a different side of Israel

Tag: Palestinian (page 3 of 12)

Condi Tries to Put Humpty Together Again

While U.S. Senator Hillary was reveling in her March 4th Democratic Party primary victories, another American public servant, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was back in the Middle East trying to mend fences between Israel and the Palestinians following the recent escalation of violence that has left 4 Israelis (including 3 soldiers) and at least 90 Palestinians killed in missile attacks and military actions during the past few weeks.

Rice in IsraelRice met with both Palestinian Authorities in Ramallah and Israeli leaders in Jerusalem to try to deal with a situation that is beginning to look more like the character in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, rather than an optimistic solution to an ongoing problem in which there just doesn’t seem to be a solution – at least as long as both Israel and the USA refuse to deal with the Hamas organization in Gaza.

The problem concerning Hamas, and it’s leaders Khaled Mashal ( who sits is Damascus) and former P.A. prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, has gone from bad to worse ever since Hamas won out over Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization in a bloody civil uprising in early 2006. Hamas has been held responsible for firing most of the Qassam and other rockets at Israeli towns and villages; and now more recently at the 120,000 population city of Ashkelon., only 10 kilometers from Gaza’s northern border with Israel.

During Rice’s meeting with Israeli officials, even Rice had to admit that the prospects for peace do not look very good; and despite her boss’s (President George Bush) good intentions, it appears doubtful that a satisfactory solution will be reached before Bush leaves office in January, 2009. During Rice’s meeting with both Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Olmert told Rice that Israeli reprisals against the Palestinians, as well as harsh economic sanctions will cease immediately is the Palestinians cease their rocket and other types of attacks against Israel. It was also said that although agreements were made to resume talks between the factions, no peace agreement can be reached “even in 100 years” unless the Palestinians renounce their aims for “armed struggle” which can only interpreted as the eventual destruction of Israel.

Whatever agreements can be made will not hold water without Hamas’s involvement, and this doesn’t look at all likely – at least in our lifetimes that is. Gaza is in such a sorry state that it is now being said by foreign aid officials who have been working there that the situation of the people is “worse than it was at the time of Israel’s occupation of it in 1967”. More than 80% of the population are not able to survive without aid assistance of food and other basic necessities; and there is a complete breakdown of sewage disposal and fresh water infrastructures.

Condi appears to have left again with nothing more than a hollow promise for continuation of talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah. It looks like this mess is just one of the problems that will be awaiting the new U.S. president when he or she takes office next January 20th.

Gotcha! Hillary Hits Back

Hillary Rodham Clinton can definitely be called “the comeback kid” following Tuesday’s American primary contests in four states. Winning handsomely in both Ohio and Rhode Island, and squeaking by in Texas by a 3% margin. Clinton now has considerable breathing space in which to prepare for the next and perhaps most decisive contest, the Pennsylvania primary in late April.

Hillary BackAlthough her opponent, Barack Obama only won in the Vermont primary and is just slightly ahead in the Texas caucuses he still leads the overall delegate count by at least 100; and is now having to re-plan his overall strategy if he expects to win the Democratic Party nomination in July. When interviewed Wednesday morning in Austin, Hillary Clinton seemed to have regained her confidence and said that what made the difference is her overall experience as compared to Obama’s. When interviewers from CNN asked whether the recent commercial about which candidate would be able to make the right decision after receiving a 3 a.m. phone about a national security emergency, she reiterated about her past experience in such matters, including her being sent to such places as Bosnia (during their civil war) to mediate a peace agreement. She compared herself to Obama who she said “only continues to talk about a speech he made back in 2004 concerning America’s involvement in Iraq”.

I suppose that Hillary can say that she has a bit of experience, as the “red phone” did ring a few times at 3 a.m. when she was in bed with her husband Bill. She also could include her “experience” in dealing with that very uncomfortable period from November 1998 until July, 2000, when she had to deal with another kind of crises that was “a bit too close to home”.

Disregarding those unpleasant episodes, Hillary does probably have a bit more of a track record than Obama has; and whether or not this will help her to wind up making a “V” sign at the speakers podium of the convention will be determined in the coming weeks ahead.

People all over the world have been following the U.S. Presidential campaign; and these primary races have for sure been followed by those living in the Middle East and elsewhere in Islamic World. Barack Hussein Obama is no doubt the favorite of many who make up what is known as Dir Al Islam – the World Community of Islam, and these include many of America’s present enemies, such as Hamas, the Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and most certainly The Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a recent short visit to Iraq, said during a speech there that nearly everyone hates Americans. Well, he does anyway.

Jews around the world, especially in Israel, have from the start been a bit apprehensive about the possibility of Obama winning the Presidency; and what could afterwards be in store concerning America’s future relations with the Jewish State. There is really no way of knowing how Obama will deal with the Israel-Palestinian issue until he is actually sitting in the Oval Office. But in the weeks and months ahead, this matter will most certainly crop up; and it will most likely be used against Obama by both Clinton and John McCain, the Republican nominee.

