Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hands Across Borders

Historian Benny Morris gave an in-depth interview to the Jerusalem Post’s editor David Horowitz, which was published over the weekend. Morris’ specialty is the late British PM Winston Churchill.

In the interview Morris discusses the rise of Nazism in the 1920’s and 30’s, and British, European and US avoidance in facing the threat, until it was nearly too late. According to Morris, had Britain heeded Churchill’s cry that Hitler was a dangerous fanatic bent on world domination, and readied itself militarily, the war against the Nazis would only have taken six-months, rather than six-years, and been much less costly in the loss of life.

Morris dances around the parallel to today’s Iran, but he makes it pretty clear he believes there are parallels to be drawn. The good professor says that France and Russia and the rest of Europe could have stopped Hitler in the early 1930’s, but didn’t. Why? Because no one took him seriously, except Churchill.

Today, should Europe and Russia and perhaps even China, join Israel and the USA in confronting Iran, it is possible that the Iranian threat could still be contained. But it is easier for politicians to avoid confrontation than face the reality that there’s an enemy outside your steel door preparing enough c-4 plastique explosive to blow down the door, and probably blow up your house. From inside the house, with the stereo on, the TV blaring, dinner on the table, it’s hard to imagine an enemy lurking in the bushes.

Morris also points out that China and Russia today are attempting to build themselves into superpowers, replete with client states in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, ready to do their bidding. Should Iran agree to avoid a confrontation with Russia, or China, while confronting Israel and the USA, and other parts of Europe, then in the historians opinion, China and Russia will agree.

Much as Russia agreed in the 1930’s with the non-aggression pact Stalin signed with Hitler. Until Hitler decided he’d had enough of Stalin and went to war with Russia as well.

Hitler never told the truth to anyone about anything. In today’s Israeli press commentators say that Iranian leader Achminajad has been lying for five years about his nuclear development program. Now some reports say t hat he is only months away from a nuclear weapon.

As if to underscore this assumption, Lebanon’s Shiek Nasrallah, the leader of the Iranian backed Hezbollah, has said that Israel would be destroyed within three years. One assumes that Nasrallah has better information about the Iranian progress to nuclear weapons than the rest of the world. Especially the U.S. intelligence agencies that did an about-face recently,, declaring that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon.

These are the same agencies, with different names, and in different guises, who said that Hitler wasn’t a threat. Until he was, of course.

That’s not to say Iran can’t be stopped, even if they develop a weapon tomorrow. Hitler’s top military commanders, the old guard elite aristocracy, never believed Germany could win the war. As early as 1939 they were seeking back-door deals to head off the US and Britain from entering the war, at the same time beginning to plot the assassination of Hitler.

But these aristocrats were good Germans, patriots, fighting for the fatherland, and all that. They did their jobs in spite of their misgivings. And indeed crazy Adolph lost the war. In fact, he lost the war back in 42, and the loss was sealed when Russian entered the fray in 43, but he never knew, or admitted it.

Nuts. Historians say that he was willing to take a whole country along with him, too. Not that the Germans were blameless. They went along with Hitler’s glorious song of a 1,000 year rule. But the song was off-key, and played on a pipe-organ that ran out of steam long before the thousand years had even gotten off the starting blocks.

Many observers believe that Achminajad is another Hitler. Analysts say he is like other despots; interested in power, glory, adoration. He speaks and crowds go into frenzy. They can believe his shouts and rants about destroying the West, but in all likelihood once he tries it military experts say he’ll wind up dead with scores of millions of his countrymen. Analysts admit he will certainly inflict damage, perhaps even fatal damage, to some countries, perhaps even Israel, but in the end Iran will go up in smoke; the oil wells will blaze across the countryside, and the populace will all be fighting various forms of radiation poisoning.

The editorial pages lump the above topics with the upcoming U.S. elections. Given a world facing war, who would you rather have making decisions; Churchill, Chamberlain, or Roosevelt? In another time frame it is now Clinton, Obama or McCain.

Clinton is a flinty woman who will do what is necessary to do. Lurking over her head is the dirty cloud of politics that she and her husband have been busy flying through. Observers point out that as U.S.President, when the time came for Bill to decide to take out a petty dictator in Somalia, he failed miserably. Or at least his troops did. Pundits ask, if “Billary” do better facing a nascent dictator with nuclear weapons? Good question.

