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PRACTICAL PALESTINE POLICY: Pushing Pragmatism Under the Magic Carpet

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research has conducted a new poll which revealed that the vast majority of Arabs who are living under the American-backed Palestinian Authority are opposed to attempts by the PA to prevent them from working construction jobs in local Jewish communities.

This was brought to Western attention last winter in the first laps of the settlement freeze by publications such as The Christian Science Monitor and OneJerusalem.com – that is the sheer lack of pragmatism behind the freeze.

The Palestinian Authority prohibition on working in Jewish communities, such as the boycott of local Jewish products, was essentially designed to augment the effect of the 10-month settlement freeze forced down the Middle Eastern throat by one US President, Barack Obama last September. The catch is that a high percentage of Arabs living under the Fatah-led PA earn their livelihoods, sometimes solely from local Jewish construction projects.
Therefore, as writes independent Israeli reporter Avi Yellin in the IsraelNationalNews.com

“They have been some of the most unrecognized victims of the politically-motivated building freeze…”

In addition to the cruel scarcity of construction work – that is the main source of income for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, which has resulted from the US-imposed building freeze, the PA boycott on Jewish products is being ardently enforced by PA security forces. Troops trained by United States Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, have been working to furrow out Arab merchants suspected of violating the boycott.

According to the poll, conducted between June 10 and 13, the vast majority of Arabs in Judea, Samaria and the Hamas-controlled Gaza region are opposed to being kept from working construction jobs in Jewish towns. Contrary to the staunch song sung by the press portraying Palestinian nationalists set on driving Israel from Judea and Samaria, the majority of Palestinian Arabs just want to provide food for their families.
According to the poll, the majority, that is 60% to 38% of all Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza oppose the prohibition. Deducting ancient Gaza, where Jewish citizens may no longer roam, support for the ban drops to 34% percent.

Help on the Way

The Jewish Country recently unveiled a huge makeshift detention center in Ashdod, the state’s main southern port, announcing the end of intense naval maneuvers, vowing to stop a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists who are trying to break a 3-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Masked naval commandos are to greet the eight ships deep out at sea, which was held up in Cyprus on Saturday, to escort the vessels to port and give each activist a choice: either leave the country or go to jail.

750 activists, including a Nobel peace laureate and former U.S. congresswoman, have set sail for the Gaza coast recently, carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies. They say they will find a way to succeed, even if faced with Israeli ultimatums.
They are bringing “desperately needed materials to the area,” that has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas began to call the shots in June of 2007.

Hamas Honcho bringing Fascism into fashion, Ismail Haniyeh said:

“If the ships reach Gaza, it’s a victory for Gaza…If they are intercepted and terrorized by the Zionists, it will be a victory for Gaza, too, and they will move again in new ships to break the siege of Gaza.”

Zionist Spokesman Mark Regev said:

“If they were really interested in the well-being of the people of Gaza, they would have accepted the offers of Egypt or Israel to transfer humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza…Instead, they have chosen a cheap political stunt.”

This marks the ninth time that the Free Gaza Movement, the pro-Palestinian organization behind the effort, has sent a flotilla of supplies to the strip. Israel permitted five deliveries to reach Gaza, but has not allowed any ships through since the military offensive that ended in January 2009.

(viewer discretion is strongly advised for the video shown below)

Israel to Join the Organization for Economic Development

Mazal Tov to Israel. A vote on Monday by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) accepted the Jewish Country onto its roster, alongside Slovenia and Estonia, making the total count of countries, 34.

Said our fearless finance minister Yuval Steinitz, who will receive an official invitation in Paris at the end of the month from the OECD’s finance ministers:

“The significance of this is huge and that is why, as a matter of fact, I decided to treat it as a top priority 10 months ago and enter into a special program to introduce Israel into the organization at a peak time… It is the most respectable international club a small state like Israel can be accepted into…From what we know about other states, in the years following the acceptance there is a rise of billions of dollars in foreign investments in the state accepted…There is also a political gain here. We are receiving a stamp of approval… that Israel belongs to the world’s most advanced and developed countries, and not just financially – in civil rights, a clean and independent court system, regulations, equality, and steps to eliminate discrimination.”

Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh said:

“Israel’s membership with the organization constitutes a label of quality.”

Treasury chief Haim Shani had this to say:

“The joining of Israel to the organization points to the trust companies have in Israel’s economy and solidity. I believe the new membership will help Israel’s society and economy progress, attract foreign investors, and develop the market.”