This year’s contest has so far been anything but boring; and with the U.S. heading towards what may be a moderate to severe recession, the U.S. economy will be a top issue in the months ahead as well. If Hillary does manage to win over the remaining primary contests and become her party’s candidate, she’ll still need all the help she can get to beat McCain in November. And to do this, she’ll have to get real friendly again with a guy named William Jefferson Clinton, who has a bit of “experience” himself.

Via the Womb!

From the womb!Readers may wonder what the picture of a baby has to do with recent goings on in Gaza, where Israel is currently involved in a military action under the code name of “Hot Winter”. Well, my friends, the photo of a male baby wearing a scarf that read “The Izzadine Al-Qasam Brigades” that appeared recently on a media news site was made up to emphasize the way the Palestinians indoctrinate their children “virtually from the womb” to engage in suicide attacks against Israelis and Jews outside of Israel, particularly those who like to visit the beaches along Egypt’s Sinai coast.

The picture, however, also has another, even more ominous meaning, which has to do with a location that has one of the highest birth rates in the world. This proven fact has resulted in many Palestinians saying that in the end, they will defeat their enemy “via the womb”. It’s not difficult to understand what they mean by that. Israelis, including even the Ultra Orthodox Community (who has large families) only have an average birthrate of 3.2 children per childbearing female. This is in comparison with Palestinian women, especially those living in Gaza, who have an average of 6.5 children per child bearing female. That’s more than double their Israeli counterparts; and has resulted in the total Palestinian population literally doubling its population in only 15 years, or less than one generation. This demographic reality also includes Palestinians living abroad in countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, The Persian Gulf, and of course Europe and North America.

Recent demands of being allowed to live in Israel under a “law of return” policy similar to the one Israel allows for all Diaspora Jews (and non-Jews with at least one Jewish grandparent), would spell disaster to Israel if such a policy was allowed. As what happened in South Africa, when millions of native Africans migrated there during the 19th and early 20th century, it wouldn’t take long before the Palestinian population would outnumber the Jewish one.

Even if the Palestinians eventually have bona fide state of their own, the total land areas of the Gaza strip and that of the West Bank are simply too small to sustain a population that manages, by birthrate alone, to literally double itself every 10-15 years. The result of this kind of population explosion can already seen in countries like Egypt and India, both of whom have abnormally high birthrates.

Israel’s Arab population has also shown significant increases in population, but not on the scale as that of the Palestinians.

Seeing how successful they were in breaching a security wall between Gaza and Egypt, that resulted in more than 700,000 Gazans pouring over into Egypt on shopping trips; some Palestinians are now threatening to do the same thing on the Israeli side of their border, and simply daring Israeli military and police authorities to stop them from doing so.

Golda Meir, one of Israel’s greatest prime ministers, once said in regards to Israeli’s having to fight their Arab neighbors: “we can forgive them when they kill our children; but we can never forgive them when we have to kill theirs!”

And judging from the recent escalation of violence by the Palestinians, including constant barrages of Gaza launched rockets at Israeli targets, it is obvious, as well as ominous, what the future might be between Israel and her ever-increasing Palestinian neighbors.

John McCain and Israel

While the Democratic Party Presidential candidate race still appears to be a close call, the Republican one has formed ranks around U.S. Senator John McCain from Arizona. McCain, who is a former U.S. Navy pilot and prisoner of war, Also contended for the Republican Party’s nomination in 2007, before losing to U.S. President George W. Bush. Now that McCain is the definite GOP choice for the presidency, many Jews, both in America and in Israel, wonder how the 4 term senator’s policies will be towards Israel.

McCain comes from a family of professional naval officers, and both his father and grandfather were naval admirals. His own military record, largely centered around his experiences during the Vietnam War, is exemplary with his receiving virtually every distinguished service award except the Congressional Medal of Honor. His five and half years of captivity in what became known as the “Hanoi Hilton” resulted in his having serious physical limitations, including not being able to comb his hair. This hasn’t limited his ability, nor his desire to lead his country in the capacity of Commander in Chief.

Though his official policies toward Israel are still to be unveiled, his private feelings have been expressed on several occasions, including a speech he made in St. Louis during the time of the 2006 war in Lebanon:

“My dear friends, you have probably seen our European friends say, ‘Well, the Israelis have got to stop.’ But what would we do if somebody came across our borders and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers? Do you think we would be exercising total restraint?”