Then there’s Barry Obama. All reports paint him as a fine man. Good bone structure. Good command of English. An inspiring speaker. He caught Billary by surprise, snuck up from a corner just as Bill did when he ran the first time, and next thing you know Billary is swimming upstream against the current, and tiring fast. Perhaps Obama will rise to the occasion and be a true leader of the century, making decisions based on big ideas that work, and change the course of history.

Political analysts point out that Obama wants to talk to everyone. He’s going to talk to Achminajad. Well, he might succeed. Some observers say the one thing the West doesn’t completely understand is the Arab mindset that revolves around pride and respect. If Obama treats Achminajad as a respected leader, not some nut who appears ready to take over the world and turn it into an Islamic Federation, and if Achminajad actually succumbs to Barak Obama’s outstanding powers of persuasion, then perhaps the world’s present nuclear crises will recede with the tide, leaving quiet shores and gentle waves lapping at the sandy beaches.

Jimmy Carter thought he could talk people into Peace. Historians say he couldn’t. Jimmy Carter thought he would bring “Change” to Washington, he couldn’t. But Perhaps Barak Obama is really what he appears to be: a brilliant, cool, reasoned intellectual who can duke it out with the world’s bullies when necessary.

Or will talk only go so far? In Israel observers have long followed the misrepresentations and prevarications uttered during the run-up to peace talks. Both sides lie. In 1938-9 Hitler told Chamberlain he wouldn’t invade Czechoslovakia, Poland, whatever. He lied. In 1941 the Japanese ambassador to Washington sat in the White House negotiating an oil deal while the planes were just outside Pearl Harbor with their bomb doors opening, ready to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Mao Tse-Tung, lied to Edgar Snow, who wrote Red Star Over China, about everything. Mao lied to everyone, ruled by terror, was a disciple of Stalin, and then tried to out Stalin Stalin. All the while meeting with Stalin, rising up three times tossing up his hands yelling “Long Live Stalin. Long Live Stalin.”

In short, as Will Parker, the old folk singer used to say, ‘people tell you what you want to hear, and you hear what you want to hear when people tell you.’ If Barack Obama meets with Achmanijad and it turns out Barack isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, the bombs may already be falling on Washington by the time he gets home.

Then we have John McCain. By the process of deduction we are stuck with him. Is he a good guy? As David Lettterman reportedly said in his recent stand-up, the ‘Republican Party is a bunch of grumpy old white guys teeing off at a restricted country-club.’ Well, maybe not too obviously restricted, anymore. McCain is the son and grandson of Admirals. He knows something about fighting. He knows about surviving, too. If his experience was anything like that of the hero in the 1970’s flick about a Vietnam POW released after seven-years of torture, then McCain can lie straight-faced to the enemy and maybe even smile while doing it. What is probably called for now is a fighter, not a talker. Best is someone who could do both, extremely well. Extremely well is the key. Not thinking they can do it extremely well, like Cheeny and Rumsfield, but really doing it extremely well.

Should the pundits of academia be correct, we take off the top of the curve and the bottom of the curve and go for the middle.

So who do we have left? Billary.

Or Ralph Nader. Take your pick.

The next President is going to have to reach out across the border, but we'll have to ait to see if he or she gets a handful of honey, or winds up sticking their fingers in a garbage disposal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mugniyah and the Snow

Mugniyah and the snow all in one week. The headrest of the Mitsubishi Pajero Jeep that the no.2 man in Hezbollah was driving exploded, obliterating one of Israel’s arch-enemies. Who did it? Like the attack on the alleged Syrian nuclear facility a few months ago, no one is claiming responsibility.

However Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly made a victory walk through the Knesset’s cafeteria in what observers say was a very rare appearance in that lunchroom of the elite. Reportedly he paraded through with a smirk on his face shortly after the news of the Mugniyah assassination was made public.

Much has been written about the assassination and the aftermath. Israel is girding for attacks by Hezbollah in Africa, S. America and Europe. Warnings have gone out to Israeli Embassy’s and Jewish organizations to be on the alert for any type of Hezbollah reprisals. Israel’s military intelligence organizations expect some reprisal. Where and when are the big questions?

It is also possible that Hezbollah will launch killer pilot-less drones from Lebanon aimed at Israel’s cities and dense population centers. Hezbollah may also launch missile attacks. On Monday evening the Haaretz newspaper announced that Israel had deployed Patriot missile batteries to defend against such attacks.