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría put it like this:

“Estonia, Israel and Slovenia, along with Chile that has just deposited its instrument to become a full member, will contribute to a more plural and open OECD that is playing an increasingly important role in the global economic architecture…This new chapter in the history of the Organisation confirms our global vocation as the group of countries that search for answers to the global challenges, and establish standards in many policy fields such as environment, trade, innovation or social issues.”

Not So Fast Bibi

The polls were opened on Thursday for a Likud party vote. Party leader, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants to change the Likud constitution so that internal party elections might be delayed up to the three years following general elections.

Bibi said:

“We are a national movement started by Menachem Begin; we are for the state and for the IDF and for true peace, and that is what we have to focus on…If the vote does not go as I want it to, we will have to dedicate months to an internal process in the Likud, and now is not the time to do that…I think most Likud members know that this isn’t the time.”

Isn’t it undemocratic, though, to change a party’s constitution in the middle of a term and in the midst of controversial issues crucial to the future of the state – giving up east Jerusalem?

Netanyahu said in his defense:

“In a democracy, there are legal and agreed-upon ways to make changes. We are one of the most organized and unified movements in the country; our way to do it is with a majority of two-thirds. Believe me – it is very, very difficult.”

Moshe Feiglin, the leader of Manhigut Yudit, a religious political faction accused Bibi during a radio interview of planning to sell-out Jerusalem:

“It seems that Netanyahu thinks that a true Likudnik would split up Jerusalem…This vote is about Jerusalem; not Feiglin, not Netanyahu…If, G-d forbid, his proposal will pass…there is nothing to stop Netanyahu from doing what Sharon did, only not in Gush Katif, but in Jerusalem.”

In addition Feiglin accused Bibi of cheating during the general elections:

“have you ever heard of elections without observers? With traveling voting booths?”

Something Is Rotten in the State of Israel

Holyland Project

To say that Israeli politicians have never been morally bankrupt is a lie – even some of the notable heroes of Israel politics like Golda Meir made mistakes, all be them honest ones – but this so-called Holyland case, concocted of the childish, conniving and greedy behavior of middle-aged Israeli political and corporate power-hitters is sickening – that is the activity, not the investigation.

Ehud Olmert is proof that the higher you climb in Israeli society, if you don’t watch your step, the lower, harder and faster you are bound to fall. In a time and place where everything you do is not only scrutinized by the non-understanding eyes of the global community, but attacked by hate-filled finger-pointers, is it too much to seek some role-model grade behavior among our leaders. Is this unrealistic?

Sure, bribery and other scandals is nothing new among the politicians of the Jewish Country – I don’t think that I need to name names or incidents, and we the Israeli people have become somewhat hardened by it – or the unscrupulous behavior of a few greed-driven politicians is certainly drowned out by the voices of our boys on the front lines or the risk of terrorism. Right? Well it appears that the Holyland case may be something of a record-breaker.

The main player in the case is an unnamed individual who allegedly received 55 million NIS from Holyland developers, acting as the intermediary, passing the bribery funds to the necessary persons towards advancing the project and eventually gaining the permits to build the monstrous structure which now stains the not unstained holiness of the Jerusalem skyline.

Another key suspect is an unnamed accountant, who police believe did made payoffs in the form of legitimate donations, seeking to pressure him into turning over the facts in the case, to incriminate others. Police also think that in some cases, opponents of the project were persuaded to become supporters after they received free apartments.

Former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky is accused of playing a vital role in the illegal activity, as head of the planning board. On Wednesday night speaking publicly with Channel 10 News, Lupoliansky shifted the responsibility to another former Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert. Lupoliansky explained that the mayor is the one calling the shots, not his deputy.

Ehud Olmert’s former Bureau Chief Shula Zaken will probably be detained and interrogated after returning to Israel from the United States. Her home was searched about a week ago, in her absence, when investigators seized several documents which tied her to the Holyland scandal.

On Wednesday, police detained businessman Danny Dankner and former head of the Israel Lands Administration Yaakov Efrati. Both of them were arrested as part of the National Fraud Unit’s Holyland corruption affair investigation, which apparently has shed light on further illegal corruption situations.

Danker, the former Chairman of Bank Hapoalim was interrogated by the National Fraud Unit on suspicion of committing criminal offenses like bribery and breach of trust. Efrati currently serves as Chairman of the Directorate of Israel Railways.

