a different side of Israel

Tag: America (page 3 of 14)

Deals with the Devil

Newspapers around Israel have reported that Hamas is now threatening to murder Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was wounded and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists back in June 2006 which ignited the second Lebanese-Israeli War. Hamas stated that if the Israeli government does not meet their demands of the release of 350 prisoners, many of whom are imprisoned for outright murder of innocent civilians, they will begin negotiating over releasing Shalit’s remains as opposed to the soldier himself.

Dealing For Gilad ShalitOver the past several weeks reports from officials stated that Shalit was alive and in good health. Doubts about his well-being have surfaced since his capture nearly two years ago, yet over time, intellegence sources have confirmed that the young soldier was indeed alive. There has been no contact between Shalit and his family since. Yet, nearly a year after his kidnapping, Hamas released a recorded message of Shalit was was broadcast to all of Israel and eventually worldwide. It pulled at the heartstrings of many, as of the three soldiers who were kidnapped during this conflict, Shalit is the youngest and most vulnerable. Unlike Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two IDF Reservists who were kidnapped by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon less than a month later, there has been at least some signs of life from Shalit.

Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit has become a familiar face in the media. Reports of his meetings with Prime Minister Olmhert, President Shimon Peres and Members of Knesset have lead him either to dead ends and virtually nowhere while pleading with officials to do anything they can in their power to have his son released. Support for the soldiers have come from across the globe, from private citizens to human rights organizations to world leaders. Yet, cries have fell upon deaf ears as Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev have become nothing more than barganing chips to both Hamas and Hezbollah. Leaving the Israeli government pleading with her hands tied behind her back is part of how this game has been played.

Many people have voiced very strong opinions, many of whom advocate not giving into terrorists and not allowing blood thirsty terrorists loose just so they can continue causing more harm to Israelis in Israel and worldwide. Jonathan Pollard, the American-Israeli who was imprisoned over twenty years ago for leaking confidential information to Israel which lead to the destruction of nuclear facilities in Hussein’s Iraq, has stated that he would refuse to be released from prison if it meant a barter agreement between his release and the release of wanton murderers.

Now put yourself in the shoes of Noam and Aviva Shalit, whose bespectacled now 21 year old son is in the clutches of those who sacrifice their lives for the love of Allah and 72 virgins. Imagine yourself trying to function daily, going to work, doing your job, eating, sleeping, shopping, holidays, etc and knowing that your child’s well-being, safety and whole life is in the hands of those who have no problem sending youngsters into crowded areas with bombs strapped to their belt buckles to murder who ever is within their radius. Imagine sitting at your own dinner table having a meal and looking at an empty seat across from you. It would be one thing if the child were dead. As horrible as this would be, at least there would be an everlasting mourning period and some sort of closure.

Can you at least imagine what is going on in their minds? I’d doubt you can.

Now, what would you do? Advocate for the release of 350 imprisoned terrorists who could indeed inflict more harm upon innocent civilians for the release of your child or demand that terrorists release him because he has already served a sentence without a prisoner exchange?

Take your time to decide.

Wentworth Miller & Dana International Say Yes

Hollywood actor Wentworth Miller teamed up with the singer Dana International to create a promo for an Israeli TV satellite provider, “Yes”. Dana International is a well known transsexual pop singer in Israel who has made a name for herself internationally as the winner of the 1998 Eurovision song contest.

Miller, who has recently visited Israel plays Michael Scofield in “Prison Break”, an American show that enjoys wide popularity in Israel and across the world.

In the promo you can see Miller attempting to escape prison as he runs into the controversial Israeli singer. In the ad, Dana informs Miller in her usual fashion and sultry English mixed with Hebrew that he cannot escape prison just yet because we, the audience, must still watch season Four.

The subtext of the ad “winks” at the viewers capitalizing on the rumors that Miller might be gay.
While many people find this commercial tasteless, I bet that this is exactly what its makers were after – to provoke and win the audience attention. And boy, were they successful!

Like the famous song goes – “let’s give them something to talk about” – the gimmick works considering the simple fact that everyone in Israel is still talking about this ad!