Some wonder if perhaps Hezbollah will wait until May when Israel is about to celebrate her 60th birthday, then let off a reign of terror that will kill the celebrations, and anyone nearby.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah has sworn to take revenge for the killing. In a brilliant example of double-speak Nasrallah said that the assassination of Mugniyah outside of Lebanon meant Hezbollah was now free to attack Israeli and Jewish targets anywhere in the world. Observers wondered at Nasrallah’s ‘chutzpah’ in that statement, since the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994 was only one of a string of attacks outside of Lebanon or even Israel for which Hezbollah is allegedly responsible.

Mugniyah was killed in Damascus, where he’d been living for years. The U.S claimed that it was Damascus who killed Mugniyah, or Iran. Of course this type of rhetoric sends Hezbollah climbing the walls. Outrageous disinformation has been the hallmark of the terrorist movements since their inception. Giving them back some of their mind-twisting games has been long overdue.

The rumor mill has it that Mugniyah was killed by Arab agents of some government, either Israel, the US, or who knows, maybe Iran and/or Syria. Some pundits speculate that perhaps Mugniyah fell afoul of the powers that be for some infraction of their rules. Maybe he embezzled Hafaz Assad’s cash, or sold a nuclear bomb to the wrong criminals. Anything is possible. Unless one is involved in the planning and execution of such an event, everything said is commentary and speculation.

As part of the assassination speculation, the lives, or deaths, of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, reportedly at the behest of Mugniyah, that started the War in Lebanon II are now in the news. According to the German Der Speigel newspaper both soldiers are no longer alive. Some analysts believe that once this news reached the Israeli government they felt free to attack Hezbollah’s leadership without fear of the reprisal murders of Regev and Goldwasser. Again, this is pure speculation. Officially the Israeli government has said that until they see proof the two soldiers are dead they are considered alive, and the hunt for them, and negotiations for their release carries on.

But in the shady world of espionage and international intrigue who knows what the truth is? Only those privy to the closed door conversations.

Four Kassam rockets plowed into the Negev on Monday. Two fell near the first aid station of a kibbutz, causing some damage. Two other rockets fell in open fields. Earlier in the week Sderot residents were treated for shock when rockets fell near them.

These rocket attacks are going on in the face of a blistering engagement by Israeli special forces in Gaza. Raids and attacks are taking place using the best units Israel has at its disposal. On Sunday a commander of the Sayet HaMatkal, Israel’s most elite commando unit, was seriously injured in an operation in Gaza. As of Monday afternoon he was reportedly out of danger, but still badly injured by shrapnel and debris. The injuries were mainly in the chest area. Navy Seals, Paratroopers, and other units were all involved in the raids aimed at neutralizing the rocket fire.

A top Hamas official was killed on Saturday when an explosion leveled his home. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Iran has not given up its murderous rhetoric. Mohammad Ali Jafari the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard warned that Hezbollah will destroy Israel. According to the Fars News Agency, Ali Jafri said, “In the near future, we will witness the destruction of the cancerous germ of Israel by the powerful and competent hands of the Hezbollah combatants.”

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is reportedly providing military support to Hezbollah, although Tehran denies this. And Iranian leader Achmanijad said yesterday, according to the International Herald Tribune, that giving up the goal of nuclear weapons would be against Allah’s wishes. One wonders how the Iranian’s leaders gets his orders from Allah.

In Jerusalem the new suspension bridge at the entrance to the city is expected to be completed by the 60th anniversary celebrations. The spire that will support a spider-web like net of fine wires attached to a bridge over the entrance to the city costs a reported $65 million. According to the Kol Ha Ir local Jerusalem newspaper, the bridge was the folly of one of the cities leaders who wanted to exert his ‘ego.’ In a city strapped for cash, with a diminishing tax base and increasing poverty, one wonders how effective a $65 million bridge will be when according to informed sources in the newspaper, an effective bridge could have been built for $5 million.

In that same vein, the city of Jerusalem passed a resolution allowing the construction of 1,700 apartments, reportedly meant for the ultra-orthodox population, who usually pay little or no state of city taxes. This is because of their large families, and their tax-exempt status as students in religious institutions. While the new constructionmight have brought in more city tax if aimed at a different market, this development will only be another drain on an already nearly bankrupt city.

The new construction will take place in the Jerusalem Forest just beneath the Ramot neighorhood. Residents groups have been fighting to keep the forest a green area, sort of like New York’s central park, and have been waging a pitched battle in the courts.

