and Tnuah (who has already signed an agreement to be in the Netanyahu-led government), which will still not give them enough votes to form a government. They would achieve a maximum of 57 seats. The minimum needed is 61 seats.
3. Calling for new elections which, according to the polls, will weaken Netanyahu even further.
On the face of it all, it seems that there are three options but in reality there are only two options for Netanyahu.

The result either way will be a right wing government with its face towards the status quo of more of the same - entrenching the occupation even further with more Israeli settlements being built in the West Bank resulting in further encroachment on Palestinian lands. This will decrease Israel's standing in the world even further and there will be increased divisions in Israel as well as further estranging Israel's non-Jewish minorities. Attacks on mosques and churches by fringe extremist right wing "Price Tag religious" ear-lock kippa-cladded rabble and their "Hill-Top Youth" allies will also increase. One must bear in mind that these religious extremists are by-products of right wing ideology which is so prevalent in Israel these days.

The need for a Nelson Mandela is more urgent now than ever before. There is no sign that a leader with a Nelson Mandela-like vision will arise either in Israel or in Palestine. This is our only hope.
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