Unnatural NATO

President Bush went out on a diplomatic limb yesterday by pushing entrance of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. His suggestion was roundly rejected by influential NATO member countries France and Germany and so, it seems, Ukrainian and Georgian membership to the military alliance is still a far way off.

Still, Bush actually went to the Ukraine last week to push the case. It’s no secret that the US president is trying to advance a missile defense system and play a little bit of balance of power with Russia, which vehemently opposes basically anything America does east of Vienna.

Bush may have good practical reasons to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and also good ideological ones too, given his policy of spreading democracy to undemocratic places. However, when you think about the move in terms of Israel’s NATO, or non-NATO, position you have to wonder.

Both Ukraine and Georgia have undergone recent revolutions. It’s true that they were non-violent cases, earning them pretty, botanical monikers like the Orange Revolution and Rose Revolution but they were revolutions nonetheless.

More worrying is that both have major secessionists movements going on within their borders. The Ukraine faces serious political problems, as the government was dissolved after only being in power for four months in 2006. The Kremlin also has a troubling hand in Ukrainian politics and power and it’s unclear how deep the Russian roots run.

Hardly what you would consider countries with democratic control over their military, as NATO requires of its potential members.

Israel, on the other hand, does have democratic control over its military. It’s been a democracy for six decades. It is a regional power with significant military capability.

Israel has also stepped up military ties with NATO and NATO members, going so far in friendly relations with the alliance as to participate in wargames. Israel also has developing relations with one of the few regional members, Turkey. Israel’s entrance into NATO could solidify the ties which, from time to time, show signs of slipping.

NATO has also taken a lead in combating Islamic terror and its roots, (filling a space that the UN has left gapingly empty). Israel, needless to say, is on the forefront of this war and has much to contribute.

It’s not entirely clear what the Israeli population feels about a potential entrance into NATO. NATO officials have consistently demured on the Israel issue, talking about “even handedness” and the “step by step process” instead of giving clear answers on NATO policy regarding the Jewish State and the present low level wars with Arab powers.

All this is fair enough. NATO is not just a dance partner but a marriage. The thing that leaves questions hanging in the air is not so much why President Bush came out on behalf of two troubled Eastern European countries while never in his presidency mentioning a word about Israel membership to NATO. The real question is why anyone from NATO members to America’s diplomatic and military echelons to Israel itself finds this acceptable.

Top Israeli Banks Profits for 2007

Despite a crises in mortgage banks in both the USA and UK, Israel’s top banks revealed substantial profits for the year 2007. Leading the top three was Bank Leumi with a gross profit of N.S. 3.5 Billion. This was followed by Bank Hapoalim with N.S. 2.25 Billion, and Israel Discount Bank with 1.26 Billion.

Spokespersons for the banks did say, however, that their profits were affected somewhat by what has been happening in financial markets abroad, especially in the U.S.A. The severe mortgage and real estate crises in America has not yet had major implications in Israel, by many observers fear that the “ripples” created overseas could eventually find their way to the Israel mortgage and housing markets in Israel which are still fairly strong, due to continued sales of new apartments to purchasers in the U.K and Europe, especially France.

The bank profits were also evident in the salaries paid to top bank executives. CEO’s Galia Maor of Bank Leumi and Zvi Ziv of Bank Hapoalim reportedly received N.S. 9 Million each in 2007, while Giora Ofer of the Discount Bank received a whopping N.S. 17.5 million; nearly as much as the other two combined.

Banks in Israel have enjoyed large profits for some time, mainly due to the high fees and commissions they receive on all types of transactions, including payments of various debits by customers, commissions on stock market transactions, high interest rates on overdrafts and other short term debt, and even fees for counting large sums of money (banknotes) deposited into customer’s own accounts. These fees and commissions are some of the highest in the world, and are much higher than those charged by banks in the U.S.A. This is especially true in regards to foreign currency transactions. Perhaps this is why many bank executives receive such high salaries, as noted above. Due to the current mortgage bank crises in the USA, however, Bank Hapoalim’s overall profits were 20% less than in 2006. Bank Discount’s profits actually increased by 51%, which may explain the high salaries paid to Ofer and other high ranking Bank officials.

