Friday, November 01, 2002
Israel’s evening news programme Mabat reported last night that Labour cabinet members are furious at Ben Eliezer’s decision to withdraw from the coalition – and rightly so, it seems to me. In the current Knesset and with the National Unity government, they enjoyed a position that goes far beyond their support amongst the people, they “balanced” out the right (or at the very least kept the far-right parties out of power), and were associated with a government that enjoyed quite a large amount of popular support. True, it was difficult to walk the fine line between waging a war and pursuing peace; but with Ben Eliezer and Defense Minister and Peres as Foreign Minister, Israel presented an image of a country at war in spite of itself, that was ready to make peace if only it could find a responsible Palestinian leadership with whom it could deal.
Now, Sharon is goading the Left with his talk of inviting Lieberman into the cabinet, and will prove to the Labour party that he can do quite well without them. On the internal-political level, he indeed can. As I mentioned yesterday, all indications are that if an election were to be held in the next few months, the Left would crumble.
Even if Mitznah, the latest panacea for the ailing Olso dream, wins the race for the Labour leadship, will be forced to answer some difficult questions during the campaign. What is his final goal for the peace process? Where will the border lie, and will he uproot settlements? What is his position on Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes? What security guarantees can he provide? What will he do if his negotiations with Arafat fail? How will he deal with terror? What will he do if the terror returns to its pre-Defensive Shield levels? Personally, I would prefer to see Mitznah as leader of the party than Ramon, who has always struck me as an opportunist of no particular merit. (By contrast, I was always very fond of Ben Eliezer until his latest favour-seeking maneuvers; well, nobody’s perfect.)
In the meantime, Sharon is going about the business of getting a government together. Yesterday, Shaul Mofaz met with Sharon and was offered the Defense portfolio. This strikes me as a very bad move, and its repercussions are already being felt in the Likud itself. The Labour and Likud (and indeed the whole country) are still smarting from the meteoric rise of the Young Outsiders – Bibi and Barak – who enjoyed the Cult of the Personality but proved themselves totally ineffective in power, leading to a series of short-lived governments and terrible instability. The recruitment of Mofaz as defense minister, just months after he completed his term as Commander in Chief, is also a disturbing repetition of the Yitzhak Morechai-Amnon Lipkin-Ehud Barak scenario, whereby a senior military figure builds for himself a political career while still in uniform. (This was particularly pronounced in the case of Barak, whose political machinations while serving in uniform were blatant.)
I find myself in agreement with the Likud hacks that this is not a good move – not only because I don’t find Mofaz to be a particularly appealing prospect politically (he’s actually more intelligent than he appears), but also because I agree that there ought to be a “cooling off” period during which retiring senior officers should not be allowed to hold ministerial positions. This won’t stop senior officers from expressing political views, but it will mean that they cannot expect immediate gain from such statements.
Several names are being suggested for this position, from the ridiculous (Avigdor Lieberman) to the sublime (Dan Meridor). I hope that reason will prevail, and that Israel will have a foreign minister who can find respect around the world. Meridor would seem to me to be the best suited candidate: soft spoken, intelligent, experienced, and moderate while being non-apologetic.
The BBC reports:
Mr Sharon's narrow ad-hoc coalition faces its first crucial test in a no-confidence vote which the left-wing Meretz Party has tabled for Monday.
All the pundits here agree that Sharon will easily pass this vote. Nobody wants to go to elections immediately before they know how the field is playing.
Thursday, October 31, 2002
Binyamin Ben Eliezer and the Israeli Labour Party must be living in one. The opinion polls demonstrate that Ben Eliezer is going to lose the leadership fight, probably to Mitznah. However, they also indicate that in the next election the Labour Party's share of the Knesset is going to plummet while the Likud will regain ground and overtake them. The demography of the Jewish sector - which is in practise the first port of call for all coaltion negotiations - is constantly favouring the right (Haredi, National Religious), so the other right-wing parties in the Knesset will probably also gain more support. Moreover, the total break-down in faith in the messianic visions of Oslo and two years of violence, along with the Left's arrogant refusal to admit their mistakes, have led to a large swing to the right amongst the "middle ground" of voters, who were willing to "give peace a chance" but found that the result was more terror and more terror (people have not forgotten the Passover Massacre).
All of this means that for the Labour ministers to pull out of the government now just to save Ben Eliezer from Miznah was a terrible political mistake. Perhaps Labour want to be in opposition for years to come? Who knows? If Sharon is wise, he'll go for the earliest possible election.
Certainly, nobody here believes that this crisis was based upon genuine opposition to the budget.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
MURDER IN HERMESH
Reshet Bet has just reported that two girls and one woman were murdered last night by a terrorist in Hermesh.
GOVERNMENT OUT - GOVERNMENT IN
The news media are reporting this morning that the Israeli government might fall over the budget. Why? Well, the real reason is of course that Labour Party leader Binyamin Ben Eliezer is fighting of Mitznah and has to be seen to be strong and effective. In fact, he just comes across as a clown who has manufactured a crisis. It's not even clear what aspects of the budget he opposes. As Ha'aretz reports this morning:
Labor ministers yesterday were critical of Ben-Eliezer's management of the crisis. One said "there's no solution to the crisis because there's no reason for the crisis. Fuad hanged himself on a tall tree and doesn't know how to cut himself down down."