If one were to examine John McCain’s military service record, in which he flew more than 27 combat missions against the North Vietnamese, it is easy to see that he has more military experience than any U.S. President since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

McCain, probably more even than President Bush, appreciates the fight against terrorism and aggression by totalitarian Middle Eastern countries that Israel has been involved in since it’s inception in 1948. His five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam, much of it involving torture that contributed to the his disabilities, also gives him great sympathy towards the families of Israeli solders who have been captured by Israel’s adversaries, including the Palestinians and the Hezbollah.. McCain is considered to be a “hawk” in regards to his feelings towards containing foreign aggression, which is another reason why he is surely an admirer of Israeli military actions against people who are also enemies of the USA.

And judging from his remarks concerning the situation in Iraq, and of course his own personal experiences as a POW, he’s not likely to have much sympathy towards organizations like Hamas or Hezbollah.

Taking these factors into account, John McCain will certainly have Israel’s strategic security problems on his agenda should he be elected president in the upcoming elections in November.

Kosovo and Palestine: Lessons learned?

PalestineKosovo’s declared separation from Serbia, the last remaining part of Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia, is being cheered by some and jeered by others. The 10,000 sq kilometer former province, composed of 80% ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslim) and 20% Serbs (Orthodox Christians) was the center of a bloody conflict in the late 1990’s that left thousands dead, and turned more than 1,000,000 people into temporary refugees, most of whom fled to neighboring Albania. Following the ouster of Serbian president Slavodan Melochovic in 1999, Kosovo has been semi occupied by a NATO sponsored military force to keep order in this troubled land.

Kosovo’s declaration of independence has been endorsed by many Western countries, including the USA, Gt. Britain, France, and Germany. Many other countries, including Russia, Indonesia, and China are opposing the move, claiming that Kosovo’s independence will cause a great number of other autonomous and semi-autonomous provinces to want to be independent as well. Serbia is naturally very unhappy about the move, and this includes people who might now be considered to the ethnic Serbs living within what Serbia considers to be a “rouge” province. Both Russia and China, not to mention Indonesia, have provinces composed of people with certain ethnic majorities who would like to have their own country. China’s main provincial “headache” is Tibet, while Russia has Chechnya, Dagestan, and other Asian provinces.

How all of these problems compare to Israel and the Palestinian Authority is very simple. Although a “two state solution” has been discussed for years, many Israelis are against the Palestinians having their own state. Now that Kosovo is setting an example of forming its own independent republic, the Palestinians may now decide to do the same as well; especially if they see that they will be immediately accepted by the Arab world as well as many other countries, including possibly some EU countries. There are some issues that are relevant to Palestine that were not present in Kosovo, and that includes the fact that the land that would become the State of Palestine is divided into two sections: the one in the West Bank, controlled by Yasser Arafat’s former Fatah organization, and the Gaza Strip, controlled by the radical Hamas organization. There are also the logistical considerations, as the two areas are separated from each other by the State of Israel.

West Bank Palestinian leaders declared immediately after Kosovo’s announcement that they, the Palestinians, will declare their independence if certain pressing issues are not settled with Israel. These issues include the future status of Jerusalem, and a Palestinian “law of return”. The fact that the Palestinians are themselves divided, make it hard for them to be able to become an independent state; and this division is likely to remain for some time. This is all further complicated by continued firing of Qassam missiles into Israel by Gaza Palestinians, as well as occasional acts of terrorism against Israelis by both Palestinian groups.

Israel’s government has not yet given either formal approval or disapproval of Kosovo’s independence declaration. But taking the examples of countries like Russia and others in mind, many individual Israelis, especially former Gaza settlers, and those presently living in the West Bank, it will be very hard for them to agree to a Palestinian State, particularly under current circumstances.

Decision Time for Sderot Attacks

Increasing numbers of Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot are resulting in more casualties as either the Palestinians are getting better at launching on populated areas, or just better by the numbers of rockets launched. Whatever the reason, the recent attacks occurring over the weekend, in which two boys in the same family were both seriously injured, and may other people were treated for shock, appears to be pushing the IDF into some kind of ground engagement in Gaza.

The plans for a ground attack although potentially costly to Israeli soldiers is basically two-fold. Following the breach in the security fence and wall between Gaza and Egypt, a large amount of more sophisticated rockets (like Katyusha) and other military hardware were probably brought over from Egypt into the strip, which will eventually be used against Israeli civilian and military targets. A large scale ground attack will be aimed at gaining some form of control back over the Philadelphi crossing at Rafiah, where the border breach was made. Another reason for a ground attack is to try to wipe out the sources of the rocket launchings and possibly even capture some high ranking Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders; forcing these organizations to tone down their attacks.

Israel is already stepping up concentrated air strikes against those involved in planning and carrying out these missile attacks; and word is out that high ranking Hamas officials, including Ismail Haniyeh himself, may be targets. This policy has already been tried in the past when Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and former Hamas leader Abdel Azziz Rantisi were both “taken out” in this manner. Other ideas, including complete cutting off of Gaza from both water and electricity are also being considered; although it must be remembered that it was these forms of collective punishment that resulted in Hamas people blowing up the border barriers at Rafiah two weeks ago. Many of the more than half a millions Gazans who took advantage of this act to have a free tour of the Sinai are still over there and possibly planning future terror attacks against Israel.

