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A Frog's-eye view

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Friday, January 24, 2003

Yesterday I found myself in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda market, the first time I've been there in a while. My timing, it turned out, was somewhat fortuitous: just as I was making my way to my trusty coffee shop, Shaul Mofaz, Israel's defense minister, was making his way down the narrow market towards me, surrounded by a flurry of excited shoppers, Likud overactivists, and fed-up looking security men (this was really mission impossible).

As Mofaz and his hurricane passed, I struck up a conversation with an American journalist who was covering the event. "The thing is," I said to him, "they've won already". He agreed with me, and also agreed that Mitznah was now being mistreated by his own party who so gleefully crowned him only a few months ago.

"Well," he said, "he did run a shitty campaign. But the ideas are also out of date."

It was then that it occurred to me what the left's problem is, and why both he and Barak - experienced military officers - have made the same fatal mistake. They're fighting for the last peace.

It's a well-known accusations that unimaginative generals have caused their own downfall by fighting the last war. One of the most striking examples in recent history was France's impenetrable Maginot Line, a series of concrete bunkers designed to provide France with the upper hand in trench warfare. The problem was that the Germans were one step ahead, and had prepared themselves not for trench warfare, but for a Blitzkrieg, a 'lightening war'. The results for France were disasterous: long years of German occupation.

So it is when you fight the old peace. The Olso Agreement was based on the idea that Yassir Arafat and his cronies would act like Anwar Sadat, warrior turned peace-maker. All you had to do was to give him the right incentive, and he would crush the Palestinian extremist groups and provide you with a stable border. While this assumption was true of King Hussein - another warrior turned peace-maker - it was totally mistaken with regards to Yassir Arafat. Even though Arafat made it clear, merely days after his coronation in Gaza, that he regarded the peace agreement with Israel is a stop-gap measure, the Labour Party continued to praise him and to forgive him. Who can forget Peres's embarrassing verbal acrobatics as he tried to explain to an increasingly doubtful Israeli public that Arafat was a true partner for peace, and the shameful Orwellian expression "victims of peace" coined by the Labour government to explain away the fact that Arafat's return hailed a rise, not a fall in Palestinian terror.

Now that the Olso bubble has burst (a process that began at Camp David and Taba and reached a peak at the Passover Massacre), the Labour party ought to be preparing themselves for the future. They do not need to take on the Likud position, as proven by the more pragmatic and moderate statements of Shinui. But some how, the Labour generals can't stop fighting for the last peace. They can't give up that dream that somehow, in some way, they're going to make a peace-maker out of Arafat. They're preparing their new Maginot Line - or road map - irrelevant of what reality might present. They're presenting their magic solutions irrelevant of whether they're suited to the conditions of peace.

The Labour party are not alone in this malaise. Some months ago, Martin Indyk, Clinton's special envoy to the Middle East, declared that Sharon should be more of a Churchill. Apparently, Australian-born US citizen Indyk was not required to learn Churchill's speeches at school. A little reminder of Churchill's message:

"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat"
Speech in House of Commons, 13 May 1940.

"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender"
Speech in House of Commons, 4 June 1940.

Churchill understood well that the war against militaristic dictators is not won in a day, and that there are no "magical" peace formulae that will ever assuage their murderous tendencies and delusions of grandeur. That was why Churchill was the right person for that moment. However, let us not forget that when peace did finally come in 1945, the British people voted Churchill out of office in favour of a more forward looking Prime Minister. Being behind the times is a malaise that is not the exclusive domain of the left.

Monday, January 20, 2003

In an unusually bombastic article, perhaps caused by the desperate realisation that even the Israeli "middle-left" doesn't support him, Akiva Eldar has the chuzpah to write the following in today's Ha'aretz.

Moreover, two-and-a-half years ago, that same "rightist public" was supporting a withdrawal from most of the territories and the division of Jerusalem. Despite what he called media exaggeration about what Barak was ready to concede, former American envoy Dennis Ross has said in interviews that the day after the Camp David summit, "there was complete silence from the Israeli public."

Where was Eldar during the Jerusalem rally, amongst the largest public demonstrations in Israeli history? Where was Eldar when the public protested against Barak's anti-democratic abuse of power, when he resigned in order to avoid a no-confidence motion that was set to topple his government, yet still insisted on blithely negotiating Israel's future? Where was Eldar when the Israeli public responded to Barak's activities not with resounding silence, but with a resounding boot in the backside, kicking him so far out of power that even his own party felt ashamed of him? Why cite Dennis Ross as the authority on Israeli public opinion?

It's become the vogue amongst Ha'aretz journalists and their circles to rewrite history. But at least they could have the decency to rewrite "ancient" history, like the lead-up to the 1967 war, and not modern history.