Israel’s supreme court was to have ruled on the subject, but no notice of their ruling had been published. The municipality gave the builders permission to put up signs in the forest notifying the public of the impending construction. Local groups are planning to petition the lower courts to review the case. As of now the forest is home to herds of gazelle, wild life from foxes to rare birds, and a plethora of flora and fauna. However cynics say that when builders and politicians sit down to discuss things in the quiet of dark restaurants the good of the public frequently takes a back seat to the monetary benefits of the interested parties.

One can only hope that the Supreme Court will hear the petition and grant a reprieve to the last green area in northern Jerusalem. As one city planner warned, Jerusalem, in fact all of Israel, is in danger of the ‘Singapore Syndrome’ where roads and more roads eradicate any semblance of nature and open areas, replacing them with a network of highways and streets that choke the atmosphere and the imagination.

Snow is falling in Jerusalem for the second time this winter. But the storm is expected to abate by Tuesday afternoon, and by Wednesday and Thursday the temperatures are expected to be back in the sixties.

One wonders if the snow storm and the assassination of Mugniyah are both rare occurrences; or if they’re both symptoms of changing times: snow as part of the global warming, and Mugniyah as part of a new pro-active stance the west is taking to fend off radical Islam.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Everyone Loves A Winner

Everyone loves a winner, because people near a winner, or that supported a winner, feel that they too have the ‘right stuff.’ Its like picking the right horse at the race track; or the right stock in a bear market. Being around a winner makes people plain feel good. Unless of course you’re the looser, than being around the winner probably makes you feel lousy, but that’s another subject.

Now we have the Obama-Clinton race for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America. Obama has momentum. Hilary is rumored to be having trouble with her campaign. The more Obama wins the more Hilary loses. The herd instinct at work. Wanting to be with the winner. Wanting to feel good.

Two weeks ago, or so, when Tom Brady was in the playoffs for the division championships, sports announcers were falling all over themselves extolling praise on Brady as perhaps the best quarterback ever to play football, and the 2007-8 New England Patriots as perhaps the best team ever to play football.

Then came the Superbowl, and the closer the game came to the final buzzer the worse Tom Brady became in the eyes of the sports announcers. The day following the game it was clear by reading any of the experts analysis that Brady hadn’t been good since game 8, and the Patriots were beat-up and tired for the last half of the season. Why the sudden change of heart? Of course. We all know. Because they lost.

Now Clinton is a loser and the staunch Democrats who extolled her virtues are now finding fault with her husband Bill, previously one of her best selling points because of his eight-years in the job, her lack of ability to inspire crowds, and even her clothing. Many pundits have commented how superficial the commentary has become. The issue is how big a crowd does Obama draw, how much money is pouring into his campaign, how many young people buy his message calling for “Change.”

But what about the issues? According to an article in Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post, Hilary Clinton has made her position on issues abundantly clear, whereas Obama has been vaguer on important points. Clinton’s clarity has thus put her at a disadvantage.

Barack Obama is campaigning for “change.” Kids love that kind of talk. Yeah, let’s change it. But to what? That Senator Obama doesn’t say.

According to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive VP of the Conference of Presidents (of Major Jewish Organizations), in an interview in Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post, “All the talk about change, but without defining what that change should be is an opening for all kind of mischief."

Hoenlein was covering his tracks after earlier statements quoted in Haaretz, Israel’s most influential newspaper, indicated he was not in favor of Obama’s candidacy. Hoenlein said that in forty years he’d never backed a specific candidate, only a specific issue.

The Presidential race became a media circus back when Kennedy debated Nixon, and the latter looked lousy on camera. Today its all about image. Barack Obama has stage presence, speaks wonderfully, can rally the crowd like an old-time preacher. But what is he saying? Is it time for a revolution? Is he planning a new form of government? Will his policies differ so drastically from Bush, or the previous Clinton, or the previous Bush?
Will he have a different foreign policy? Will he be more for change than for “Truth, Justice and the American Way?” And if he gets elected, and that’s what the debate is now, about “if” he gets chosen to be the Democratic candidate, and “if” he gets elected will he then come out swinging with both fists with a flurry of punches and fancy footwork to make Mohammed Ali seem an amateur? Didn’t we have an “outsider” who wanted to come into Washington and change things. Sweep up. Reform. Change?