In another financial related matter, Lev Leviev, head of African Israel Development Company and LLD Diamonds, said that in his opinion, the Israeli economy is heading towards a recession. Perhaps this statement, by one of the country’s richest men, came in the wake of his losing 336 million Shekels (nearly $100 million dollars) in recent stock market falls. Despite this slight reversal, Leviev is said to have made more than 4 Billion Shekels in the year 2007.

New Sderot Magen David Adom Station

American Friends of Magen David AdomI got this today from Robert of the American Friends of Magen David Adom – thank you..

Just days after the Sderot area experienced the its latest brush with terror from a Qassam attack when a rocket slammed down near a neighborhood kindergarten, the city received a much needed upgrade to its essential services with the opening of a brand new Magen David Adom Emergency Medical Station.

The new facility, built by American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), replaces a makeshift building built over 30 years ago that had recently been condemned for structural problems. The lead gifts were made in memory of Judy Kaplan of New York City and Esther and Hyman Rapport of Cleveland, OH.

Eli Moyal with American Contributors SderotBeneath cloudy skies and the always present threat of renewed Qassam strikes, an enthusiastic audience of dignitaries, including Minister of Health Yaacov Ben-Yizri, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal and Cultural Attache for the US Embassy in Tel Aviv Efraim Cohen, marked the opening alongside local Sderot paramedics, the leadership of Magen David Adom in Israel and friends of Magen David Adom from around the world.

In his remarks, Ben-Yizri said the day was a cause for both celebration as well as sadness, “We are excited that we can open such a grand and impressive facility, yet we are saddened by the knowledge that, at least in the near future, it will be called upon to treat the wounded from the surrounding areas,” he said. “When we see the work of these paramedics, we see examples of excellence where despite the situation and the dangers, they always perform remarkably.”

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal spoke of his city’s sincere appreciation for the goodwill that has been shown to them by the international community saying, “While it may be that life is difficult here, the fact that people on the other side of the world care for us and support projects such as this new MDA station, this is what gives us strength to continue on and I can promise you today that this city will never fall.”

Prior to the official ribbon cutting of the new station, Daniel R. Allen, Chief Executive Officer of American Friends of Magen David Adom, saluted the donors who made the project possible and said the new facility would permanently enhance the already dedicated level of care MDA is able to provide Sderot and the surrounding areas. “What we have done is follow the instructions of Rav Kook. What was old we have made new and what is new we have made holy. We have been able to take an old station desperately in need of repair and make a new one that is both holy and of which all the people of Sderot and Israel can be proud. This town is a true symbol of courage and conviction and we as American Jews feel it is important to say that when the people of Sderot are under attack, we too feel their pain.”

The new Sderot station combines a large ambulance bay area with a dispatch facility, offices and multiple rooms for crews to rest during shifts. The building was constructed to updated standards that make much of it protected against rocket attacks, allowing crews to easily move to safety when hearing the “Tzeva Adom”alert.

Other dignitaries in attendance included Sderot resident and former Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, Professor Yehuda Skornick, President of MDA Israel, Dr. Noam Yifrach, Chairman of MDA Israel and Eli Bin, Director General of MDA Israel. Veteran Israeli broadcaster Haim Yavin served as the master of ceremonies.

American Friends of Magen David Adom – ARMDI is the authorized organization supporting the life saving efforts of MDA in Israel and representing Magen David Adom in the US. Magen David Adom (MDA) is Israel’s only government-mandated ambulance and emergency medical responders, serving as the nation’s second line of defense with medical, disaster, ambulance and blood services. Thanks to AFMDA/ARMDI supporters, more than 700 MDA ambulances and Mobile Intensive Care Units are on call 24/7, operating from over 100 Emergency Medical Stations and 11 dispatch stations throughout Israel, logging more than 6.75 million miles and taking care of more than 700,000 patients annually. Acclaimed for their heroic role in rescuing the wounded, coordinating activities with the IDF and Home Front Command and raising morale in Israel’s north during the Second Lebanon War, MDA also provides 97% of Israel’s blood needs and has launched the MDA Israel Cord Blood Bank.

In Sderot and the surrounding western Negev region, MDA remains on high alert, racing to the scene of every Qassam rocket and mortar attack to protect and care for Israel’s people.

