a different side of Israel

Tag: Binyamin Netanyahu (page 4 of 5)

Obama: A State of Palestine in 2012

The reality of an actual State of Palestine came one step closer following Israeli Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s telephone conversation Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama. Following conversation, said to be mostly positive, the Obama administration the formation of a special executive committee that will work toward the reality of a Palestinian State, along side with the State of Israel.. The special committee will work closely with groups from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in all relevant areas, including administration, land appropriation ( including final border lines); economic and social preparation, and other important areas.

Pin for the new stateIn the immediate future, according to their conversation, Israel is to freeze the formation of all new settlement activity, as well as the expansion of present settlements. All activity connected with illegal “outpost” settlements is specifically forbidden and those involved in it (especially in a violent nature) will be subject to full legal prosecution.

A special international conference, made of both Israeli and Arab delegates is to meet in the coming months to work out to terms of the two state agreement; according to proposed requirements from both sides.

The White House is still waiting to receive the answers to two important questions from P.M. Netanyahu concerning this entire matter: s Israel ready to stop construction of outpost settlements and is Israel ready to enter into negotiations on the reality of two separate states? Both aides presently have issues that are in conflict with each other, especially in regards to final territorial agreements, and whether the new state of Palestine will be allowed to have full nation status, including the right to a self defense force similar to neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon. Israeli government officials are more in favor of a neutrality arrangement for the Palestinians in which they will have a neutral status, similar to Austria or Switzerland, and be limited to a paramilitary police force similar that what they presently have.

Arab countries, who will hopefully be participating in helping the Palestinians achieve statehood, want Israel to go back to the pre-June 1967 borders; something that at present is not acceptable with most Israelis. Many Arab leaders, including those in favor of the “Saudi Plan” say that if Israeli agrees to this, it will receive full recognition by most Arab countries. Countries who will be actively participating in the diplomatic process include the US, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Persian Gulf Emirate states. Many other countries are expected to join in as the process moves toward the 2012 target date completion.

How the Hamas ruled section of Palestine in Gaza will figure in to all of this still very much an undecided issue at present, and this is one of the most problematic issues of the entire matter. There is also the matter of Israel (and all Jews for that matter) being fully accepted by the Muslim World; especially by Islamic clerics, who still preach from their mosques that all Jews are “descendents from pigs and monkeys”. Unless this attitude changes, the likelihood of a Jewish State of Israel ever being accepted by the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims is very distant indeed.

Priming the (gas) pump

Gasoline Pump
Aren’t those Israeli finance ministry people clever? It was just the other day when Yuval Steinitz, Bibi Netanyahu’s Finance Minister, was expressing he regrets over the decision to charge VAT on fruits and vegetable sold in open air and similar markets. The uproar this decision created resulted in the government deciding to back off from their unpopular decision, as trying to collect these revenues might prove to be a bit dangerous, to say the least. Besides, the poor folk have been battered enough, especially pensioners and other weaker elements of our society.

But wait – there’s better ways to fleece the public, and bless our government to come up with just the perfect to get extra money from everybody, both rich and poor alike. And that better way it to hike up the taxes on gasoline, as this can be collected automatically at source and won’t affect many of the poor folk as long as they don’t have car.
Raising the price of fuel by 30 Agorot a liter, about 7.33 US cents, will not only raise a nice amount of needed revenues but not cause a revolution either. When pepole don’t have a choice, they pay what they have to since they don’t have much of a choice otherwise. The new levy will raise the price on 95 octane unleaded to NS 5.79 per liter at self-service stations.
The new gasoline tariff will go along with other austerity measures, including increasing VAT (on all other goods and services) to 16.5%, increasing contribution amounts required for National Insurance, municipal rates increases, and other means. Since most really poor folk don’t own a car, they won’t get stung with higher gas prices. Just the rest of us will. Most likely employees driving lease cars will have to pay a bit more for this privilege – too bad! Most likely a “beer and booze tax is also in the works too. That’s also something the public has no control over. It’s either that or take off child allowances even more. And that will make government coalition partners (like Shas) head for the hills.