Prime Minister Olmert, in the aftermath of the final published Winograd Report, is virtually standing with his back against the diplomatic wall as more and more people, including political officials, are calling on him to resign. The people of Sderot, in the wake of the severe Qassam rocket attacks, took to the streets, burning tires and other material and shouting for the P.M. to either take immediate action or quit.

Olmert is still hanging on to his position, but all indications are that he won’t be there for long. In the meantime, even though government officials like Defense Minister Ehud Barak promise that Israel will “use all available means to stop these attacks” the attacks themselves continue and the residents of this southern town of 20,000 are growing more and more impatient. “Why did you come here – go home” they yell out at Barak and other visiting officials – and for good reason!

Super Tuesday for Israel

Super Tuesday 08
The mega American primary elections known as Super Tuesday are now over in America, and its implication is still to be seen in a Presidential race that is far from over. Many Americans living here in Israel had the chance to vote by absentee ballot. Those who didn’t should find out what needs to be done in order to vote in the main elections in November. Republican Party candidate John McCain appears to be the front runner and likely party candidate when the GOP convention convenes in August. He racked up the largest number of delegates over his rivals Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee, who fared better than many thought he would, wound up winning a number of Southern States, as well some others that might make him a “king maker” at the convention and even force McCain to give him a top cabinet post of even offer the Vice Presidency spot. That will of course depend on how Romney fares in the upcoming primaries as he has many more delegates than “Huck”.

The Democratic side is much more confusing, however, even though Hillary Clinton appears to have won more delegates, due to her winning big states like New York and California. Obama won more states in total and may fare better in upcoming primaries in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, not to mention the District of Columbia which has a large Afro-American population. This race is likely to end up on the floor of the Democratic Party Convention this coming July, and be a real free-for-all.

What this election is gearing up to mean for Israel is how the new Presidential administration will deal with the Jewish State and with its Palestinian and other Arab neighbors. If Hillary Clinton should win the Presidency, she will probably use tactics similar to those her husband Bill used when he tried to put pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace agreement that failed miserably at the Camp David summit in July, 2000. If Barack Obama wins the Presidency, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen, especially in light of Obama’s Muslim influenced childhood; an issue that is still not definitely settled in the eyes of many Americans and Israelis.

As for Republican candidate McCain, his politics seem to fluctuate for ultra conservative to moderate. He has definite ideas concerning America’s Iraq involvement, and has even said that he would keep American troops in Iraq “for a hundred years if necessary”. That’s a bit different than either Hillary or Obama, both of whom favor eventual troop withdrawals. McCain might be a safer bet concerning America’s stand against Iran, though, as his military background makes him understand this kind of a problem more than his Democratic (and Republican) rivals.

Both political parties and their candidates need to understand a few basic points though. The situation in Iraq will not go away on its own, and Al Qaeda and its top leaders are still active and ready to have a go at America again. Iran and its proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas are also ready and waiting for the right opportunities, as we here in Israel are acutely aware of. And a worsening of the American economy will be bad for everyone, especially here in Israel.

So as the race heats up in the U.S. elections, all we in Israel can do is hope that the “flack” from it won’t come down too hard on our heads – literally!

Still Won’t Resign

Will Not ResignOne of America’s most popular daytime talk show hosts, Dr. Phil McGraw, coined a very popular saying: “you either get it or you don’t”. And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert still apparently doesn’t seem to get it as the Winograd Commission’s final report considers him largely responsible for the outcome of the 2006 war in Lebanon. Speaking at the recent Herzelia Security Conference, which took place at the Daniel Hotel in Herzelia Petuach, the Prime Minister said that although lessons can be learned from the 34 day war:

” I am not sorry about the critical decisions I made as prime minister – neither those related to the fighting in Lebanon, nor those related to other events.”

There you have it. This guy just doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that many reserve soldiers, including officers, are calling for him to step down, and parents of slain solders are camping out in front of the Knesset holding signs saying for him to go home.

Olmert has managed to wheel and deal himself into staying in power for nearly two years, much longer than many expected him to. Continuing to gloss over his past deeds, Olmert said the following in respect to reports that people close to him have been criticizing his manner in handling the conflict, and its aftermath:

“I would like to add, from the bottom of my heart – I appreciate and respect the determination and courage, the sacrifice and willingness of our fighters, both regular and reserve, soldiers and officers alike, company commanders and regiment commanders. And if anyone posed as my ‘confidant’ and said otherwise, he is not my confidant”.