Hope that station stays so empty they start doing Bingo night there…

The Square Centimeter Dream

In a way, one might feel sorry for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as his weekend Arab Summit in Damascus was rampant with “no-shows”, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki of Iraq all boycotting it, to name a few. Some leaders, who did show up, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi seemed more interested in getting photographed, rather than making any outstanding contributions to improving things in the region.

Dumb DumbFor his part, Bashar al-Assad used the meeting to express his willingness to enter into talks with Israel, as long as Israel is willing to return to the June 4, 1967 borders, which includes the entire Golan Heights “down to the eastern shore of the Kinneret”. Assad emphasized this point that saying he is not willing to compromise “on even one square centimeter of the Golan Heights” which as far as most Israelis are concerned, puts the situation of a possible peace deal with Israel’s eastern enemy back to shit’s creek.

Despite Assad’s hard stance, it was revealed that Syrian officials are saying that a “line of communication” has been opened between Damascus and Jerusalem, and that they, the Syrians, now say that the ball is in Israel’s court in regard to actual negotiations between the two countries. The two day Summit ended with a call for Israel to accept an Arab sponsored peace initiative, most of which is completely unacceptable by Israel.

No high ranking American officials were present at the Summit. Meanwhile, Israeli government officials, meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have agreed to make life a bit easier for West Back Palestinians by proposing to remove as many as 50 roadblocks to make traveling by Palestinians within the West Bank as well as to Israel itself more easier. It has also been disclosed that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other Israeli officials have been meeting with Palestinian officials like Abu Allah in secret locations in and around Jerusalem; the purpose of which is to reach a peace deal by the end of this year.. These meetings, however, have not included any Hamas leaders, who are still confined to Gaza by both Israel and West Bank Palestinians.

Assad obviously has more than just national pride in mind in wanting to regain his lost territory. Like most other countries this region, Syria has a chronic water shortage that makes one of Israel’s main sources of fresh water look exceedingly attractive. The streams on the Golan, many fed by melting snow from Mt. Hermon, are one of the Kinneret’s important water suppliers. Syria would like to have the lake’s eastern shore back in it’s possession so it can simply pump water out of the lake like it did prior of June 4, 1967. With the present lake level already reaching the critical “redline,” even Israel may soon not be able have this important water supply available, let alone Syria.

So in the end, any proposed peace talks are not likely to have much chance of succeeding, unless Syria and Israel are willing to compromise.

Getting to them with the environment

Israel environmental activists, together with government officials are hoping to bring young Diaspora Jews closer to their Israeli counterparts. Young Diaspora Jews in North America have shown less interest in giving support to Israel, and this trend will hopefully be reversed by sponsoring environmental awareness projects that will help young people in both Israel and abroad find a common ground that will bring them closer together. And that common ground appears to be in dealing with issues that affect both groups, especially environmental ones.

Being a small country with limited natural resources, Israel presently has numerous environmental problems, including air, water, soil and noise pollution. Air pollution is presently the number one environmental problem that Israel faces, due to over all traffic congestion on the country’s roads, as well as in major cities. Following this is water pollution, where Israeli water department officials have made recent warnings that the country’s main fresh water sources, Lake Kinneret and the Coastal and mountain aquifers are so low that they are in danger of becoming irreversibly polluted.

Israeli environmental organizations, such as the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI) are now working on projects that can be coordinated jointly with similar organizations in the Diaspora, such as the American Environmental Protection Agency and the American Environmental Movement. One of the most serious environmental “time bombs” currently present in Israel is the Ramat Hovav hazardous waste site which is located less than 30 kilometers from the city of Beer Sheva. Young Jewish environmentalists are being invited to visit Israel and help participate in projects that are co-sponsored with Israeli environmental awareness organizations. The Ramat Hovav Industrial Waste Site is now threatening to pollute underground aquifers not only in Israel’s Negev region but in other areas as well.

For its part, SPNI has a wealth of material printed in English, French, and other languages on serious environmental issues in Israel. The organization sponsors nature trips and other outings to visitors and is promoting family memberships for the price of $55 per year. Foreign members will receive the organization’s quarterly magazine as well as being updated on environmental activities occurring during the year. The organization is also seeking volunteers form abroad to work in the country’s national parks and nature reserves as well as help clean up the country’s sea shores and other natural recreational facilities. Donations from Jews and others living abroad are being ear marked for such projects as bird watching sanctuaries in the Hula Valley and near Eilat, as well as other nature projects.