Disappointing two days in Washington

Bibi and ObamaNo sooner did Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu go off to Washington, a Hamas fired rocket hit a residence in the town of Sderot, the first in over two months. One woman was lightly injured when the rocket slammed into a storeroom in her back yard damaging it and her home as well. She was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzelai Hospital for treatment, and some other people were treated locally for shock. Later on, Israeli Air Force planes attacked targets in Gaza in retaliation, including areas in the Philidelphi corridor where suspected smuggling tunnels might be located.

Coincidentally, Noam Schalit, father of captured Israeli solder Gilad Schalit, was touring the town together with Rome Italy mayor Gianni Alemanno. Schalit said that he “doesn’t envy Sderot residents” and both men wished that the town would be spared further attacks. Schalit said he is “waiting patiently to receive good news regarding his son’s release.

It seems like nothing ever fails to cause problems when a prime minister is away, especially when going to try to get assistance from the new U.S. president regarding even greater dangers in the region, the Iranian nuclear weapons program. At the conclusion of Netanyahu’s visit with President Obama, the Israeli prime minister appeared to come out on the short end with Obama pressuring Netanyahu to freeze the building of new settlements in the West Bank as well as to start preparing for a two state solution. Obama did confirm that his plan includes making sure that a new Palestinian state would be de-militarized and that it would not be allowed to ally itself with countries that are in a state of war with Israel. How this plan would work in actuality is up to speculation, especially due to the radical Hamas faction (not so far included in this plan) being friendly with both Iran and the Hezbollah party in Lebanon, also said to be virtual proxies of the Iranians.

For his part, Netanyahu promised the President that Israel would not attack Iran, after receiving the President’s assurances that his administration “will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power”. How that is going to be guaranteed is also very much up in the air, especially with Iranian president Ahmadinejad announcing the successful launching Wednesday of a new 2,000 km range missile

Meanwhile, American CIA chief Leon Panetta was quoted as saying that if Israel tries to go it alone in regards to attacking Iran, “it will be in big trouble”; especially since such an attack is virtually impossible without some form of coordination with the U.S. and other countries. Panetta added that his country “has the US government’s full attention” and that the last thing the US wants to see is a “Middle East nuclear arms race”.

It appears that Bibi wasn’t the only one benefiting from the trip, as his wife Sara didn’t have a formal meeting with Michelle Obama. Oh well, maybe Sara got to go to the malls.

Washington not dealing with “Israeli interests”

Washington not dealing with Israeli interestsIsraeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with U.S. President Barack Obama is only hours away, and already numerous commentaries are trying to predict what the two men will talk about when they meet today in the White House. Bibi Netanyahu’s wife, Sarah, will also have the opportunity to chat with Michelle Obama, who herself is an outspoken individual who even the President is aware of. Netanyahu has a lot to talk to Obama about, especially in regards to Israel’s future relations with a likely State of Palestine; and how to deal with the possibility of a nuclear Iran.

This will be Netanyahu’s first visit with Obama as prime minister, although he did meet Obama briefly last summer in Israel when Obama was campaigning for the U.S. presidency. We all remember how that went when Obama gave a speech in the beleaguered town of Sderot; while the town’s mayor, Eli Moyal, was pushed to the background. Sderot had been under intense bombardment by Palestinian launched Kassam rockets, and Obama went there to show his support; which really turned into a photo-op for the then U.S. Senator.