This weekend's Jerusalem Pest print edition contained a lengthy and interesting article on the so-called academic boycott against Israeli. It makes for interesting but frustrating reading. I hope it will soon be posted on the web edition.

The most encouraging aspect of the report is the large number of academics in both Britain and France (the centres of the boycott campaign) who have come out against the boycott. Moreover, from what I have seen the the number of application forms sent to academics for foreign funding has not decreased, though of course it will take some time to see whether the number of successful applications has diminished. Ironically, if any country is creating problems for academic cooperation, it is the USA, which is places restrictions on visas for people born in Muslim countries. In spite of the its image as the Ashkenazi elite, many people Israel's academic community (particularly those over the age of 55) were born in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt etc. Now these people find they can't get visas to go to conferences!

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Germany to lend Israel Patriot anti-missile systems

Which is very handy because now I know where to go if I need to borrow one.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

It probably is one, and I'll explain all tomorrow if I can be bothered to fight with Blogger again.

*PS: I didn't need to bother. See now this article.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I just wrote a long post explaining various aspects of the Labour party's political behaviour, and proving why the recently publicised Temple Mount inscription is a fake. Unfortunately, Blogger decided to erase everything I'd written. The program has become unbearable and I'm thinking of quitting.


This morning's Jerusalem Pest reports:

Labor's new election slogan: "Its either us or them"

Ynet (the Internet arm of the Yediot Ahronot) reports that Labor party strategists have been meeting to discuss the Labor party's new slogan, which will accompany the party's electioneering from tomorrow until the elections on January 28 2003.

Ynet reports that the likely (Hebrew) slogan will be: "Its either us or them"

Well now, that will be a difficult decision.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Thanks to a tip-off I now know that half of this page appeared in bold. However, since the wonderful Blogger program refuses to allow me to correct the error it will have to stay that way. Am I the only frog that has problems making corrections on Blogger?

Sunday, January 12, 2003

read this entertaining story in today's Ha'aretz: The decision to pull the plug on PM's broadcast has boosted his support among Russian immigrants. I guess the Russian immigrants know more of what smacks of a totalitarian state than so-called "liberal" Israeli journalists and lawmakers.


about how the Arabic press regards terror, the current "news flash" headline zipping across Al-Jazeera's web site should dispell all doubts:

Martyrdom of two people who tried to infiltrate Israel through Egyptian territory; killing of one Israeli by the bullets of an armed person who attacked a settlement in Northern Israel

The "settlement" in question is Gadish, a moshav on the "Israeli" side of the so-called Green Line. But then when did anyone really distinguish between the two sides of the Green Line while condoning murder?


If the learned judge wanted to demonstrate that he is divorced from the normal modes of public behaviour he could not have done a better job. Reading his words in the Israeli press this morning (and listening to further statements by him mentioned on the radio), it is clear that Cheshin regards himself as the very embodiment of the law. "I do not have to justify myself to anybody" he was cited as saying this morning by radio news.

As I have said, it is possible that from a legal perspective, Cheshin was correct in his decision to cease the live broadcast of the press conference, even if it was not wise. His defensive behaviour last night was less acceptable in a democracy. If he is there to uphold the law, let him uphold it equally.

You only had to turn on the radio or television over the past few weeks to hear a ceaseless diatribe of election propaganda from Labour party politicians. Such propaganda was broadcast both before and after Sharon's speech by Yuli Tamir and Avraham Burg. However, since the learned judge, by his own admission in this morning's Ma'ariv, rarely turns on the television in his chambers, he has perhaps missed a great deal of what is being broadcast. Perhaps he should watch Channel One's Erev Hadash on a more regular basis. Or perhaps such Labour propaganda has become so regular that he cannot distinguish it from balanced reporting.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Well, there's lots of exciting things going on here. Headline of the evening: Arafat urges halt on attacks before January 28
. This is the wording of the English Ha'aretz.

If you read the Ha'aretz report, you'll find the following statement reported:

In a Palestinian cabinet statement released Saturday, Arafat was quoted as saying he rejected "all acts of violence that target Palestinian and Israeli civilians"

"Attacks against Israeli civilians have severely harmed our cause in the international arena and in Israeli public opinion," the statement said.

"As the Israeli election date is getting closer, we appeal to all our people to practice self-restraint."

Later in the article, they note:

Arafat also urged militants fighting in the uprising "to consider the national interest and not to be dragged in by Israeli provocations and escalations in this critical, sensitive time which the Middle East region is going through."

This is an edited of the statement as it appears in the Palestinian press (I have read the report appearing in the Authority's Ramallah newspaper Al-Ayyam). There we read:

"The Authority announces and confirms its rejection of all acts of violence that target Palestinian and Israeli civilians, and attacks against Israeli civilians have already caused considerable damage to our cause, both on the international level and on the level of Israeli public opinion and the peace forces within it.

