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The Dale Carnegie Course Lieberman style

Dale Carnegy Vs Liberman“I have seen all the proposals made so generously by Ehud Olmert, but I have not seen any result”; so spoke Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, during his first address to the media after assuming his post. He went on to say that the way the free world has tried to deal with issues like Islamic sponsored terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program hasn’t worked, and that the real world security problems are coming from countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and not from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lieberman specifically renounced the giving of concessions in order to gain peace. “The fact that we say the word “peace” twenty times a day will not bring peace any closer”, he added. He also said that the time-worn “Westphalia” conception of nation states is dead, and has been replaced by a modern conception of states, semi-states and “irrational international players” most noteworthy Al Qaeda and Iran. But what seemed to frost many diplomats the most, especially Egypt’s, was when he said he will only go there on diplomatic missions if his counterpart is willing to visit him in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. That remark caused the Egyptian ambassador to say he will “keep his hands in his pockets” should the two men even meet face to face.

Judging from the silence that emanated from his remarks, and the comments made by various international medias afterwards, Foreign Minister Lieberman did not go very far in regards to the strategies mooted by that world famous maestro of human relations Dale Carnegie, whose best selling book How to Make Friends and Influence People appeared in the late 1930’s, and is still widely used for perfecting human relations strategies by many people today.

Thus began the term of the man who is questioned and even feared in his own country, regarding his outlook on the present world order; especially when he ended his 15 minute reality trip by quoting an ancient Roman general who said in regards to peace: “Si vis pacem para bellum“– if you want peace, prepare for war – be strong!”

Dale Carnegie would never have used this strategy in his world famous books and self improvement courses; but again, Lieberman is not Carnegie, and doesn’t intend to be. And we can all be certain that Israel’s enemies and critiques are already aware of this…

Political Shakshuka the new Israeli Government

Israel finally has a new government, 30 ministers and 7 assistant ministers in all. It appears that the new prime minister (or should I say renewed P.M.) and none other than Bibi Netanyahu, had to give out a lot of new jobs to a lot of new people just to satisfy them, including those from political parties whose overall platforms Bibi and his Likud Party doesn’t usually agree with.

Liberman GladiatorThe new government, when sitting for their first photo session on Wednesday April 1, which was also April Fools Day, looked more like that Middle Eastern tomato and egg dish known as Shakshuka. In fact many observers are calling the new government just that – a “political Shakshuka” of people who ordinarily are screaming at each other during parliamentary sessions, or just ignoring each other at best. Bibi had to really throw a political bone to his new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Our Home Party managed to get 15 Knesset seats in the February 11 election. Lieberman didn’t waste any time in announcing that he would not allow any of the West Bank to be given away to the Palestinians, and does not agree to a peace deal with them. I’m not referring at all to that bunch of low life’s in the Gaza Strip, but to that “other bunch” who sit in Yassir Arafat’s old headquarters in Ramalla.

For those of you not aware, Shakshuka is a tasty dish made by throwing red peppers, tomato sauce, eggs, an a number of spices into a pan and cooking them together for about half an hour. This mixture of ingredients has caused the dish to be named as such; Shakshuka, meaning a mishmash of things thrown together.

Poor Tzipi Livni, now Head of the Opposition, has to sit this one out like Bibi did the last go-around when the Likud only managed to get 11 seats. Now it’s her turn to pout, and many are wondering if her Kadima Party might wind up going into melt-down like Tommy Lapid’s Shinui (Change) party did a few years back. Golda Meir she isn’t, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her, and she may even wind up getting the last laugh, when this new government of strange bedfellows finds out they really can’t function as a team. Her image as foreign minister was surely a lot better than this Russian guy who has given Israeli Arabs an ultimatum to “shit or get off the pot”, meaning they better start packing if they aren’t prepared to give a loyalty oath to the Jewish State in which they live.

Other new cabinet members, especially those “good old boys” who have been intensely loyal to Mr. Netanyahu in his darkest moments, have been rewarded; especially Dr. Yuval Steinitz, who appears to be about as qualified for his post as Amir Peretz was as defense minister under the first part of the Olmert regime. But that’s the spoils system for you as has often been the case in American politics as well.