By becoming personally involved, especially as volunteers, it is hoped that many young Diaspora Jews will eventually make Aliyah to Israel.

Hamas On The West Bank

Hamas's Ismail HaniyehOn the eve of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s send visit to Israel so far this year, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has expressed fears that Ismail Haniyeh’s radical Hamas organization could wind up taking control of the West Bank from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, either by force or arms, or by democratic election. Barak, who was meeting with a U.S. envoy to the Middle East, said that he is afraid that all of the efforts that the Israeli government is trying to make in giving support to the Abbas led section of the Palestinian Authority will be for naught, should this happen, and Israel will then be in even greater danger, with hostile Hamas militiamen on Israel’s most vulnerable sections, ready to launch even more Qassam and Grad type rockets into Israel’s most populated areas.

With Palestinian general elections not far away, many disenchanted Palestinians may see Hamas’ victories as reason to elect them to be the political entity in the West Bank as well, as Abbas’ Fatah organization has not really done much to satisfy the people, and is about as corrupt as it was in Gaza. Hamas, on the other hand, is known for giving social assistance to its constituents, even though it has been much harsher on the lives of most Palestinians, including forcing them to live according to strict Shaari Islamic law. West Bank Palestinians, on the other hand, have much more individual social and religious freedoms, which even includes am FM radio station which plays the latest popular Western hit tunes. The West Bank is also the home of approximately 200,000 Jewish residents, many of whom live in well established towns and settlements which include large sections of northern and eastern Jerusalem. This number is a far cry from the 9,000 settlers, who were evacuated from 21 settlements in Gaza back in August, 2005.

Judging from the experience of the Gaza disengagement, which many Israelis now blame for the continuous launchings of rockets into Israeli cities and towns like Sderot and Ashkelon, it will be more difficult to stage massive evacuations of Jewish settlers from the West Bank, as doing so could result in Qassam rockets striking cities like Kfar Saba and Grad-type rockets hitting Tel Aviv. Of course, it is more difficult to smuggle large quantities of arms and explosives into the West Bank as compared to Gaza (with its numerous tunnels on the border with Egypt). This wouldn’t stop resourceful terrorists from making their own rockets, however, and fueling with ammonium nitrate fertilizer as is now being done in Gaza.

Hamas has recently been increasing it’s activities in many West cities and towns, and for this reason, Barak and other Israeli officials fear that it might not make much for a weakened Abbas led government to be defeated either at the ballot box or by a coup. These fears have been advised to American and European government officials, and will be discussed with Secretary Rice during her visit.

The Oil War?

Oil WarPicture: The Washington Post

In a mode that could clearly say: “I told you so”, critics of America’s involvement in Iraq are now saying that the U.S. Administration sent the troopers there for one primary reason: to shore up a reliable source of crude oil that would keep flowing into American storage facilities, and hence into American citizens gas tanks for at least another 15 to 20 years. With Iraqi petroleum reserves estimated to be at least 10% to total world supply, and if major American oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Amoco controlling the pumping of fossilized, primeval Earth in most of Iraq, then it would be a win-win situation; the winners being Uncle Sam and Co. of course.

Unfortunately, for President George Bush (an oilman himself) and his assistant, Vice President Dick Cheney (of Halliburton Corp. fame); things didn’t work out the way they wanted them to. Now that Iraqi and (presumably) US forces are staging an operation against Shiite militiamen in the oil rich Iraqi city of Basra, this oil war doctrine seems to be more relevant than ever. Iraqi oil production has been plagued with a scores of problems in both Iraq’s southern region as well as in the northern, Kurdish controlled sector.

Maybe this explains why so many top American officials have made so many “surprise visits” to Iraq in this 2008 election year.

Ever since the invasion of March, 2003, production and exports of Iraqi crude oil have been beset by a combination of old production equipment in bad repair, as well as countless incidents of sabotage by Iraqi insurgents and foreign elements who simply do not want Iraqi oil to fall into the hands of “The Great Satan”, no matter what the price to Iraq’s own economy. As oil has been this country’s major export (and was used by Saddam Hussein to fleece his pockets during his 30 year reign) not being able to produce and export sufficient quantities has resulted in the country’s economy becoming an international basket case.