Meanwhile, police have completed their investigation of allegations against Mayor Zvi Bar of Ramat Gan and believe that there is sufficient evidence to press charges.
The mayor is suspected of corruption, money laundering, bribery and income tax violations.

Topolanek You Dog

The Czech Republic’s former prime minister, Mirek Topolanek announced his resignation as chairman of his conservative political party last month after coming under fire for his comment about Jews, gays and the Catholic Church.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek
Topolanek was reported to have said about the Czech Transport Minister Gustav Slamecka,

“He is a homosexual who ‘gives in’ when he faces a serious problem”.

Regarding Prime Minister Jan Fischer, he said,

“He’s simply a Jew; he’s not gay and he gives in even sooner.”

In addition to this vulgarity, Topolanek accused the Roman Catholic Church of “brainwashing” their believers.

Topolanek subsequently admitted that his words were misinterpreted. He called the press leak which published his comments a “provocation,” and he apologized on March 21 — the day the popular Czech tabloid newspaper “Blesk” published his comments.

Topolanek said:

“I apologize to gays — friends of mine and others…I apologize to church members — those I know and those I don’t know. I apologize to Jews — politicians and all the others…I apologize to the citizens.”

Last year he made international headlines when as prime minister of the country holding the European Union rotating presidency, he described the manner that U.S. President Barack Obama was dealing with the economic crisis as the “road to hell.”

Plausible Political Victory for a Dutch Jew

Job CohenMazel Tov to Job Cohen, the Mayor of Amsterdam. He is the likely candidate to be the Dutch prime minister in their upcoming elections. Mr. Cohen announced that he will be running for the office of Labor Party chairman after its current leader, Wouter Bos, announced that he would resign his post.

News agencies in Holland reported that Cohen had more than 50% of votes, giving him a substantial advantage over his two opponents, Christian Democrat leader and leaving Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, and far-right PVV leader Geert Wilders.

A poll conducted by Maurice de Hond sees that Cohen has 55% of votes, Balkenende 25%, and Wilders 17%.

Another poll of 16,000 people by TV show EenVandaag showed 52% of voters would prefer Cohen as prime minister, compared with the 17% and 15% for Balkenende and Wilders, respectively.

Wouter Bos submitted his resignation over the controversy surrounding his placement of Dutch forces in Afghanistan. He says that he is leaving politics to devote more time to his family.

The two polls show a percentage of backing for the three candidates, not support for their parties, but a win for Cohen is expected to see more votes for the floundering Labor Party and shift public backing from Wilders’ far-right party.

Cohen, who is known for his inter-culture politics, helped relieve tensions in Amsterdam in 2004 after the assassination of the anti-Muslim filmmaker Theo Van-Gogh. The mayor met with Muslim leaders and quelled threats of rioting, following his death.

Should he win, Job Cohen will not be wearing a kippa at the inauguration ceremony – he is a “non-practicing Jew.”

Bibi Dancing the Tightrope – Don’t Blow on Him!

livniIn our previous two part analysis of Netanyahu’s political options, which turned out to be pretty much zero besides staying exactly where he is and not disturbing the status quo, we were obviously unaware of the magnitude of the Prime Minister’s genius when it comes to political chicanery.

We wrote that he couldn’t go left and issue a settlement freeze for wont of angering the right flank of his coalition. On the other hand, he couldn’t just let settlement building keep going, because then Labor would get really mad. True, the Labor part of the coalition only comprises 8 seats out of Netanyahu’s 69 (Labor’s other 5 seats do not consider themselves a partner in the coalition), they still have enough power to tip the scales.

But over the weekend Netanyahu did something so genius that he angered everyone – but spread out the anger in such a way that the anger won’t cause any of them to revolt against him. They’ll all just be annoyed and dissatisfied and kvetchy.

What he did, was this: “You want a freeze, Labor/America? I’ll give you a freeze. You want building, Likud/rest of my coalition? I’ll give you that, too, so let me do both. I’ll build first, and then I’ll freeze later.

Genius! The move, however, was not Right enough to quell his Right flank, so he revised it by saying that he’d build first, and then “freeze” later, “freeze” now being newly defined as “slow down.” The Arabs certainly won’t like that one.

America, of course, is “upset.” And for the Arabs, of course, this is “unacceptable.” But what are either of them going to do? Meanwhile, Bibi’s government breathes another breath. The problem is, someone breathes too hard, and he falls off the tightrope.