We’ll all have to see whether this new “shakshuka” aspect of Israeli political life will work out. At least one silver lining is already apparent in this possible cloud: a guy named Ehud Olmert is no longer presiding over the entire mess.

Rumors of Dream Coalition

Rumors are flying high in the media that Binyamin Netanyahu might ditch Avigdor Lieberman in favor of Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party. As unlikely as it seems right now, it is a scenario most Israelis would rather see.

Choosing Livni over Lieberman presumably means the formation of a rotating government, in which Netanyahu would be Prime Minister for 2 or 3 years, and Livni would replace him as Prime Minister for another year or two.

To me it seems like a high-risk poker game. The two possible scenarios are vastly different, and it is up to one man and one man only to choose among the two. Just like a suspenseful Tribe Council in the reality hit “Survivor”, Netanyahu is the factor that tips the scales, and whichever name he writes on the parchment, this moment is the season’s strategic cliffhanger.

Waltz with Bashir and the 18th Israeli Knesset

Regrettably, Ari Folman’s animated doco-fantasy film “Waltz with Bashir” didn’t win the Best Foreign Film at the 2009 Academy Awards presentation in Hollywood. With just a month passing after winning the Golden Globes film award, the American film industry second biggest awards extravaganza, hope had been high that Folman’s film would pull it off, especially due to its strong anti-war message. But Folman and his crew of animators, writers, artists and other team players had to sit by and see the Japanese film, Departures, win the coveted Oscar.

Waltz With Bashir

In a way, this event displays similarities to the results of the recent parliamentary election in which Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party managed to edge out over the rival Likud party, headed by Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Even though Kadima managed to gain more seats (actually 1 more) than Bibi’s party did, the Likiud has been given the nod by Israeli President Shimon Peres to form the next coalition government. Bibi’s right-of-center party has a lot of friends in the Knesset, including the right winged “Israel Beitenu” party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, and the ultra-right winged “Ihud Leumi” (National Union) party headed by Benny Alon. The Likud party’s ideologies also make it easier to bring at least two religious political parties, “Shas” and “Ha-Bayit Ha-Ye’udi” (Jewish Home) into its fold as well, to guarantee enough Knesset seats to form the next government. Livni’s center movement party can only hope to pick up some of the left winged parties such as the now deflated Labor Party, headed by Ehud Barak, and others such as Meretz – a very left-winged party formerly headed by such liberals as Yossi Sarid and Dr. Yossi Beilin.

And just like the character in Waltz had to cope with life in Israel in the aftermath of the war, so does Livni and her party have to cope with the aftermath of both the 2006 Second Lebanon War (in which her party, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was accused of committing a number of blunders) and the just completed Operation Cast Lead foray in Gaza. Netanyahu has the advantage of being able to use the security element to convince parties with similar ideologies to join up with him and control Israeli politics for the next 4 year period; or until another election is held, as has been too often the case.

Israeli politics sometimes create strange bedfellows, however, and Tzipi may decide in the end that discretion is the better part of valor and decide to join Bibi’s governing coalition. If this happens she will get her “waltz” in the end; but the question will be with whom she winds up dancing with.

The main election issues in Israel

Avigdor Liberman

Parliamentary elections are only a few days away, and ongoing pre-election polls are trying to determine what the most important issues are in regards to which political party, or parties, in Israel’s usual governmental coalition formations afterwards will wind up forming the next government.

livniIn the aftermath of the just completed 22 day military operations in Gaza, and the continued firing of rockets and mortars into Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian extremists, it would appear that the security issue is the one that will be on the top list of most voters when they step into voting booths on February 10. The problems dealing with the country’s security, especially for Israelis living in Israel’s southern regions and northern areas near Lebanon, as well as the problem of dealing with Iran and its nuclear program; has resulted in parties like Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitanu gaining so much in the pre-election opinion polls.

barakSecurity is a very important issue, and will always be so in a country still largely surrounded by hostile enemies. But as important as this issue may be, there are many others that need the most urgent attention. And two of these issues are the country’s dire water problem and the economic recession that the country’s population is now “officially” immersed in. Both of issues are none-the-less serious than the security one, and may even be eventually more difficult to deal with.