Bibi will find that his American host has his own ideas as to how things should be handled in the Middle East, and what Israel should expect from her American ally, now that a new administration is running things in Washington. For one thing, American will not be so keen on accepting everything that Netanyahu is in favor of; especially in regards to the future of the West Bank, where the proposed State of Palestine will be situated (the future of Gaze is still to be worked out). The Palestinians want all the things that they would be entitled to as a sovereign nation, including their own military forces. Netanyahu is not at all in favor of this and will try to convince Obama to be in favor of neutrality for any future Palestinian state, similar to countries like Austria and Switzerland. Other issues like the “law of return” for Palestinians to Israel is also a sensitive issue; and differences on this topic between the U.S. and Israel are already well known.

Finally, the Iranian issue with certainly be talked about, and it’s certain that Obama will caution Bibi against doing anything foolish like launching an air attack against Iran’s nuclear installations without U.S. knowledge and approval.

Judging from Bibi’s last visit to Washington as prime minister, during the Wye Plantation peace negotiations with then P.A. Chairman Yassir Arafat in October, 1998, it might be wise for Sarah Netanyahu to maintain a low profile, as she definitely didn’t contribute to that visit in a positive manner. Bibi will have enough trouble concentrating on his own PR image, rather than trying to keep Sarah on a short leash.

Or, just turn her loose in an upscale DC mall with some credit cards while he “shops” for other stuff at the White House.

Bibi Sinks Deeper in The Mud

Binyamin NetanyahuThe rock group Depeche Mode has come and gone, and so has the Lag B’Omer wiener roast and marshmallow toast. But P.M. Bibi Netanyahu and his so-called Chancellor of the Exchequer, Yuval Steinitz, continue to sink in the financial quagmire, they seem to have created by trying to be clever with the Israeli public.

As their popularity reaches the point where they can both crawl under a snake’s belly, these two guys, especially the one supposedly in charge of the country’s purse, seem to find themselves literally pinned against the wall, from the side of public opinion.
To make matters even more pressing for Bibi and Co., the Finance Ministry’s budget planner, Ram Belinkov, announced his resignation today. Are the “rats” beginning to leave the sinking ship?

Meanwhile, talk of more firings from work places will mean even more people applying for unemployment benefits – if they are even entitled to receive them.

The more affluent people will have to pay more, and those earning NS 80,000 or more per month will have to pay a higher amount of National Insurance contribution. Purchasers of luxury cars, especially gasoline guzzling SUV’s, will have to pay higher purchase taxes. But these changes won’t affect the poorer classes, who will have to pay higher prices for fruits and veggies in open air markets, due to the government asking for VAT to be paid now on all fruit and vegetable purchases. VAT will be increased one percentage point to 16.5% which will apply to all purchases, from basic commodities to cars and new real estate sales.

How the new rate of VAT , and the requirement for it being paid for stuff bought in the shuk (open air market) is going over with the people manning the stalls there, a visit by a Channel 2 news reporter got it “straight from the horse’s mouth”. One vendor, who has had a stall in the Menahem Yehuda market in Jerusalem for years, summed it up this way: “I am a loyal Likud-nick – always have been. But if these changes go into affect, then all them (the Likud hierarchy) including Ruby Rivlin (the Knesset Speaker) are not welcome here”.

And we’re sure those shuk guys mean business!

OUCH! Bibi does it Again!

In what many people are considering to be a shocker, the Netanyahu government’s Finance Ministry announced their proposed economic plan on Thursday. The Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz (or is it really Bibi with Steinitz only filling the position as a “stooge” for Netanyahu), presented the new budget, which includes some changes that are reminiscent of Netanyahu’s previous stint as finance minister during Ariel Sharon’s term in 2005. Some of the new budget changes include:

1. A sharp 10% reduction in child allowances with an aim to “equalize” the amount a family receives for each child from National Insurance. This will severely hurt religious families, and has enraged Shas Party members, who agreed to join the Netanyahu government in the first place when he agreed to their demands, including those involving child allowance.

2. Reducing the Defense Ministry’s budget by NS 2.5 million and forcing the IDF to raise its retirement age for career soldiers as well as the amount of pensions received (sorry guys and gals, no more “golden parachutes” at age 45).

