Monday, November 06, 2006

After Iraq

Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has only a 20 per cent popularity rating. According to the polls Israel is now judged to be one of the more corrupt nations in the world. Norway and Denmark among the least corrupt.

In spite of that a group of five professors came out against State Comptroller Lindenstrauss’ anti-corruption investigations. Two law school deans, as well as former MK Amnon Rubenstein and Hebrew University political scientists Shlomo Avineri, said that Lindenstrauss had overstepped his boundaries.

According to columnists writing in the Yideot Achranot newspaper’s website, this comes even though Lindenstrauss dropped an investigation against Ehud Olmert for an illegal apartment sale saying there wasn’t any proof of misdeeds, and conducted a secret investigation into Bank Leumi for over a year.

Today the State Comptroller’s office accused former Prime Minister Shimon Peres of accepting over $300,000 in campaign contributions when running for Labor Party chairman a few years ago. The State Comptroller has suggested that Peres return the money. The Comptroller said the money wasn’t illegal, since today’s regulations weren’t in force then, but that they were unethical. Shimon Peres, Israel’s respected elder statesman has denied any wrongdoing, saying that everything he did was in coordination with legal advisors.

The State Comptroller’s office has also recommended that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns nearly $80,000 he received in unethical campaign contributions.

Former Justice Minister Chaim Ramon filed an appeal to dismiss charges of sexual misconduct against him citing evidence that the police and State’s Attorney’s office withheld five audiotapes, which he should have received in order to prepare a defense. The police have admitted to the existence of the tapes, and apologized. It is unclear if the court will rule to dismiss the charges. Ramon has had to step down as Justice Minister while the investigation takes place.

The IDF analysts have released a report that new hostilities can be expected with Hezbollah, and perhaps Iran and Syria, within the next two years, and probably by the summer of 2007. The report also called for the army to continue building the Merkava 4 tank, explaining that as a result of the war in Lebanon II it was clear soldiers were safer with the tank in operation. The army had scheduled a halt to production of the tank. The report also suggests that anti-missile systems be developed to deal with Katyusha rockets, using either present, or new designs. Also put in abeyance was the plan to shorten the army duty of conscripted soldiers by seven months.

The IDF action in Gaza’s Beit Hanoun area continued today, although missiles continue to fall on Israel’s Southern regions. A female suicide bomber blew herself up near an Israeli Army unit in Beit Hanoun. One IDF soldier was lightly injured.

The IDF continues arresting Palestinians in Beit Hanoun in efforts to stop the Qassam rocket fire. So far dozens of Palestinians have been arrested, and nearly 50 killed. The IDF operations in Beit Hanoun are expected to continue for several more days.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are meeting to form a national unity government. Reportedly they are being pressured by U.S. Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice to reach an accord that would allow the US and the western powers to begin providing much needed aid to the Palestinian population.

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that his government would talk to Hamas if they met the standards set down by the Quartet. Among the basics is the recognition of the right of Israel to exist. So far Hamas has refused to honor this demand.

The Palestinians are now being squeezed politically and economically. As long as the EU and the US deny aid to the Palestinians, poverty and illness will run rampant in Gaza. Palestinian police have already rioted against their government for back pay. The US and EU plan is to continue applying economic sanctions until Hamas drops its aggressive stance against Israel.

A group of Jews have sued the Iranian PM Achmanejad in the world court for threatening to annihilate Israel. Among the signatories to the lawsuit is former Israeli Ambassador to the US Danny Naveh.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been moved out of the intensive care unit of Beit Levinstein, a Tel Aviv hospital, where he was treated for an infection. Sharon has been in a coma since suffering a stroke in January.

The State’s Attorney Manny Mazuz has denied a request by the Israel police to stop the Gay Parade of homosexuals and lesbians scheduled to take place this Friday, Nov 10, in Jerusalem. Saying that the group had a right to march Mazuz ruled that the march would be limited to an area around the government complex and not the center of the city as originally planned. March organizers expressed satisfaction with the ruling. In previous years the march was held on Jerusalem’s main drag Jaffa Road.

The police expect to deploy 12,000 men to protect the marchers. This is because of riots that have been taking place in ultra-orthodox neighborhoods around the country. Garbage bins and tires were set alight, and cars were stoned, in Jerusalem’s Mea Sharim and Beit Vagan neighborhoods, as well as Benei Brak and Kfar Chabad, near Tel Aviv.

Iran has said that it would share the advances it is making into producing nuclear weapons with its allies. This came out of a speech today by PM Achmanejad. Yesterday several of Israel’s Arab neighbors, including Egypt, said they would begin exploring nuclear weapons.

Between the corruption apparently rampant in Israel, the rockets falling in the South, sent by Hamas, the prediction of a new war in the North by next summer, pundits are surprised that investments in Israel are expected to rise. The Israeli representative of the Citi-Bank Corporation has said that the recent $4.5 Billion investment by multi-Billionaire Warren Buffet is only the first in a long string of buyouts set to take place in the next few years. Israel’s stock market is at an all-time high.

The Congressional elections scheduled to take place in the US may take some of the luster off Israel as an investment haven. Pundits say that should Congress turn Democrat a pullout from Iraq is inevitable. Israelis fear that such a pullout will result in a radical Islamic State that will support Hezbollah and Hamas in trying to erase Israel from the map.

One dark analysis even puts nuclear weapons in the hands of the Al-Sadr radicals in Iraq.
Others say such a scenario is far-fetched. Al-Sadr is a Shiite radical trained in Iran.
With Saddam Hussein facing execution, as soon as his appeals have run their course, perhaps the end of Iraq’s secular dictatorship is over with another more radical and far more dangerous one on the horizon.