Speaking of confidants, it is a wonder that he still has any, even in his own political party. U.S. President Bush asked government officials here to support Olmert during Bush’s recent Israel visit. But as many have said after the President’s two and a half day visit to Israel and the West Bank part of the Palestinian Authority, that nothing really was accomplished by the visit; and no sooner had Bush left the country than Gaza Palestinians began to bombard Israel’s southern regions with their Kassam rockets.

American real estate tycoon Trump, who plans to build a mega skyscraper near the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, said the following in regards to Bush’s visit”: “He (Bush) had some great photo sessions and some nice luncheons, but nothing else was really accomplished”.

Trying make himself look successful, Olmert also stated that not “any political party or personal consideration” will deflect him from making an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. O.K, if that’s the case, what is he really doing in regards to a so-called “agreement”, especially when a third of Gaza’s residents are pouring into Egypt to find food (and other stuff like Katyusha rockets, perhaps?). Just who the hell is the Palestinian Authority anyway?

Mr. Olmert, I’m afraid you really don’t get it!

“Open Borders” Between Gaza and Egypt

Following a series of explosions last night, a section of a security wall between Egypt and Gaza was blown up, allowing thousands of Palestinians to swarm into the Egyptian side of Rafiah to buy much needed food and supplies. With neither Palestinian or Egyptian security authorities making any effort to stop them, the frantic Gazans could be seen bringing back virtually everything imaginable, including cartons of Egyptian made cigarettes which cost a fraction of those available in Gaza.

Concerned Israel governmental officials are worried that not only can all kinds of contraband, including narcotics and weapons, can be literally carried back to Gaza; but that anyone desiring can just walk over the now unguarded border, including terrorists such as members of Al Qaeda.

The residents of Gaza were already in an unpleasant situation when Israeli authorities shut the border crossings between Israel and Gaza following a series of Kassam missile attacks Israelis. These missiles caused both personal injury and property damage to Israelis, especially in the town of Sderot.

Israeli government officials in Jerusalem were quick to point out that as previously agreed it is Egypt’s responsibility to maintain security along its border with Gaza. But this apparently is not working out with Egyptian police officials doing nothing from preventing people from bringing what could wind up being tons of arms and explosives into Gaza.

Following Israel’s complete closure of its border with Gaza this week, in the aftermath of more than 150 Kassam rockets being fired into Israeli territory, Prime Minister Olmert went one step further by shutting down the electricity grid and preventing supplies of fuel oil and gasoline from reaching Gaza, which virtually kept the Strip in the dark. Despite a slight let up by Israeli authorities to allow limited supplies of fuel and medicines into Gaza, residents of Rafiah decided to take measures into their own hands, which resulted in to explosions that opened a large section of the security wall. For most residents of Gaza, this is the first time they have been able to cross freely into Egypt, and this includes even students who had been enrolled in universities abroad. One Gaza man was heard saying that he planned to take his son to Cairo to board a flight to Morocco where he was supposed to be attending school.

What will happen next is very much up in the air, as Egyptian authorities do not seem willing to assert their authority following a riot at the border crossing the day before which resulted in a number of Palestinians being wounded when Egyptians opened fire in the air to prevent Gazans from breaking down the border gate. What now concerns Israeli authorities is the possibility of scores of terrorist of all kinds, including members of Al Qaeda, from literally walking into Gaza to assist them in their armed struggle against Israel. There is also the possibility of various types of armament being brought in to Gaza, including longer range rockets capable of reaching further into Israel.

Israeli government ministers said that they hold Hamas responsible for what has occurred, as “Hamas controls the territory”. Even before this event occurred, many say that it was easier to purchase arms in Gaza, including RPG’s, than to purchase soft drinks or medications.

T.A. Stocks in Freefall

There’s an old saying that says “whatever goes up must come down”. And in reference to world stock bourses, including the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, “coming down” is looking like nothing less than a catastrophic free fall. After dropping an average of nearly 3 percent yesterday, today’s opening looks like it could end even worse as stock markets all over the worlds are falling between 7 and 10 % per day over the dismal news concerning the problems of the American economy, still considered as the largest economy in the world.

There are a number of reasons why all this is happening, including the energy crises, global warming and climate change, the continuing aftermath of Al Qaeda sponsored terrorism, and perhaps (for the outgoing Bush Administration anyway) the nearly 5 year disaster known as the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. As for Israel, the economy here is heavily tied to the fortunes of the American Economy as Israel’s biggest economic pluses in recent years have been connected to technologically based industries, especially information technology and bio-technology. Due to Israel’s mounting political problems in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanese war and the conflict with the Palestinians in which most European countries consider Israel as an occupying aggressive oppressor of “Palestinian rights”, Israeli companies have had to rely more and more on the USA to market both products and services.