The water problem, or it’s increasingly lack of, is a very major concern due to one of the driest winters in the country’s history; which follows a number of below-average rainy seasons that has brought the current water in the Kinneret as well as the mountain and coastal aquifers to levels so low that it will soon reach an irreversible state. Apparent lack of proper government attention to this problem has resulted in a state where water may have to be actually imported in large quantities just to satisfy the population’s basic household needs. Much of this problem could have been averted years ago if enough emphasis had been put on building desalinization plants along Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. Although a few of these plants were built, such as the one in Ashdod, at least 20 more should have been constructed. An example of how some countries have solved their water problems by desalinization is how Persian Gulf Emirate countries have been able to build beautiful futuristic cities which have virtually all their fresh water needs supplied by this method. One Emirate state, Dubai, even constructed a ski slope within an ultra-modern shopping and entertainment complex. Had Israeli governmental authorities followed this example Israel might now have at least 30-50% of its water needs supplied this way.

bibiThe other major problem deals with the state of the economy, in which thousands of people, many of them engaged in technology based industries, are now unemployed and having to look for any kind of work just to put food on the table for their families. Although the world economic crises, which began in the U.S.A. several months ago, is not of Israel’s making the result has created a recession which is most likely to worsen before it gets better. The weaker elements of society, especially the old, the disabled, and the poorer sectors of the population, are suffering the most as they had virtually no reserves to fall back on even before the stock markets began to crash. Lowering prime interest rates to all time levels (now at 1%) doesn’t help much if one has no money to spend anyway. And Israel’s dependence on exporting goods and services to certain economically stressed markets, like the U.S.A., has resulted in a sharp reduction of cash flow to most companies, not to mention small businesses.

Taking all of these issues into account, there will be a lot of things on peoples’ minds on Tuesday when they vote to elect their country’s leadership for the next few years.

Russiafication

Israel is undergoing Russiafication says Lily Galili in HaAretz (this phrase only appears in the Hebrew version of the article).

What Lily means to say is that veteran Israelis increasingly share the immigrants’ negative views of the police. In other words, Russian immigrants are more suspicious of the police, and are more likely to feel persecuted by the police.

Two examples are fresh in memory. The first is Russian Knesset member Marina Solodkin who recently stood by a suspected child murderer, and seems to believe some conspiracy theories.

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) accused the authorities yesterday of taking advantage of a Ukrainian immigrant’s ignorance of Israeli law to “set him up” as the alleged murderer of 13-year-old Tair Rada from the Golan Heights.

The second example is the reason why Lily Galili wrote the aforementioned quote. Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian immigrant, and the leader of the “Yisrael Beytenu” (Israel is Our Home) party, is once again being harassed by the police in connection with some serious corruption allegations. The irony is that the more involved Lieberman becomes with police investigations, the more support he receives from the Israeli-Russian public.

Personally, I agree. This might not be a politically correct statement, but Israel is definitely undergoing Russiafication — Whatever that means, and however you choose to interpret this statement.

In the past 20 years, more than a million immigrants have arrived in Israel from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Along with their luggage, the Russian immigrants brought with them a unique blend of political and social impressions. Most of them have aligned with the far-right of the political map, and ultimately, have irrefutably transformed our national discourse to what it is today.

On the bright side, the racist hostility towards Russians that had used to characterise veteran Israelis throughout the 90’s have mostly dissipated by now. However, nowadays many veteran Israelis are eagerly adopting the Russian hostility towards the Arab-Israeli population.

Therefore it is of no surprise that Ehud Barak now seeks to reseble Russian president Vladimir Putin in an attempt to lure the Russian electorate. In a new broadcast ad, when referring to Arab terrorists, Barak turns specifically to the Russian public: Like you say in your circles, we need to wipe them while they’re on the toilet.