“During this period, in which the Israeli elections are approaching, we turn to all of the people of our nations to take on [lit: ‘adorn themselves’] with self-restrained and protect the national interest, and not to be drawn after the Israeli provocation and escalation, in this critical [or ‘delicate’] and sensitive period through which the Middle East is going, when the Israeli government is using every way and means to exploit this critical international and regional situation to pursue its military and political plan against our brave people and its just cause”.

The tone of the article is much stronger in the Arabic version than in Ha'aretz's reporting of it. Moreover, Ha'aretz removes the reference to the Israeli peace camp. This is clearly not co-incidental.


Sharon appears to be in trouble, and has been forced to place documentation of his personal finances within the public realm. However, Sharon is not the only public figure under investigation. Weitzman's dealings were never fully discussed in the public arena, and Barak's fictitious Non-Profit Making organisations are still under discussion. Vote buying in the Labour Central Committee is still under investigation, and we haven't heard the last word on Yossi Beilin's European funding, or Mitznah's alleged back-handers from Haifa property developers. Not to mention Labour-beloved Ginnosar and his handling of Arafat's ill-gotten gains.

I think that in these circumstances, there's only one thing for it: all politicians under suspicion will have to present his or her personal accounts for public scrutiny, including all external sources of funding. This should prove to be of interest to the Israeli public, and will doubtless raise a good few eyebrows regarding the income of our public leaders. It will be particularly interesting to see how much money socialist leaders such as Beilin are making and spending every year. All those secret meetings and conferences abroad must be quite expensive, I imagine.

On the subject of Beilin’s secret meetings, his illegal meetings and agreements with PLO figures in the early 1990s have still not been investigated. Beilin, who was not a member of the government and not acting on official business, held negotiations with PLO leaders prior to the Israeli elections that brought Rabin to power. This was a criminal offense, but has somehow escaped the Attorney General's attention. It would be nice to get all these corruptions investigated once and for all.


By the letter of the law, Cheshin may well have been correct to cut off Sharon's broadcast. But was it wise? As Dickens wrote, sometimes "the law is a ass". Cheshin could have allowed the broadcast to run and then deducted the "propaganda time" from the Likud broadcasts. Instead, he "proved" to a large proportion of the Israeli voting population that the judiciary in this country is "left-wing", and ultimately undermined the rule of law.

Similarly, the Israeli news services have been reporting that the Central Election Committee has banned an election broadcast by the Arab party "Raam" because it contained words of support for the Intifada. I think it should have been broadcast, and then all those involved in its production arrested and charged with incitement to murder, treason, etc. After all, that's what would happen if an ordinary citizen were to call for violent attacks against another individual. I'm sure that the whole incident will just be dropped in the end.


Friday, January 10, 2003

I have been thinking that the entire arms embargo story was something of a set-up. The British foreign office leak a story to the effect that the British government are considering imposing an arms embargo on Israel. (In fact, no real decision was ever made to that effect.) Mitznah is then invited to Britain, and allowed to ask that the embargo be lifted. As a "special favour" to Mitznah, Blair states that will look into it. Mitznah returns from England with a diplomatic success, and proves that he can deal with the British better than Sharon can, by solving a crisis invented to give him such a success. This is supposed to detract from the fact that he has no foreign policy experience.


This morning's Al-Ayyam (Arafat's official mouthpiece in Ramallah) naturally contains a delighted report on Sharon's problems. The second top story on the website bears the headline:
(1st line Small letters:) The Election Committee Stops the Broadcast of his "Propagandist" Press Conference
(2nd line Large letters:) Sharon Beseiged by Scandal: They Are Disgraceful Lies and I Really Don't Know How My Son Covered the Value of the Loan".

The article itself claims to be from an AFP report, but since the French-language search engines are not as powerful as the English-language ones I have not yet managed to track down the original report and compare them.

However, even the headline is somewhat amusing. After all, Arafat and his cronies are amongst the most corrupt leaders in the world, they haven't held an election in years, and nobody would dare cut off Arafat because he'd have them killed.


In the meantime, Mitznah continues with his embarrassing charade in which he pretends that he is going to be Israels next PM (it seems more likely that Tommy Lapid will be!), aided and abetted by British PM's "Lionel" Blair and the Ha'aretz Newspaper. Look at these classic quotations, taken Mitznah's propaganda sheet, Ha'aretz:

"We discussed ways to end the conflict and agreed on the need to renew negotiations at the same time as fighting terror," Mitzna said. "We need to try again to reach an agreement."

Mitzna added that he 'understands' Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to bar a Palestinian delegation from attending a London conference on PA reforms. Mitzna presented the U.K. premier with his ideas on separation from the Palestinians and the struggle against terror. He also requested that the arms embargo on Israel be lifted. Blair said he would look into the issue.