With crude oil prices hovering at close to the $100 per barrel mark, and after the U.S. Treasury has wound up spending over $200 billion in it’s continuing war against insurgents in Iraq, these and other problems, including the mortgage loan crises, have brought the American economy to the brink of what is being talked about as a major economic recession; one even greater than the one of 1991-94 that resulted in the U.S. President George Herbert Bush (G.W.’s dad) losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton, and at least half of the workers in high paying aerospace industries in California and other states looking for $1,000 per month sales jobs in cities like Atlanta.

The “R” word, meaning recession, is definitely being talked about these days, and is bound to arrive at Israel’s doorstep sooner or later. After all, the Tel Aviv stock indexes have been rising too high for too long, and as other bourses start “heading south” stocks in Israel are bound to go that way too. Many Israeli companies, especially the high tech ones are posted on the NASDAQ, the American “over the counter” stock exchange that for years has become one of the most popular indexes for technological based companies to be listed on. These stocks are often very fickle and any reverberation in economic fortunes can cause them to fall quite rapidly. Many NASDAQ listed stocks are selling for as much as 30 times the actual earnings of the companies they represent, which mean that a lot of speculation is involved in pushing up their trading value.

As a result, they are now leading the markets in a very troubling direction. Everyone will be watching which direction Wall Street will head today, following the breaking news announcement that the US Federal is lowering its prime lending rate by 0.75%. The Dow dropped by 500 points on Monday and even the Fed’s attempt to bring stability into the financial markets may not be enough to stop the fall, as the problems of the mortgage crises and other financial concerns remain. Most home mortgages are fixed rate ones that keep the same interest rate during the life of the loan.

What the intermediate to long term outlook for Israel’s economy will be as a result of these market flip flops remains to be seen. But for sure, if the “R” word becomes reality in America, it’s bound to reach Israel sooner or later.

Sderot Slammed by Scores of Kassam Rockets

No sooner had U.S. President George Bush departed Israel when Hamas led Palestinians in Gaze began inundating Sderot again with Kassam missile fire. The IDF responded by not only striking Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants with air to ground missile fire by also by ground incursions into the Strip which has resulted in more than 22 Palestinians killed including the son of former P.A. Foreign Minister, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar. Zahar (a case of mistaken identity?), who now holds the same position for the Hamas entity, vowed during mourning for his slain son that Israel will pay severely for this act.

Zahar’s words seems to be taking concrete form as Israel’s southern town which borders on the Eastern edge of the Strip has been hit by more than 70 Kassam rockets and mortar fire in the course of three days. Several Sderot residents have been injured including a young girl who was sitting in front of her computer when a Kassam slammed into her family’s living room. She was injured, by miraculously survived.

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the beleaguered town and vowed that Israel will not tolerate this kind of action. Tolerate or not, the Kassams keep coming and more and more Sderot residents are evacuating the town, including a number being once again assisted by billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, who is financing the relocation of Sderot school children to safer locations. For the ones who have not left, increasing problems of trauma and hysteria have kept at least a fourth of the children away from school.

Israeli retaliation strikes has also resulted in another problem when exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal announced on Wednesday that Hamas has cancelled the negotiations aimed at gaining the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. “We will not resume these negotiations until the Zionest enemy discontinues their attacks on our people”, Meshaal said when interviewed in his headquarters in Damascus.

With what is currently going on in the south, which is literally a war of attrition between Israel and Hamas, it’s highly unlikely that the IDF will heed Mr. Meshaal’s warning as the Israeli public will not tolerate such actions against fellow citizens for much longer. Hamas leaders in Gaza, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh may be getting the message, as it was reported from a senior Hamas official that they would like to halt the rocket and other attacks that are resulting in a continuance of IDF selective targeting of Palestinian militants. Israel Defense Minister Barak replied that Israeli forces will increase their pressure on the Gaza Palestinians until they do cease these rocket attacks. Meanwhile, at least 15 Kassam rockets have hit Sderot Thursday morning alone, injuring one woman and traumatizing many other residents.

What now remains to be seen is who will prevail in this current “war of the wills”.

Bush’s Visit and Presidential Primaries

Victories in the New Hampshire presidential primary by Republican Senator John McCain, and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton appear the have little correlation with President George Bush‘s visit to Israel today and several other Middle Eastern countries. McCain, who is usually depicted as a bit of a hawk, won comfortably over his closest rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney; while Clinton, barely got by her closest rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. While it’s still too early to tell who will wind up as their party’s official nominee, the next few weeks will definitely tell which way the political winds are blowing for hopefuls in both major political parties.

As for Bush, in what will most likely be his last major visit to the this part of the world, he really doesn’t have to worry what happens to anyone representing his political party, the Republicans, as most of the people running are not depending on his support anyway. That means that Mr. Bush can concentrate of trying to realize some of his plans concerning implementing a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as making sure that oil rich countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia remain under America’s sphere of influence in order to keep that increasingly expensive commodity, oil, flowing into American refineries, and hence into American SUV’s.