The only people he really angered were the people he could really afford to anger, that is, the opposition. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni aid it best when she got to the core of what Bibi is trying to do, which is not make any concrete decision in any direction. “Israel’s leaders, the elected government, in my opinion, still hasn’t made a choice between two different outlooks. One, Jewish existence in every part of Israel, and two, the existence of a Jewish democratic state,” she said in a speech at an IDF pensioners’ event.

In a way, she’s right. However, the choice between a Greater Israel and Jewish democratic state may not be so clear cut. There must be a way to have your cake and eat it too…but it’ll take someone a lot more creative than Netanyahu to figure that one out.

Top Watch Category in Israeli Politics

This is the latest list showing who the top 6 are and what they’re wearing as advertised in Globes..

Top 6 Watches in Israeli politics

OneJerusalem Exclusive: Vice Premier Bogey Ya’alon Meets with Moshe Feiglin & Followers

YaalonThe calm of the event and how normal it felt belied how unprecedented it actually was. The place was packed from front to back. There weren’t even enough chairs for everyone in attendance. Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon, Minister of Strategic Affairs and Vice PM, took time out of his day to sit down with a fringe group of Feiglinites working inside the Likud, and speak with them about his vision. Bogey showed guts in sitting down with Feiglin and his supporters since his boss, PM Netanyahu, is known to loathe this man, and fears him like the plague. To be caught sitting with Feiglin – you’ll take quite a media beating if you get caught. This may be why Feiglin sent no official word to the media about the event. Bogey’s lambasting of the Israeli media during his 40 minute speech to the group could have been another factor.

He spoke about Zionist history, about days past where hope was prevalent, about what he perceived as the failure of the Oslo Process, about how Israel thought that by giving up land she could get peace, about how there is no one to talk to on the other side and therefore negotiations are impossible for the time being. Basically, the standard Likud talk, agree with it or not. Though, with all due respect to Bogey, a true patriot and hero of the State of Israel who fought in every war since Yom Kippur of ’73, there was something missing. The frustration in the room was palpable. It was a frustration that I understood immediately: Moshe Ya’alon does not really understand who Feiglin is, why his following is growing, what he really stands for, or what he is trying to do. Like so many others, he thinks Moshe Feiglin is just another right winger in Likud with a big support base – a base he wants to get in with and win over, so repeating the standard Likud refrains will make them happy.

Moshe FeiglinKeep in mind that Moshe Feiglin is probably the strangest politician in Israel. He is quiet, doesn’t talk much, he’s always smiling for some reason, an almost eerie ambience of calm constantly surrounds him as his rail-thin body slowly sways through a room, and he just won’t leave the Likud no matter how hard his enemies attack him. The man operates, and has always operated on the fringe. His house sits at the very end of his block, at the edge of a hill. When he walks into his Synagogue on Shabbat mornings, he sits at the end of the row. And aside from people constantly approaching him and starting conversations, asking questions and the like, he doesn’t hang around to schmooze up the crowd after services. Instead, he heads straight home, a quiet introvert, back to his house at the very end of the block, back to his wife and children.

At the meeting, Bogey spoke about how peace is impossible for now, since the other side has not recognized Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. What he seemed to miss, however, is that to Feiglin, this is completely irrelevant. Whether the other side is ready for peace, willing to make compromises or anything else, plays no role in Feiglin’s thought. “Peace is not my objective,” he replied to Bogey. He continued, “There is no country on the entire planet, except us, that has peace as its national objective. The minute that peace is your national objective, you lose it.” The Zionism of old doesn’t interest him either. “Zionism has reached the end of its road,” he says. “It is time for the next level – the one based on faith and the God of Israel. If we don’t build the second level, we will lose the whole thing.”

Then what is Feiglin trying to do? He wants nothing less than a total revolution at the core of Israel’s consciousness, to redefine the purpose of her existence, to change everything at the very core, and he wants to do this by winning the Likud leadership, and then the leadership of Israel. The objective of peace, according to him, demonstrates that Israel’s current leaders want her to be a nation among nations, to simply be left alone to her own development, to live without having to launch a defense war every 3 years. Feiglin’s idea is much more basic than an absence of conflict. It is to be a uniquely Jewish nation through a national Jewish revival. Not a religious revival, as he is against coercive religious legislation and is actually a proponent of civil marriage, for example. He even wants to see the end of religious parties entirely and the entire National Camp in the Likud.

