Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007

Unease in the world. Uncertainty in the USA, confusion in Israel.

2007 began quietly, for some, bloody for others.

A bomb went off in Bangkok killed two and wounded more than thirty people.

More bombs went off in Iraq. The 3,000th American died in Iraq just as 2007 rang in.

Saddam Hussein was hanged on Saturday morning at six A.M., and buried on Monday beside his two sons in Tikrit, their hometown.

Sunday was the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, commemorating the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzer some 2,500 years ago. What’s the connection?

On the 10th of Tevet of the year 3336 from Creation (425 BCE), the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later -- on Tammuz 9, 3338 -- the city walls were breached, and on Av 9th of that year, the Holy Temple was destroyed. The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for 70 years.

Reportedly Saddam considered himself a modern version of Nebuchadnezzar, with his sons part of the new Babylonian dynasty. The long dreamed of Hussein dynasty went with him into the graves in Takrit. Had he succeeded in his vision, Saddam may well have accomplished what the Babylonian emperor did 2,500 years earlier, destroy Jerusalem, take the Jews captive. But he was stopped.

Others will try to take his place. Some Islamists think that the Iranian leader Achmanejad is the Messiah. He is trying his best to live up to that rumor. According to Jewish legend the Messiah, son of Joseph, whom the Christians consider the anti-Christ, will precede the Messiah the son of David, whom the Christians consider Jesus. Don’t ask how the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe fits into this scheme.

No one knows which of these legendary figures applies to Achmanejad, if any. However, Jewish legend states that the war between Gog and Magog will precede the coming of the Messiah. Scholars say that both Gog and Magog were in the north of Israel. Is Iran one of those modernized forces? Who knows? Has the vast and rich history of the region dizzied the imagination of Achmanejad? Or the Lebanese leader Nasrallah? Was the War in Lebanon II the Gog and Magog? Who knows?

In the Middle East, anything is possible, but as Chaim Weizman, Israel’s first President said, not everything is probable.

Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas, is not yet free, although the press is ablaze with reports of his imminent release in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. These reports of his imminent release have been circulating for months. It must drive his poor parents crazy.

The negotiations over his release are stalled, or not stalled, depending on which report you read. The Israelis will release prisoners with blood on their hands, or only those who committed misdemeanors, depending on with report you read. Israel is holding nearly 10,000 Palestinians prisoner. Each has to be housed, fed, and guarded. Maybe more than 1,000 should be released. Think of all the money Israel would save.

No one is talking about the other two soldiers, Regev and Goldwasser, captured by Hezbollah at the outbreak of the War in Lebanon II. Its not even clear if they’re still alive. Last reports were that one of them was wounded when captured. Ron Arad, the Israeli co-pilot who was captured over twenty years ago in Lebanon’s first war, has never been heard from since then, but people still talk about finding him.

The Taliban attacked an Afgani office and captured the police chief. Is the Taliban back on the rise in Afghanistan? Does anyone remember the rage at the Taliban after 9/11, and the swift success toppling the Taliban regime? Is that success now about to be reversed? Is the Taliban going to insinuate itself back into power in Afghanistan, topple the weak leadership in Kabul, overpower the warlords who in reality rule the country, and instill yet another Islamic state in Afghanistan? And who will stop them if they want to do this?

Syrian’s President Basher Assad has sent out feelers that he wants peace talks with Israel. Is he serious? Media reports state that Assad is also ready to wage a guerilla war against Israel, much as Hezbollah did. When a play works, say the coaches, keep running it until the defense figures out a way to stop it. Hezbollah mounted an effective campaign against Israel. Syria and other states will now try to copy it. Can they be stopped? Is it war or peace? Who knows?

Qassam rockets continue to fall every day in Sderot and other areas of the Western Negev in Israel, in spite of the cease-fire with Hamas. Can Israel stop these rockets? Did the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expect these rockets to fall on Israel once he pulled out of Gaza, and did he care? A new report in the Haaretz Newspaper states that Sharon’s son Gilad was the one who brought the disengagement plan to his father. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reportedly presented the idea to Sharon’s then advisor Dov Weisglass, who presented it to the younger Sharon, part of his father’s innermost circle.

At the time Prime Minister Sharon was getting it from all side; an investigation into his doling out land to some cronies at a kibbutz in the north, illegal fund-raising for which his older son Omri was convicted, and an investigation into Gilad’s land deal with a high-powered Israeli building contractor. Sharon, known for bold initiatives, saw the plan as an opportunity to take the pressure off, and get out of troublesome Gaza settlements at the same time. He pulled out of more settlements than he’d planned, but the country supported him, and the ploy, if it was a ploy, worked. He was nearly home free, until his series of debilitating strokes.

But surely Sharon, the great strategist, knew of the Qassams. They were already starting to fall on the Gaza settlements before the pullout. Seemingly, he expected what is happening today, and considered it just another part of life in Israel. Reportedly Sharon never expected to make Peace with the Arabs, nor trust a peace that was made. On two separate occasions Sharon reportedly said that the greatest accomplishments the Arabs have made was their ability to urinate standing up. For all his faults, Sharon inspired confidence as a leader. Would he have ever really honored the road map espoused by the US government, or merely elegantly sidestepped it using his unique style of creating a diviersion.

David Horowitz, the editor of the English language daily Jerusalem Post, wrote a column that essentially put his finger on the way Israelis feel today. They don’t trust their leaders, he claimed, not to make the right decisions, not to protect them, not to guide the country in the future.

The recent Shomron commission investigating the army’s role in the War in Lebanon found none of the army’s officers to blame for the loss of battles and lives. The commission even recommended that Chief of Staff Dan Halutz stay on for another year until his term runs out since if there is another war he has now the experience from the last war to win on the battlefield. As my late Aunt would say, “Go figure!”

The families of those soldiers killed in the War in Lebanon II wanted to know that if Israel won that last war, which is one of the findings of the commission, how come they lost their sons. No one has the answer.

At a small New Year’s Eve dinner in Jerusalem the host, a well-respected manager of a large American Jewish Charity, asked the guests what was going on with Syria? Are the anti-government demonstrators still in the streets against the Siniora government in Lebanon? And then said he thought that Iran was ‘scary.’

Then he looked at the table, and said, ‘We’re in deep sh.. aren’t we?” He went on: “Peretz can’t be Defense Minister. I don’t understand Halutz at all. And Olmert is out only to save his own reputation. So who cares about us?” We drank a toast to the New Year anyway, a nice Yarden red, and got up to leave. 10:00 pm. It was Israel, after all.
He stopped us at the door. “We’ve been here too long to celebrate New Years,” he said, and wished us Happy New Year anyway.
At home the New Orleans’s Saints lost to the Carolina Panthers, and Larry Johnson rushed for a record number of carries against Jacksonville.
At seven A.M. Israel time the ball fell from it’s height in Time’s Square, and the neon sign read 2007.
A million people gathered in the center of Manhattan, and no bombs went off. All that happened was they left a mess..
At least that was something. That mess can be cleaned up.

Happy New Year.