3. More restrictions on persons filing for unemployment: persons up to age 35 will only receive benefits for 45 days; 35-45 for 60 days; and over 45 for 90 days. When asked what people will do with so few jobs available, the answer was: Well, there’s gas stations, supermarkets, and “yesh neshek?” (the “do you have a gun?” question security guards ask people going into shopping malls, etc.).

4. Benefits for pensions and disability payments will be “frozen” until the end of 2010 with no cost of living raises, etc.

5. And, something that everyone who has to spend time in a hospital will feel: 50 NIS ($12) daily surcharge for each day spent in hospital (people won’t be so keen to stay there long, especially elderly people on limited incomes). And this sum is in addition to all other “out of pocket” amounts due.

All of this couldn’t have come at a worst time for most people with more than a quarter million Israelis “officially” unemployed and everyone feeling the sharp sting of this current recession (especially Bank Hapoalim’s head Shari Arison, who in addition to all her other problems is now planning to divorce her current husband, Ofer Glazer – yeah, that guy who spent some time in jail for “bothering” a female employee on Arison’s yacht. Shari may have to sell that too, to raise some badly needed cash).

All in all, it doesn’t bode well for us simple folk who are just trying to keep from drowning in very deep financial waters.

Michael Oren Israel’s new US Ambassador

Michael OrenDr. Michael Oren, an American by birth and currently a professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, has been chosen by the new Israeli government as the next ambassador to the USA. Dr. Oren came to Israel in 1979, and has served in the IDF’s Paratroop Brigade, seeing combat duty during the 1982 war in Lebanon. Receiving a PHD in Middle East Studies in 1986, Oren’s connection to this region also includes a number of academic publications, including the best seller Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East ; an in-depth study of the June, 1967 war. This particular work, published in 2002, received the Los Angeles Times Literary Award for History and was on the New York Times best seller list for seven weeks. The Washington Post called this book the “Best history of the Six Day War written to date.”

He has also published numerous works dealing with Israeli foreign policy and political implications of recent Middle Eastern events. His most recent book, Power, Faith and Fantasy, published in 2007, deals with U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East from 1776 to present day.

Oren has also served as IDF spokesperson in recent military conflicts, and while on a break from his academic career in January served as an IDF spokesman during the recent Cast Lead operation. He also served as an Israeli liaison officer to the US Sixth Fleet during the 1991 Gulf War.

Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are very impressed with Oren credentials to serve in this post. Oren will replace current ambassador, Sallai Meridor, who agreed to step down following the formation of the new Netanyahu government.

American politicians are also very pleased with the new appointment, including Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a leading Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; who said that Oren will be “an outstanding ambassador for Israel”.

It appears that Oren’s experience and background makes him one of the most outstanding appointees for this position to date. We wish him the utmost success as Israel’s new US Ambassador. Just watch out for those sex toys

Bibi’s Peace in Our Time

bibi_peaceBoth Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu and his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, are not wasting any time in indicating how they will deal with issues regarding Israeli domestic and foreign policies. An earlier post dealt with Lieberman’s speech on how he intends to helm his position, much to the chagrin of many world leaders, including those of both Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries who have diplomatic relations with Israel. In response to the European Union’s threat to suspend Israel’s upgrade in relations with the EU, Netanyahu’s curt response was “don’t set conditions for us!”. Nothing more bottom line than that, it appears.

The Europeans, and most likely the Americans as well, are not very happy about the new Israeli government, and its apparent right-of-center foreign policy direction. In contrast from the previous government, led by the Kadima Party, and it’s now former and disgraced leader Ehud Olmert, the new political realties emanating from Jerusalem appear to be along the lines of “don’t xxxx with us!” Netanyahu added to his previous noted remark by saying “we (the government) are in the process of reviewing our policies -don’t rush us”.