Do you find the ad racist? Is the attempt to market a brutal perspective the only chance to garner the Russian vote, or is it yet another stereotypical approach to politics?

Tel Aviv’s Obsessed with Sushi

As the thunders of war echo from the South, residents of Tel Aviv continue their daily routine.

Two unrelated anecdotes:

  1. I happened to hear a 90 y/o woman speaks a week ago. She currently lives in Tel Aviv, and still volunteers in the Civil Guard. She had experienced the horrors of war in Poland back in 1939, and then lived to see all of Israel’s wars throughout its 60 years of existence. During this fascinating story of hers, she was telling us how she had escaped with her family to Tel Aviv during the War of Independence in 1948. They had been coming from some other town (I don’t recall which one) and when they arrived at Tel Aviv, they were surprised to see people singing and dancing in coffee shops. “Don’t you know there’s a war going on?”, they has asked people around them. Well, apparently not much has changed in this context in the past 60 years. Dear Tel Aviv residents, you’re in good company.
  2. Israeli far-right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman was caught saying last week Do to Hamas what the US did to Japan. I believe he was talking about a nuclear holocaust, but let’s not forget yet another serious effect the American involvement in Japan has caused. I’m talking about Sushi of course. Thanks to America’s warm embrace of the Japanese cuisine, this seaweed/rice/salmon delicacy has spread the world. As a resident of Tel-Aviv myself, there isn’t a single day that goes by without my mailbox being infiltrated by a colorful throwaway that notifies me of — yet another — Sushi restaurant that opens in town.

Political Rogue’s Gallery 2007-2008

Israeli politicians appear to be more and more under investigation for a variety of offenses these days. While some activities fall under what might be considered as misdemeanors, others are outright criminal; and should any of the perpetrators be tried and convicted, they could not only be out of politics forever but could face periods of time in prison too.

Corrupt Israeli PoliticansMany of the pictured individuals are either government cabinet or former cabinet officials, including Shas Party MK Shlomo Benizri, who may wind up following his former party boss Aryeh Deri, who spent 2 years in the slammer for a number of criminal activities, including bribery, and misappropriation of government funds for his own purposes. Benizri himself was recently convicted for charges dealing with corruption. Another prominent member, Kadima Party member and present chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, has been under indictment for a number of offenses, such as bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Some of these charges go back to when Hanegbi was Justice Minister under the Natanyahu government.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel Beitanu Party chairman and former cabinet minister in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government, has been under suspicion for years on a number of offenses, including some questionable business interests connected to a travel company that his daughter presently runs. Another (former) cabinet minister, Avraham Hirchson, served as Finance Minister until it was discovered that he was outright involved in taking government funds to help his son who had gotten himself in trouble over large gambling debts. Hirchson was a close crony to P.M. Olmert, who is said to be responsible for Hirchson receiving the said cabinet post. If convicted, Hirshson could face a lengthily prison term, as well as a substantial fine.

But perhaps the most noted member of this political “rogues gallery” is none other than Prime Minister Olmert himself. The Prime Minister, with the aid of his legal advisors and even Attorney General Meny Mazuz, has been able to steer his way through avirtual maize of “legal challenges” ranging from some property he purchased in Jerusalem using inside information, to violation of public trust concerning what is now being referred as the “Bank Leumi Affair”. Olmert has let off the hook by Mazuz in this incidence but many people outside his own political party are still talking about this affair which was often on the news in 2007. Olmert is also alleged to be involved in granting approved industry status to a company his law partner, Uri Messer, was involved with, saving the company more than $11 million in taxes.

One guy who got left out of this photo clip is former Likud and Kadima M.K. Omri Sharon, who was convicted of misuse of party funds when his father, Arik Shahon was running for election as Prime Minister in 2000/01. Omri was convicted and sentenced to 7 months in prison, which he began serving in February, 2008.

There are of course other political notables who have been involved recently in questionable activities; but the ones included here are some of the most prominent. All in all, the year 2007 was a very “interesting” year in so far as political hanky panky goes.

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