Now, more five years later and 4,000 American way dead, this precious resource seems even more distant from American and other Western automobile gas tanks. Countries like Israel, who once feared possible attacks from Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, called WMD’s for short, now fear another oil rich country, Iran, whose leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has often called for Israel to be “wiped off the face of the map”. Despite the fact that the U.N. Headquarters is still located in New York City, American governmental officials, and especially New York City officials should have been more prudent than to let this man come twice to address the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, as well as speak before such a pristine academic institution as Columbia University. For it is Iran’s sponsored militiamen who are now fighting Americans in southern Iraq, as well as providing training and arms to Hamas militiaman in Gaza and to the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Oil is now fetching more than $100 a barrel, and the U.S. Dollar is even weaker than currencies like the Israeli Shekel. It appears that the time has come for some serious stock-taking in regards to just why American forces went into Iraq in the first place, instead of simply letting Saddam Hussein and his cronies remain there as a possible buffer against the real world enemy – Iran.

Et tu, Cheney?

Cheney in RamallahNo sooner had the fine china been put away for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain at Jerusalem hotels like the Kind David at Jerusalem hotels like the King David, when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney came to town. Cheney, also back from a quick trip to beleaguered Iraq (where U.S. forces have just suffered their 4,000th war casualty) stopped off in Israel to visit both with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Not exactly “Mr. Personality”, Cheney reiterated previous remarks by both McCain and Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice (who was also here recently) in respect to American support of a two state solution and a full partnership with Israel. Cheney also pulled no punches when he mentioned that Iran was not only a danger to Israel but to America and the non-Islamic world at large. This also was not anything new as both Senator McCain and Sec. Rice had made similar remarks.

In respect to relations between Israel and the Palestinians, Cheney said that in order for peace to be achieved, “some painful concessions need to be made”. Now, here is the kicker question in this remark: painful for whom? Israel, the Palestinians (the West Bank Palestinians, that is ) or for those nasty people called Hamas who nobody wants to deal with, except people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah, that is. And we might as well throw in people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s No. 2, and even more nasty than Osama bin Laden, so they say. Cheney’s visit with Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas was also a bit lackluster, but what could one expect, since any rational person knows who the most powerful Palestinian leader really is.

Cheney has been behind much of America’s five plus year Iraq experience that is being “commemorated” today with the announcement of the 4000th slain U.S. combat soldier. Not as bad as Vietnam, which had at least 40,000 dead GI’s after the same 5 year period. But these new war dead are bad enough for a much scaled down professional military that requires it’s thinly spread-out troop contingents to spend at lest two duty tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan – take their choice.

As for Cheney’s short trip here, it will most likely be his last to the region, although his boss, President George W. Bush plans to be back in Israel to help celebrate the upcoming 60th Independence celebration. Busch better not plan to be here at the same time that former Beatles greats Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plan to be here too, as they will surely upstage him.

Oh what the heck. The fact that he’s still alive with half a heart left feebly beating is a triumph in itself! Dick Cheney doesn’t need to worry about such things as upstaging the Beatles, since he won’t be attending the party.

Israeli Tennis Duo Wins Again

Israeli Duo Wins TennisIsraeli doubles stars Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich have done it again by winning the men’s doubles championship at the 2008 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells California. Ram and Erlich, virtually repeated their Australian Open feat by winning in straight sets over Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-4, 6-4 to achieve their second important Masters tennis title so far this year. When interviewed afterwards, Ram said that he and Erlich have been concentrating more on improving their game concentration, and that they “have been playing very solid tennis since last summer”.

“We are concentrating more on improving our game, match by match, and giving 100% concentration, rather than trying to win titles”, Erlich added.

The two Israelis are feeling more confident and this is apparently evident in their game performance.

The tournament, also known to many as the Indian Wells Tourney, saw a number of surprises in semi-finals individual matches on Friday, when American No. 1 ace Ron Federer was beaten by another American, Mardy Fish. Another star, Russian Maria Sharapova, was beaten by fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. Coming into this match, Sharapova had 18 straight wins to her credit.