Iran, especially after their aborted attempt to create an international incident with American naval vessels in the Straits of Hormuz, is another factor that Bush will have to deal with until he leaves office on January 20, 2009. Concerning who will be replacing him, all the outgoing president can do is to wish his successor will, whoever that person may be.

Perhaps that’s what is good about being an outgoing two term president. He is not really what is known as a “lame duck” as he is not under any serious political cloud such as an incumbent president is when losing a re-election bid. His vice president, Dick Cheney, is too old and too sick to run for the office, and Bush himself doesn’t appear, at this point in time anyway, to be personally indorsing any of his party’s candidates, including John McCain.

Bush’s main “cloud” if one wants to call it that is the matter of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath; which will be a main concern for his replacement, especially if he (or she) is a Democrat. Other issues, including the ongoing War on Terror and the current goings-on the Middle East (the focus of his current Middle East visit) will also carry over to his successor as no major breakthroughs will probably come to pass this year. And this is despite assurances by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and P.A. Authority President Abbas that there might be some encouraging steps made towards a final peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Other problems including global warming, a possible U.S. recession, Pakistan’s current sate of flux, and Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Ladin and Ayman al Zawahiri still presumed to be alive and kicking will be left to whoever is sitting in the Oval Office next January 21.

As for Bush, it will be back to Texas barbeques and Lone Star Beer, or whatever tickles his fancy.

Will Bush’s Visit Save Olmert Politically?

Bush In IsraelU.S. President George Bush’s first official visit to Israel is only days away, but many political analysts are already speculating on whether the President’s two day visit will result an any improvements in the current state of relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Coming virtually at the same time as the outcome of the New Hampshire presidential primary, Bush’s visit will probably not have an influence on the political chances of any of the Republican candidates, including present front runner Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Caucuses over other hopefuls Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Rudolf Giuliani.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is also hopeful that the President’s visit will result in some kind of break-though in the current situation which not only has resulted in Palestinian fired rockets reaching the city of Ashkelon, but new acts of terror by members of the Palestinian Fatah organization that Olmert is trying to win over in an alliance against the Hamas controlled Gaza strip.

Bush, shown with both Olmert and Abbas at the recent Annapolis Summit is himself more or less in a “lame duck” political situation in which members of his own political party are trying to distance themselves from his foreign and domestic policies, including those running for public office. In addition to meeting with Israeli government personalities, Bush will also meet with P.A. President Mahmud Abbas and members of his government in a specially arranged meeting in Jericho. Hamas leader and “former” P.A. Prime Minister Ismail Haneyah will not be on the President’s agenda, for obvious reasons.

One thing for sure, however, is that the Bush visit will send a strong message to Iran concerning the President’s feelings about that country’s nuclear program, despite the recent NIE report that the Islamic Republic abandoned it’s nuclear weapons development program in 2003. The President’s visit will help reassure both the IDF and the Israeli government that President Bush still believes that Iran continues to pursue its goal to become a nuclear power.

The big question concerning this topic will be what will happen when Bush leaves office in January, 2009.

Bush will probably try to persuade Olmert to make some kind of concessions with Abbas, including the dismantling of some outpost and “fringe” settlements as a prelude to more serious disengagements that are being planned in the coming months as part of the agreements between Olmert and Abbas at the Middle East Summit in Annapolis Maryland. The only problem from that conference was that most, if not all, of the agreements appeared to have come only from Mr. Olmert and not from Mr. Abbas.

Outside of causing a nerve wracking traffic tie up in much of central Jerusalem during the President’s visit, the prospects of any real breakthroughs being made is a bit doubtful and all that will probably transpire will be a lot of media publicized hand shaking and dinner speeches. Bush will at least see for himself what he has only seen previously in video clips such as parts of the “security wall” in Jerusalem as well as the usual diplomatic sites such as the Yad Vashem Holocaust exhibit and museum and the Kotel or Western Wall in the Old City. Aside from a short visit to Jericho, the remainder of Bush’s visit will be either within the King David Hotel or at the Knesset, where the President is most likely scheduled to address members of Israel’s parliament.

Olmert, who recently has expressed his wishes that former and now comatose P.M. Ariel Sharon was able to assist in solving the country’s political and security problems, will not gain much from Bush’s visit, especially with the chances of a U.S. Democratic Party Presidential administration more possible than ever. What many people in Israel are currently wishing is that a new Israeli government administration will soon be elected to replace the one so ineptly administered by Mr. Olmert and his Kadima Party cronies. That hope is at least as strong as many Americans have regarding replacing the current Republican Party led one in Washington, led by the guy who will disembarking from Air Force One at Ben Gurion Airport this coming Wednesday.