Yes we did. Jimmy Carter. He meant well. But did he change anything? Or did he show he was a well-meaning God-fearing man who was simply not cut out to run the ship of state? Who was derailed by the very system he wanted to change. And who was, truth be told, probably incompetent. In later years he showed he meant well, but was far from even-handed, although he could never bring himself to admit that.

Obama has similar shortcomings. He plays a tune of change but the melody is uneven and there are no lyrics. Does have a beat though, and a few chords that bounce around inside the head like a popular jingle. But will that make him a good President? Or just a populist candidate who obviously can reenergize the flagging Democratic party?

Bill Clinton was similar to Jimmy Carter in certain ways. Both thought they were doing the right thing for Israel. Carter brokered the cold peace between Egypt and Israel, Clinton between Jordan and Israel. The Palestinian issue was never resolved, although the “Clinton Plan” is essentially the one on the table now under a different title and in a slightly different form.

The “Road Map” will disintegrate from old age before it is implemented, mainly over the issue of Jerusalem. Then Prime Minister Ehud Barak thought giving up large chunks of Jerusalem would bring the parties to a peace treaty. But he was wrong. Chunks won’t appease the Palestinian desire for control of Jerusalem, and Hamas’ desire for a land purged of the Jewish people, their smell, and any sign they were ever here.

Will Barak Obama enter the fray? Or will he decide other issues are more important, like jobs, health-care, Iraq, Afghanistan? Has he ever said anything on these issues?

Then there’s the kicker. Barack is pronounced Bareck in the USA, to rhyme with Derek. In Israel it is pronounced Barack with the accent on the last syllable. The name in Arabic comes from the horse ‘Barack’ that Mohammed rode when the horse leapt from Mecca to Jerusalem, touched a hoof down .on the rock on Mt. Moriah, where Abraham was to have slaughtered Isaac, then soared up to heaven.

In Hebrew Barack is lightening. Somehow one supposes Barak Obama doesn’t have a Hebrew name, since Obama is a proud, familiar, Arabic family name.

Those to words, Barack and Obama are an obstacle for a leader seeking the support of the Israeli people. To most in Israel this candidate is akin to having a Moslem president. Since Israel’s conflict with the world is primarily with the Moslems, it is understandable why Israelis would be hesitant to back such a candidate, even though his mother was Christian and he is a Christian. Its sort of like Arabs backing a guy who has a Jewish name running for President. Same same, as they say in the souk of Jerusalem’s Old City.

So now the question is:when the primaries are all over and the winner is chosen will Hilary be seen as Tom Brady, or will it be Barack Obama?

And the bigger question is: can either of them beat John McCain?



And if he comes

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Post Winnograd

The old adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend applies in Israel today.

The Egyptians are closing the breached Gaza border, but reportedly doing so with the coordination of Hamas. Does this make the Egyptians the enemy of Israel’s enemy? Good question.

According to press reports, on Sunday Shin Bet security services chief Yuval Diskin warned government ministers that the breach in the Gaza—Egypt border could become permanent. Diskin told the ministers that the advantage to the situation is that Egypt would become responsible for the border, not Israel. According to Diskin the Gaza terrorists were now able to smuggle weapons overland rather than smuggling them in through tunnels.

Other commentators have said that Egypt might get stuck with the welfare of Gaza, instead of Israel, which the Israelis would consider a very positive development. The Egyptians reject this option because they are worried about the radicals from Gaza coming into Egypt and bolstering those out to overthrow the present Mubarak administration.

Meanwhile security is high along the porous Israel/Egypt border. Israel expects terrorist attacks by groups who left Gaza through the hole in the wall, entered Egypt, made their way across the desert and are preparing to cross unhindered into Israel. The Israeli/Egyptian border has no fence and stretches for approximately a hundred kilometers. Terrorists could conceivable just walk across the border into Israel. As of now Sudanese refugees looking for work routinely find their way into Israel through this route.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the cabinet on Sunday that Israel had to seal up the border between Egypt and Israel, especially the areas near Nitzana and Eilat. Barak considered this a vital step to insure Israel's security.

A second conundrum in the adage of the enemy of my enemy is my friend is the announcement on Sunday by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also the head of the Labor Party, that he has decided not to resign from the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

According to his statement, Barak said that he weighed the recently released Winnograd Committee report. He said the report was a very bad criticism of the government and the army, but decided that this was not the time to quit the government. He said that some people would be saddened by this decision but that others would be happy with it.