Yes, that's right, Lionel and Amram are going to be walking hand in hand down the Embankment, taking a swift jaunt from Westminster to St Pauls while each compliments the other about how terribly right they are. Why, Lionel even offered Amram that he'll provide ejector seats for him and his future Labour government, just in case they need them.

Meanwhile, Britain is annoyed at Israel for preventing the Palestinian delegation from reaching London for the so-called reform conference:

Diplomatic sources in London told Haaretz that Blair is furious over Sharon's decision and considers it "a slap in the face."

Whereas the British government's behaviour, such as sending an ambassador who makes rude comments about the country, or refusing to meet with the democratically elected government's Foreign Minister while meeting with an unelected Prime-Ministerial candidate in the middle of an election campaign, is regarded in Israel as a compliment.

They said Sharon had reservations about the conference from the moment he heard of it and they believe he was looking for any excuse to torpedo it. "But en route he left Blair with egg on his face and this could take a heavy toll on ties between the two countries," one source said.

Oh how sorry I feel for eggy-faced Blair, especially after he dealt with the Israeli election campaign so even-handedly.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Well, the PM had some strong things to say about the Labour Party tonight, but we didn't get to hear the full report of his version, because Michael Heshin decided that the broadcast was election propaganda and cut him off in the middle. So the most important single speech of the election campaign has not been broadcast because of a ludicrous decision that the Public's Right to Know is secondary to a fear of broadcasting election propaganda. Immediately after the report, Channel One put on Abraham Burg (known as "Son of Burg"). For some reason, what he had to say isn't election propaganda. Ridiculous.


It seems that tonight's press conference will be crucial for Ariel Sharon to save his candidacy and to present to the public his side of scandal that is threatening to bring him down. It will then be up to the public to see whether they believe him. However, Yossi Sarid is being wholly disingenuous when he states that Rabin did not hide behind his wife during the scandal that brought and end to his first stint as Prime Minister. In fact, it was only when Rabin was informed that he would indicted if he did not resign (the implication being that he would not be indicted if he took the quiet way out) that he finally stepped down. Journalist Dan Margalit, who exposed the Rabin scandal, has written on several occasions about the myth of Rabin's "righteous behaviour" at that time. Now Sarid has revived this myth of the Righteous Sinner to attack Sharon. It's just another pathetic attempt to re-write history.


After many months of high phone-bills and slow connections, Frog has just gone high-tech with an ADSL connection. I hope that this means more info, faster. I fear that it probably also means less work done. There goes the Froggy promotion (I can always blame discrimination against Frogs).

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Al-Jazeera have finally presented their version of the story. Their journalist was arrested by the Palestinian Security Forces and questioned about an interview he held with a senior member of the Al-Aqsa Brigades (Fatah) in which the Al-Aqsa leader said his movement was responsible for the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv and that such attacks would continue. I stress this because it is mentioned in today's story on the Al-Jazeera website, which means that they are sticking by this story in spite of pressure from the PA.

The article also mentions that the Palestinians shut down the Al-Jazeera offices in Gaza on 21 March 2001 after Al-Jazeera announced it would be broadcasting a documentary on the Lebanese civil war. Al-Jazeera states that the PNA said it contains insults to the Palestinian leadership.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you...

Monday, January 06, 2003
This report says the Palestinians say that the Israelis have arrested the Al-Jazeera journalist! And yet, as far as I can see, still no comment from Al-Jazeera itself. Very strange.


The PA has now arrested the Al-Jazeera journalist who reported that the Fatah was responsible for yesterday's bombing, according to this report. Remarkably, although Al-Jazeera are sticking by their story, they have not reported the arrest of their journalist!


Al-Jazeera is reporting this morning that the Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades now deny having carried out yesterdays massacre in Tel-Aviv, even though they had already taken responsibility and named the bombers!

It seems that the association of such a massacre with the PNA's leading faction is too damaging even for them. They may also be worried that this could be used to justify getting rid of Arafat. Finally, the "cat and mouse" game of accepting responsibility and then denying it - the Hamas and Jihad did the same - is an old Palestinian trick aimed at claiming the "glory" of the attack but avoiding Israeli reprisals. The trick is almost invariably unsuccessful because Israel catches the culprits in the end.


I cannot possibly imagine why the British Prime Minister would refuse to meet with the Israeli Foreign Minister, but happily invite the mayor of a third-rate Israeli industrial town to visit 10 Downing Street, particularly when all the polls reveal that that mayor is NOT going to be fulfilling any significant role in the next few years. Since I couldn't imagine that the fair British Labour Party would intervene in a foreign country's elections (particularly given their tremendous anger when Reagan did the same trick with his buddy Thatcher against Labour Party candidate Neil Kinnock), I am entirely puzzled by the move.

Mitznah described Sharon as the Head of the Mafia. Maybe Mitznah should watch it - he might wake up one morning to find Arafat's head at the end of his bed.