Jewish revival, for him, begins with the most basic common denominator – Jewish identity. With the sectoral mentality prevalent among pretty much every Israeli today, this type of unity is impossible. This is why operating within the Likud is much more than just a simple tactic for him and his followers. It is, rather, a statement of taking responsibility for the leadership and future of the country and the Jewish people, rather than the leadership of a sectoral party and the funding of your sector’s economic welfare.

Whether Feiglin will succeed in taking over the Likud is anyone’s guess. He began with 3% of the Likud vote in 2002, 12% in 2005, and 24% in 2007. He is constantly recruiting new Likud members for this purpose, swelling his support base in the party. If he actually does it, then whether the country as a whole is ready for someone like him is a totally open question. But his fight and doggedness in not backing down despite any challenge, fair or unfair from Netanyahu and the Likud leadership, reminds me of a quote from the movie the Terminator.

“He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever.”

This is something his political rivals should take to heart, and Bogey’s arrival at Feiglin headquarters just brought him one step closer to his objective. So if you want the status quo to keep stable, if you don’t want things to change too radically too quickly, then Feiglin is the man to fear. And what happened last night should be cause for alarm, because if history has proven anything, it has proven this. Revolutionary leadership – it always begins on the fringe.

The Coalition Cat Fight

Are you ready for a OneJerusalem quick analysis of Knesset Mayhem?

Keep that circus music in your head now as you read this. By the numbers, PM Netanyahu’s coalition is 74 seats made up of 6 parties. He now wants to pass a bill called the “Mofaz Bill” which would allow for 7 Knesset members to break away from a party and form their own faction. This bill is named after the guy on the right, number 2 on Kadima, currently in the 46-member opposition, who has been irking to join the government against the wishes of his party leader Tzipi Livni, and who has 7 MK’s from his faction that he could break off and join Likud with. Netanyahu wants to do this to break up Kadima, a 28-member faction, down to 21.

Meanwhile, another Kadima MK has thrown a monkey wrench into the shoe factory by sticking an addendum to the bill which would allow 4 MK’s to break off instead of 7. He did this because of the 4 “Labor Rebels” who are technically part of Netanyahu’s government, but sure as heck don’t want to be. They are these guys:

rebelsFrom left to right, Eitan Cabel, Amir Peretz, Yuli Tamir, and Shelly Yachimovich. If 4 can break off, then these four might break off from the 13-seat Labor faction, which Labor leader Ehud Barak, who is part of the government, sure doesn’t want, so would he support the bill? That’s the monkey wrench.

Many people don’t like these moves because they change the rules of the game in the middle of the game. Now, to get into the nitty gritty, Netanyahu also wants to pass a land reform bill which would allow private citizens to own land instead of leasing it from the Israel Lands Administration. The current set up is meant to prevent the sale of land to non Jews who may slowly buy up the state from Jews and keep it. Netanyahu, last week, failed to pass this law because various members of his coalition ran out of the plenum in the middle of the vote so it wouldn’t pass. He got angry, tabled the bill at the last second, and threatened to fire ministers who didn’t support it the next time around.

Now, the 3-member Jewish Home faction is threatening not to vote for the land reform bill round 2 if Netanyahu doesn’t support the Slomiansky Bill, another game changer meant to allow one MK from each faction to retire from the Knesset if named a minister and get his seat back if he is fired from the government. This is meant to allow Jewish Home number 4 Nissan Slomiansky into the Knesset if Jewish Home number 1 Daniel Hershkovitz, Sport Minister, retires from the Knesset.

This is a limited Norwegian Law, and the reason a full one isn’t being passed is that Netanyahu would rather be seen in his underwear than pass a full Norwegian Law that would see over 10 Likud ministers retire from the Knesset and Netanyahu’s arch enemy Moshe Feiglin get in and cause him trouble.

In return, Netanyahu is threatening not to support the Slomiansky Bill if Jewish Home doesn’t support the Land Bill (support of which is needed for it to pass), who in return is threatening not to support the Mofaz Bill if Netanyahu doesn’t support the Slomiansky bill.

SLOW DOWN!

Basically, if any of this circus makes too many people unhappy, the government falls and we go to elections again.
Meanwhile, Iran continues to build nuclear weapons. Numbers really don’t matter so much when it comes to that minor detail.