Mardy Fish, who was beaten by Federer at the same tournament four years ago, was ranked number 98 going into this tournament, and if he wins the championship Sunday will regain much ground he has lost since being ranked number 17 four years ago.

As for Ram and Erlich, they are now in a very good position for advancing in world rankings, and are considered by many as the top male doubles team in professional tennis.

Israel’s female star, Shahar Peer, lost out to Indian female tennis star Sania Mirza in the third round of the competition. Mirza has dominated in previous encounters against the18th ranked Israeli player.

Israeli athletes are making good gains in both amateur and professional competitions, and this is especially so in sports like tennis. It only goes to show that Israelis are capable in holding their own against other players, and hopefully, they will perform as well in singles tennis competitions as they do in doubles matches.

What McCain is Learning From Israel

U.S. Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain didn’t just make a recent Middle East tour to say hello. McCain, being a former military man himself, decided rightly that he needs see for himself the current situation in countries that will be a big part of his country’s foreign policy dealings should he be sitting in the Oval Office next January 21st. After previous remarks that American forces will remain in Iraq “for 100 years, if necessary” in a manner similar to post WWII Germany and Japan, McCain realizes more than anyone that in order for his country’s 3 trillion dollar investment in post Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to bear fruit, American foreign policy must undergo some serious changes.

McCain’s visit to Israel, in which he made some very positive remarks about American Israeli relations, comes at a time when the Israeli/Palestinian issue is at a most volatile level, and is influenced considerably by radical Islamic fundamentalism; with the Islamic Republic of Iran being Israel’s greatest danger since becoming a nation. During an interview conducted with editors from the Jerusalem Post, McCain said the following concerning the Iranian threat:

“When you look at the multitude of challenges and the nature of the enemy, including a nation that is developing nuclear weapons and is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, then from my standpoint, Israel is probably at greater risk than perhaps it has been since 1947″.

McCain is careful not to appear that his country is trying to exert undue influence upon Israel’s dealing with “the Iranian and Palestinian problems”, and appears to fully understand Israel’s need to be able to defend itself against both entities, as well as by groups such as Hezbollah, who are Iranian clients. He appears to appreciate the fact that Israel is one of America’s closet allies and defense partners, and he emphasizes the term “partnership” in reference to current and future relationships between Israel and the U.S.

Dealing with ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks and Israel’s response, often referred to as a “disproportionate use of force” by many European countries, McCain repeated what he has said previously that Americans “especially in my home state of Arizona would not stand for such activity on their southern border”.

While Cain hopes that Israel will be able to reach some kind of peace agreement with Palestinian leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas, McCain is also realistic in the fact that as long as groups like Hamas (who are also tied to Iran) are in power, no final agreement is possible. “My personal feeling is that Israel should not talk to Hamas as they are dedicated to Israel’s extinction”, McCain said.

One thing is for sure; should McCain become America’s next president: he will not formulate policies that will be detrimental to Israel’s security interests, as he sees these interests as inseparable from America’s security interests. He sees the threat that Israel faces from Islamic radicalism, particularly from Iran, as no different than the one America faces, and that the greatest challenge he will have is how to fight this threat. With Israel on his team, he knows he has a strong ally in this part of the world.


After the story about Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s black supremacist, anti-semitic, troofer pastor (“Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country controlled by rich white people…”) broke this week in the mainstream media, many Americans and non-Americans are scratching their heads, mumbling to themselves, “Really?”

The Wright story comes on the heels of Samantha Power– a “humans right expert” and former top adviser to the Obama campaign– calling Hillary Clinton “a monster,” a term she’d previously reserved for brutal dictators like Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.

A closer look at these Obama advisers showed their more frightening sides: Samantha Power, who vehemently condemns the invasion of Iraq, once said that the US should invade Israel in order to force a peace settlement between us and the Palestinians. Nice.

Obama’s connections with the former leader of the American terror group the Weather Undergorund, Bill Ayers, are well established and go un-denied by the campaign. Likewise with his connection to radical PLO supporter Rashid Khalidi, who now takes cover under the flimsy umbrella of Columbia University.