Nasrallah “Let’s Negotiate Israeli Remains”

AssholeThe New Year has barely begun and Hezbollah General Secretary Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is at it again. This time, he was interviewed on Lebanon’s Al Manar T.V. and made an “offer” to negotiate what he claims are the remains of several Israeli soldiers killed in the July/August 2006 Lebanon war. This offer seems a bit bizarre as the only Israeli soldiers who were declared as missing by the IDF were the crew of the naval patrol ship that was sunk by a Hezbollah launched ground to sea missile, plus the two captured soldiers Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose capture actually caused the war to begin in the first place. During his address, Nasrallah made no mention of the two solders, which were captured on July 12, 2006 when their patrol was ambushed by Hezbollah militiamen. The body of one Israeli seaman was returned recently in exchange for several Hezbollah fighters.

The Sheikh also said that his people are preparing for another conflict as he sees no signs of any willingness of the Israeli government to change its position regarding either its relations with Lebanon as well as the rights of Palestinians to return to their homeland. He also said during the interview that his organization has “much more influence over Iran than Iran has over Hezbollah”, and that Israel was responsible for the recent assassination of Lebanese military and political personalities.

Israel wasn’t the only party that came under the Sheikh’s castigation as he said the U.S. government is trying to put it’s influence on the Lebanese government to make a peace deal with Israel and then get rid of the Hezbollah. Nasrallah said that his organization can defend itself against any foreign aggression, whether it comes from Israel or America. Nasrallah spent considerable time talking about his organization’s present status in the Lebanese political realm and that it’s support of certain politicians and military commanders such as Lebanese Army Commander Michel Sulieman is a very deciding factor in General Sulieman’s bid to become the country’s next president.

Regarding a future war with Israel, the Sheikh said that this was possible but would not be for possibly “several months”. Following the publishing of the reports of the investigations in Israel regarding who was responsible for the conduct of the 2006 war, Nasrallah appears to be much more confident his organization’s ability to inflict major damage on Israel should another war take place. And his optimism is good founded as Israel’s entire northern region, including its third largest city was affected by the more than 6,000 Katyusha rockets that were launched against Israeli targets. Recent intelligence reports have said that Hezbollah has not only rearmed itself to the strength it was before the war began but has even acquired missiles that are capable of reaching targets such as Tel Aviv.

The Sheikh ended the interview by saying that members of his party’s political structure would meet to see what they could do to “deal” with the present Lebanese government. Could this mean a Hezbollah sponsored coup is in the offing? Stay tuned folks….

2007 Survivor Of The Year

OlmertFor those who have been watching Israel’s version of the successful American reality series, The Survivors, the vote has come in as to who is the most successful ‘survivor’ in Israel for the year 2007. And the winner is none other that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Just as those in the T.V. series have to survive the greatest tests of their endurance and tenacity, Mr. Olmert has certainly done this and has so far been able to out flank both his critics as well as the commissions appointed to investigate his alleged wrong doings.

For example, Olmert has managed to prevent the Winogard Commission, which has been set up to examine and conclude who was mainly responsible for the mistakes made during the 2006 war in Lebanon. Despite the evidence presented against him so far, Olmert has not only managed to prevent being voted out of office by the Knesset, his country’s parliament, he has even been able to get a majority of Knesset members on his side and prevent any parliamentary no confidence votes from bringing down the government.

Regarding his personal financial conduct, which was under investigation by both the country’s Attorney General Menny Mazuz, as well as the Israel Police, neither were able to put together a case strong enough to cause the prime minister any real harm. These investigations also included the well televised “Bank Leumi scandal” in which Olmert was suspected in taking bribes in favor of projects sponsored by the country’s largest bank. And just like some of the more unpopular members of The Survivors teams, he has not been voted out of the tribe – not yet anyway.

As the year 2007 draws to a close, the Prime Minister is becoming more and more involved with trying to make peace deals with people who are not really “partners”; and this is especially true of Palestinian leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas, as well as foreign heads of state such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In fact, the more Mr. Olmert tries, the more he doesn’t seem to be successful. The only bright spot in his survival efforts appears to be his wife, Aliza, who is appearing more and more on T.V. recently, possibly in an effort to gloss over his inadequacies. Aliza seems have a lot going for her, and may be his ultimate salvation in the coming year, 2008. There is an old saying that wives often act as a counter balance to their husband’s idiosyncrasies, and the soft spoken Aliza, a social worker by profession who is also an avid amateur photographer, has been seen involved in a number of projects dealing with disadvantaged people, especially children.

Whether of not this will help save her husband’s political career is not certain at this time, and as we get into the New Year, events may be just too much for even a clever maneuveror like Mr. Olmert. His own Kadima Party members who still appear to have some loyalty towards him my eventually decide to save their own futures; and like the teams on The Survivors, may decide to vote against their leader and force him to leave their political “island”.

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