All of this comes on the heels of the recent fiasco of the Conference Against Racism in Switzerland, the outcome of which we noted earlier. In light of this, and the upcoming Durban II conference, which will most likely be similar to the previous one (in which Israel was truncated by most of the delegates, causing the Israeli delegation to “exit, stage right”), both Mr. Lieberman and Netanyahu have decided on an entirely different course in which to steer the Israeli Ship of State.

On Lieberman’s part, the policy of “land for piece”, so popular with both Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni (now head of Kadima and leader of the opposition),
is no longer a negotiating factor in the new government. According to Lieberman, although the PA does not have to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State” the radical Islamic Hamas organization “must be suffocated”. “Don’t even mention the ‘right of return’ ” Lieberman was quoted as saying in regards to Palestinians being able to return to and settle within Israel proper.

Both Netanyahu and Lieberman want the members of the EU to “stop speaking in slogans” in reference to reaching a solution with the Palestinians; and in regards to other policies affecting Israel and its relations with other countries, including Iran.

Ironically, Lieberman has been invited to visit Egypt, which was conveyed during a just concluded visit by Egyptian intelligence chief Omer Suleiman. What reception Lieberman is likely to get in Cairo or some other location (such as Sharem al Sheikh) remains to be seen. But in any respect, countries like Egypt may even respect the new political reality now in place in Israel, as at least it is more predictable than the “poochy moochy” one espoused by Olmert. In any respect, it’s now a whole new political ball game.

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.

Taking Out the Goat

“Taking out the goat” is a known Israeli expression. It usually means creating a false demand during negotiations, so it could be dropped later in a public display of compromise. Obviously, the whole idea of taking out the goat revolves around ego-maintenance and manipulation of public opinion.

Well, over the past few days, knowing whether Daniel Friedmann, current Minister of Justice, will remain in office when the new government swears in — is Israel’s most burning question. Is Binyamin Netanyahu truly bent on his decision, or is Prof. Friedmann the goat that has to be taken out?

Photo: Michael Kramer

Photo: Michael Kramer

Either way, the implications are very serious, and the answer should probably clear up in the next few days.

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.

All Eyes Turn to Peres

Tomorrow, Wednesday evening, at 6 pm Jerusalem Time, President Shimon Peres will receive the official results of the general elections, which took place last week. These results will include all the votes, including the soldiers’ ballots.

Peres’ decision won’t be an easy one. Neither candidate — Binyamin Netanyahu nor Tzipi Livni — has so far managed to garner the necessary support of 61 Knesset members. Some media commentators even say jokingly(?!) that we might need to redo the elections!

So who is it going to be? Tzipi or Bibi? Too bad Mr. Obama is already taken.

Shimon Peres' Hard Choices

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.

They Told Me There Was a Debate Yesterday

I woke up this morning and read the news. Apparently there had been a televised debate on Channel 2 last night, between the three major contestants for the PM seat: Binyamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni, and Ehud Barak. Despite being a longtime advocate of such a debate — and as a self-admitted news junkie — I had no idea such an event was taking place last night.

Hosted by Dana Weiss, the so-called debate was in fact a condensed version of three separate mock interviews, where fierce journalistic inquiries were replaced by relatively dull questions submitted by internet surfers via YouTube. In other words, Livni, Bibi, and Barak weren’t debating each other. They weren’t even debating Dana Weiss. They simply answered questions for people who weren’t there in the studio!

Again, since I wasn’t aware of this “debate” last night, I hadn’t watched it, and this account of events is based on news reports who have dryly mentioned the televised spectacle this morning. To my defense, I can say that I knew of such a debate being in consideration, yet personally I didn’t catch any pre-event promos or sensed any hype about it, neither in the blogosphere, on the radio, or in the printed media. I don’t watch televised news much, so I can’t really tell whether this was promoted in advance by Channel 2 itself — though I assume it was.

They told me there was a debate yesterday. So much for a debate.

YouTube Interview

YouTube Interview

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