Obama sat on the board of a Chicago charity called the Wood’s Fund with Bill Ayers. During the boardroom tenure of Obama and the former terrorist, the charity funded an organization called the Arab American Action Network, which happened to be founded and run by none other than Rashid Khalidi’s wife.

Obama and his lever-pullers (including those in the media) have fired back saying the group was a “local” charity that helped “local” people improve their “local” lives. The claim looks silly in the face of photos of Barack and Michelle Obama sitting next to the academic Palestinian crusader Edward Said at AAAN fund raisers.

But here’s the rub: Obama was aligned at the time with an Arab intellectual with ties to the PLO; he fund raised directly and indirectly for an organization called the Arab American Action Network; he was tutored by an anti-Semitic, anti-white preacher who carries on a global oppressor-oppressed narrative as if it’s scientific fact; he hired a “human rights” expert who made statements in support of an American ground invasion (!) of Israel.

Any of these associations on their own could be dismissed as benign and passing. Together they leave us asking only one question: Have we been Obama’d?

McCain in Israel

McCain in Yad VashemWe have another visitor these days, McCain is in town. After Merkel’s Hebrew words in the Knesset its time for the US presidential hopeful to say a few words. Anything is better then the mess that Obama is in with his rogue role model I guess…

Some Excerpts:

“If Hamas/Hezbullah succeeds here, they are going to succeed everywhere, not only in the Middle East, but everywhere. Israel isn’t the only enemy..”

“They are dedicated to the extinction of everything that the US, Israel and the West believe and stand for. So America does have an interest in what happens here, far above and beyond our alliance with the State of Israel.”

“Someone is going to have to answer me the question of how you are going to negotiate with an organization that is dedicated to your extinction..”

“I really think that we should understand that the US and Israel are partners. Israel is not a client of the United States,” he said. “If you are partners, then you don’t dictate what you think the terms of the survival of a nation should be.”

“I can tell you that I believe that if rocket attacks came across the border of the United States of America, that the American people would probably demand pretty vigorous actions in response. I think I know my constituency in the state of Arizona, and they would be pretty exercised if rockets came across our southern border.”

“At the end of the day, we can still not afford to have Iran with nuclear weapons,” he said. “We know they have ambitions that are not just aimed at the State of Israel.”

A German In The House: Merkel in Israel

Merkel in IsraelGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Israel on Sunday for the start of a three day visit to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. This is Merkel’s second visit to Israel since being elected Chancellor; and one of her agendas includes addressing the Knesset on Tuesday. Appearing with Prime Minister Olmert shortly after her arrival, Merkel said that her country is strongly committed to Israel’s defense, and added that “a threat to Israel is also a threat to us”.

Merkel went on to mention that she plans to put more effort into confronting the threat that Israel faces from Iran, which many say is Israel’s greatest threat today. Merkel’s address, in German, before the Knesset on Tuesday has upset some Knesset members, as well as many Holocaust survivors still alive and living in Israel. The address will be the first by a German head of state since diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1965. Since then, Israel and Germany enjoy thriving trade relations, and victims of the Holocaust, and their families have received more than 18 billion Euros ($25 billion) in retribution payments.

Germany has tried to promote the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which has often been problematic due to continuous acts of violence between the two entities, as well as Israel’s polices dealing with settlements in what the Palestinians consider to be occupied land. The German Republic’s relations with the Hamas controlled sector of the Palestinian Authority has become even more problematic, and she has no plans to visit Gaza during her visit.

Merkel’s visit will coincide with the visit on Tuesday of U.S. Senator and Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, who is presently on a “surprise visit” to Iraq. McCain is a strong supporter to America’s continued involvement in Iraq, and even commented recently that as far as he is concerned, American troops “will stay in Iraq for even a hundred years if they need to”. McCain is also said to be a strong supporter of Israel, which probably explains his desire to come here for a firsthand look regarding the situation. Whether the two will meet while McCain is in Israel is not known.

It will be interesting to see what kind of response Merkel receives when she does address the Knesset in a language that bring back only the darkest memories to Israel’s more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors. However, as German is her native tongue, many people believe that Chancellor Merkel has the right to speak in this language during her Knesset address, and it must be noted that Israeli leaders have spoken to German government bodies in Hebrew in the past.

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