That’s it for this week’s installment of “Israeli Knesset and Me.”

Nakba taken out of curriculum – does it matter?

PoliticiansWhich one of these people doesn’t fit with the other two? On the left is Yuli Tamir of Labor, education minister under the Olmert administration just a few months ago. She thought that state policy should be to educate its citizens about how the very existence of the state is a catastrophe and, and put Arab “Nakba”” studies into the elementary school geography curriculum for the Arab sector. On the right we have current Education minister Gideon Sa’ar of Likud, who decided yesterday that that isn’t such a good idea, and the state should refrain from teaching its citizens about how catastrophic it is.

In the center is Limor Livnat also of Likud, education minister under Ariel Sharon, who introduced the whole idea of putting the Nakba into the curriculum in the first place. Surprising? She’s in the Likud, a right wing party, but as the political saying goes, “Only the Likud can.”

What that generally means is that when the Left is in power, the Right tries to stop any Left wing policy such as Nakba Studies from coming into fruition. However, when the Right is in power and actually does implement Left wing policies as Limor Livnat did with the Nakba, the Left votes with them and it gets passed. Hence the saying, “Only the Likud can.”

Aside from Nakba studies being an initiative of the Likud under Livnat, the bigger question is, Does it even matter what’s in the Arab curriculum? Israel suddenly thinks it can stamp out Arab consciousness of Israeli independence as catastrophe by removing it from a textbook? Who enforces the curriculum, and how does it work? Will the Arab Israeli public suddenly come to a cathartic realization that, “Hey, the Nakba isn’t in the geography books anymore. I guess we shouldn’t teach it?”

It is difficult to say what the effect of this reversal will be, if anything. What can be said for sure though is that at least the State will no longer be spending money teaching its citizens that it is, essentially, a catastrophe. Most States can get that done for free, no money down even.

And in these unstable economic times, it’s good to get what you can for free. Even if it is a catastrophe.

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!

Rioting Peasants Shake Up the Royal Court

Benjamin IThe Israelite king, Benjamin I, was deeply troubled. Following his economic decrees from the Royal Court in Jerusalem, his loyal subjects were on the verge of rioting – even to the point of marching on the Royal Palace with buckets of tar and sacks of feathers.

“What have I done to deserve this outrage?”, he moaned as he peered out at the crowds massing in the square below his closed window, which had to remain closed to prevent the continuing barrage of eggs and rotten tomatoes from entering the room where he stood, together with his wife, Queen Sarah-li; who appeared to be more interested in a reality TV program going on (Run for the Millions) than the commotion going on below.

“The peasants keep clamoring for bread. Don’t they realize that these new decrees are for their own good? Don’t they understand that they can find other work, good work, as chimney swifts, if our royal treasury can no longer give them largess?” he continued.

“Don’t worry my dear, if they don’t have bread or pitas to eat, let them eat cake”, his queen said, apparently thinking of something else.

“Cake! Did you say cake?” he fumed. “Marie Antoinette, Louie’s wife, said the same thing, and look what happened to both of them! Maybe we should throw our subjects a bone – like allowing them, especially the older ones, to be given an extra penny on their pensions per month. That will enable them to go purchase…..”

“Nonsense!”, the Queen screamed. “Are you becoming weak in your old age? We have to be strong with these people or the next thing you know they’ll be raiding the royal henhouse. Then they’ll even throw those eggs at us!”

“I’ll deal with them, especially their leaders, personally. I have my list of people to get even with, now that you are king again” she cooed, kissing his cheek.

“That won’t work like it used to” he moaned. “The peasants are too strong now. They’ll burn down our palace like the French peasants burned down the Bastille. Maybe we should cut a deal with them, like give their wives free maternity care.”

“Free maternity care?” she hissed. “That’s how we got into this mess in the first place. Also by hiring those alchemists to turn lead into gold. If you would have listened to me, we would have them convinced to do their patriotic duty and pay even higher taxes for the good of the Motherland.”

“I’ve got it! ” the king exclaimed suddenly. “We’ll tax more those knights who received a horse from their “employer” in order for them to get to and from the jousting tourneys. I was going to hike the tax on oats by 10%, but just levying a “horse tax” sounds much easier.

“Oh my king, thou art truly wise,” Queen Sarah-li said. “Now, let’s go eat lunch – the royal butler advised me that the lamb chops, and the caviar should be especially good today.”

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.

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