The Lebanese Arabic-language daily An-Nahar is reporting that the crisis is over funding for settlements - wishful thinking on their part, it seems. The Lebanese newspaper finds it ironic that the coalition crisis has come just as Arafat swears in his own new government. Incidentally, in the same article An-Nahar reports that nobody - not the Hamas, the Jihad, the PFLP, the Israelis or the Americans regard Arafat's new government as representing a satisfactory or significant change. I'm sure that the Europeans, though, will congratulate Arafat heartily upon his brave and serious efforts.
Monday, October 28, 2002
AT LAST - A PICTURE!
At last, a picture of me and the Ribbitzen on our holidays, as promised. This is us in Washington. I'm the little frog on the lower left:
CONSPIRACY THEORY OF THE DAY
An international group of left-wing thinkers and writers were horrified by the election of George W. Bush as president of the USA. They felt that by all rights, Al Gore had won the election. The fiasco of the Florida recounts left them frustrated. The Democrats, the enlightened and rightful rulers of the USA, had been wrongly denied of power.
They therefore sought out similarly aggrieved parties. Osama bin Laden and his organization, Al-Qa’ida, had been fighting against the American imperialistic presence in the Middle East for some years. Now it is well known that thanks to American imperialism, there is no pan-Islamic state in the Middle East, and hence no peace and justice in the Middle East. The international left-wing organizations thought up a daring plan: if only Al-Qa’ida were to attack the USA where it most hurts and give it the bloody nose it richly deserves, Bush would be revealed for the weak clown he is and forced to resign from office, the Republicans would be disgraced, and a new election the Democrats would regain their rightful leadership.
To this end, the World Left set out to provide strategic support to Al-Qa’ida in every way possible. They encouraged the free movement of peoples throughout Europe, crying “racism” every time the scepter of Islamic terror was raised. They encouraged Middle-Eastern dictators such as Bashar Al-Asad and Saddam Hussein to obtain weapons, and allowed them to use them with impunity. They turned a blind eye to the acts of regimes such as the Taliban, or the activities of organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas, even when they massacred children. Rather, they decried the USA and its Middle-Eastern puppet Israel at every possible opportunity.
When the attack came, and 3000 civilians were slaughtered, the Left were quick to point out that in fact America was to blame, and to insist that it ought not to respond. After all, war is the old fashioned and old fascist way of dealing with disputes, and Europe has progressed beyond such primitive means. However, rather than buckling at the knees, Bush proved himself capable of leading his nation to war and winning. The Left was now in a quandary: how could they achieve their aims? The only way, it seemed, as to imply that Bush himself was a party to the September 11th Massacre. It was not too late to show the world how wicked Bush really is.
All this sounds a little far-fetched, I know, but it is the only explanation I can come up with for the bizarre support that the Left has shown for Bin Laden, and the incredible lengths to which they have gone to exonerate him and his Islamic Fundamentalist followers from blame for these murderous attacks. The latest example of this is Gore Vidal’s ludicrous claims in this Sunday’s Observer. I can only conclude that they themselves are somehow implicated in the whole affair, and are now engaged in a huge cover-up. I don’t normally subscribe to the Conspiracy Theory of History, but this time I’m really stumped; I just cannot come up with a better explanation.
Sunday, October 27, 2002
WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT?
The word hypocrisy took on new depths with the reactions to the ending of the Moscow hostage crisis. The BBC reports:
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat congratulated President Putin on ending the siege and condemned what he said was a "terrorist act which targeted innocent civilians".
In the meantime, Al-Jazeera informs us that Kofi Anan’s spokesman issued a statement in his name that “the taking of hostages could not be justified under any circumstances”.
I guess that’s why Anan was so indignant when Hizbullah forces crossed Israel’s UN-protected border with Lebanon and took three Israeli soldiers hostage (now presumed dead). It may be recalled that Anan and his special envoy, Teri Larsen, denied that the UN had any information relating to that case, until forced to admit that they had lied by overwhelming Israeli evidence to the contrary. Anan has similarly been inactive regarding Elhanan Tannenbaum and Ron Arad.
You can read more idiotic world reactions at the BBC’s Talking Point site, which is always a good source for the opinions of the ignorant. My two favourites are:
Will we ever know how many Chechens were executed in cold blood inside the theatre? Or for that matter, how many hostages died by Stepsnaz bullets? And what the long term effects of the gas used will be? Already there are reports of scores of people seriously ill.
That's right, blame the victims, and forgive the murderers. I haven't heard such BS since I read on the BBC the headline "Israeli Soldiers Shoot Palestinian on Bus" (he had come onto the bus wielding a knife and started to stab the passengers until shot by a soldier who was also a passenger).
This just show that the hostage takers weren't really suicidal terrorists, but just guns for hire, otherwise they would have blown the theatre up at the first sign of the troops entering.
Yeh, they weren't suicide terrorists - they wanted to be able to torture and murder innocent civilians and come out alive. They didn't even have the decency to regard it as a suicide mission, eh? As for the second part, the poison gas and total surprise might have had some influence on their decision not to blow the place up.
"Guns for Hire"? You mean these people were paid for their work? It seems to me that they got a pretty bad deal. If I were a Gun for Hire, I would think very carefully about accepting a job that involves being surrounded by Russian Special Forces in the heart of Moscow. Hardly a wise choice of occupation, if you ask me.
To be fair, most of the comments were condemnatory of the terrorists and supportive of the Russian special forces.