Labor Party Knesset Member Danny Atom told Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet that he was saddened to hear the news. Atom said he’d spent an hour with Barak on Saturday and informed him that in his opinion Labor had to leave the Olmert government. Barak obviously didn’t follow his advice.

The Israeli press analyzed Barak’s Post-Winnograd options over the weekend. One commentator said that if Barak left the government now it would be an endorsement of Hizbollah’s strength and claims that they had won the war. By throwing the country into new elections, unleashing all of the claims and counter claims in the press, Hizbollah would consider the ouster of Olmert yet another success, and that in resigning Barak would be doing the country a disservice.

Other commentators questioned if the Army would follow Olmert in another war. Still others claimed that the country had grown weak and soft relying more on high-tech dollars and BMW SUVs than the fighting spirit needed to keep the country afloat.

One reporter told Israel Television’s Channel One that in his opinion the army did a decent job of fighting the war, given the conditions, and that Olmert didn’t do that bad a job after all. He claimed that the Winnograd Committee was holding the government and the army to archaic standards no longer practiced in the modern world. According to this reporter the Winnograd Committee was made up of elderly jurists who still held to the beliefs of the freedom fighters of the War of Independence. Those values, according to the reporter, were no longer applicable. Modern Israel was not Israel of 1948, and the report’s mistake was to judge the Army and the government according to the values held sixty years ago, not today. He concluded that the Winnograd Committee was na├»ve.

Many of the pundits and commentators lined up according to party or ideological affiliations. Some predictably called for the Prime Minister’s resignation, others, like Olmert himself, claimed he took the Winnograd report and the criticism of the government in the report very seriously, but that in the end he’d been vindicated in his choice of going to war. Ex-Defense Minister Amir Peretz also said the report proved that he wasn’t to blame for the war, and its outcome. Peretz said that the groundwork for the failures had been laid long before he took over the Defense Ministry, hinting that his predecessors were to blame, not him.

Dr. Martin van Creveld, a military historian who taught for many years at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote in “The Forward,” that Prime Minister Olmert actually did pretty well in the war, and so did the Army. Van Creveld writes about the long history of violence along the Lebanese border, dating back to the late 1960’s when the PLO took over Southern Lebanon.

Van Creveld said the only time there has been quiet along that border has been during the period since the end of the War in Lebanon II. Van Creveld wrote that the UNIFIL force in Lebanon has succeeded in controlling Hezbollah, and keeping them away from Israel’s border.

According to van Creveld this is a major accomplishment, and one that can’t be dismissed. Like the Winnograd Committee, van Creveld said that Olmert was right in unleashing a blizzard of violence on Hezbollah. That unexpected response rocked Hizbollah on its heels, and that terrorist entity has yet to recover.

The liberal commentators against Prime Minister Olmert’s resignation hold out hope that Olmert may be the man who can bring peace to the region, since he has the support of the US, and the Palestinian Authority.

Others say that Olmert has learned the lessons of failure, and that the Army had corrected its mistakes long before the Winnograd report was published. According toVan Creveld, “failure has already come at a price, at least for some. From Peretz through the military’s chief of staff, General Dan Halutz, and commander of the Northern front, Udi Adam, all the way down to several division and even brigade commanders, those responsible have either been fired or resigned on their own initiative.”

So Israel has a lot of friends today. Friends like Olmert and Barak, who are the avowed enemies of Israel’s enemies, and who have decided to stick together in the time of crises. Friends like Egypt, who stepped in to close the gap in the border fence, more to keep the Gazan’s out of Egypt than to help Israel with the Gaza problem, and the PA, who has been so badly battered by Hamas that without Israel’s recognition the PA would have no political standing among its own people.

One only hopes that the old Jewish saw doesn’t apply, the one that goes, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Time will tell. Meanwhile, Israel has to rebuild the army, get the diplomatic track laid down, and try to implement policies that strengthen the economy, while providing some solution to the consistent threats by Iran to destroy Israel.

In all likelihood Ehud Barak was right. Now is not the time for political maneuvers, now is the time to construct a defense against the existential threats that hover over the country like a cloud of atomic fallout.

Elections will surely be held, but the nation, given the choice of Olmert teamed up with the experienced Barak, or the Likud’s Netanyahu, will probably chose Olmert and Barak.

Barak apparently thinks the country would rather go with the status quo. If the popular tide turns, observers think he’ll call elections in a minute, but only once he thinks he can win.