Thursday, July 31, 2008

Until The Fat Lady Sings

This is an easy one. Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on Wednesday that he would resign following the choice of his Kadima party’s candidate for Prime Minister on September 17, 2008.

Israel TV’s reporter Ayala Sasson analyzed the speech and pointed out that although Prime Minister Olmert has decided not to run in the primaries, he may be the interim Prime Minister until as late as next spring, should Kadma’s new Prime Minister candidate fail to gather a majority needed for a coalition and new elections are called.

In Israel, the party in power has a chance to simply change leaders and maintain control of the government, running out the four-year term, assuming the current coalition partners agree to continue with the new leader. So far Prime Minister Olmert has been in office 31 months, with another 17 months remaining. His replacement as party chief would then serve the remaining 17 months before the scheduled elections take place.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and ex-Chief of Staff, ex-Defense Minister, currently Minister of Transport, Shaul Mofaz are the two leading contenders for Olmert’s job as Kadima party leadership. News analysts think that Livni has the better chance to win the primaries, but are unsure if she can then cobble together a coalition, nor how well she’ll do in the job.

Liked leader, ex-Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has called for new elections rather than a continuation of the Kadima rule. Labor party leader Ehud Barak has also hinted he wants new elections.

According to political analysts Olmert was forced to make this decision for a number of reasons. One was the scurrying behind the scenes by political rivals who were trying to unseat him, making backdoor deals with coalition partners for support.

Labor Party leader Ehud Barak has threatened to bolt the coalition if new elections for Kadima party head were not called. Cynics say Barak had to do this or lose his own position within the Labor party.

Up until now the coalition partners had stuck by Olmert through the vagaries of his suspected criminal activities because they favored their jobs and positions over new elections and uncertain futures.

These coalition partners ignored the police leaks and media reports in hopes that Olmert would be able to avoid an indictment, as he apparently promised them he would. These partners apparently finally gave up their hope and started making deals with other candidates, leaving Olmert with little or no choice.

The main reason his choices have run out is the latest scandal; the media is called it “Olmertours.” Apparently the police have enough evidence of Olmert using the Rishon LeZion travel agency, Rishon Tours, to book flights and hotel rooms for himself and his family while serving as either as the Minister of Industry and Trade, acting Finance Minister, or Prime Minister. The problem with the bookings is that many were paid for by more than one charitable organization. This multiple billing of plane tickets, hotel bookings, and travel expenses, amounts to a breach of public trust, a charge that would be enough to strip Olmert of his immunity from prosecution.

According to law enforcement sources, “We are talking about many family trips of at lest two family members at a time, for example mother and daughter, or two of the children, whose travel expenses were covered by the account in Rishon Tours….the case is unequivocally substantiated and by all appearances it will result in an indictment.”

The Prime Minister is to be questioned again on Friday by the police about this alleged crime.

The “Olmertours” scandal was one of five that are now are the books. The others are the Talansky affair, with police investigating allegations that Olmert took money while serving as Mayor of Jerusalem, Minister of Tourism, Minister of Industry and trade, and perhaps even Prime Minister.

The police have testimony from U.S. businessman Morris Talansky that he gave Olmert $150,000 over a ten-year period. That investigation is still on going, although recently Talansky gave confused and confusing testimony during cross-examination that significantly weakened the State’s case against Olmert. Supporters believe Olmert may be able to beat these charges in court, should he ever be indicted.

The Bank Leumi affair; Olmert was in charge of the process of choosing the winner of a tender for the privatization of Bank Leumi while serving as interim Minister of Finance. He was suspected of manipulating the tender in favor of one of his financial backers. Those charges were ultimately dropped.

According to the State Comptroller’s office, while Minister of Industry and Trade Olmert’s staff made appointments out of political considerations as a result of “improper hiring process…in order to curry favor with political associates belonging to the party of then minister Olmert.”

Olmert was also suspected of providing personal favors to his old law partner Uri Messer, acting for a company Messer represented. The police claim this constitutes a conflict of interest, breach of trust, and fraud, if the charges are made and proven.

Olmert’s long time secretary Shula Zaken was arrested and her computers and records seized during an investigation into tax breaks which favored businessmen, also Olmert supporters, received from Zaken’s brother, who then ran the Israel tax authority.

Olmert is also suspected of using his position as then Mayor of Jerusalem to do favors for the Alumot firm, which built his home on Cremieux street in exchange for Olmert paying a lower than market price, by a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the house. That investigation is still on going.

It seems likely, according to the press, that the Olmertours scandal is the one that has the critical mass to indict the Prime Minister.

Olmert made his speech on Wednesday night from the lawn of the Prime Minister’s residence. He cited the achievements of his term in office and said he had no choice but to step aside and let someone else run the party.

Military analysts say it was the War in Lebanon II that ruined Olmert’s position as Prime Minister. The scandals come and go, but losing a war was something the public would never forgive.

One analyst said that the bar for proper behavior has been falling ever since Ariel Sharon rose to power. Sharon, long suspected of playing the system like a fiddle, amassed a huge ranch in the Negev, was involved in the Greek Island Affair, while Olmert was Minister of Tourism, and illegal fund-raising activities for his political campaigns.

Recently U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R.Alaska) proved that it is not only the Israeli politicians who may have their hands in other people’s pockets. The much lauded U.S. President Bill Clinton, though, might have set the tone for political folly, by denying everything, as a good lawyer learns to do, from the “I didn’t inhale” to “I never touched her,” with the Whitewater scandal tossed in for good measure.

Clinton, a brilliant, charismatic, charming politician with a clear world vision, behaved like a Kennedy in the time when such behavior was passé. Yitzchak Rabin never fell victim to Clinton’s influence in this regard, but Sharon did. Deny everything, and hang tough. Some pundits point to Sharon’s hand-chosen successor: Ehud Olmert, as proof of the low standards of behavior, plucking Olmert from near obscurity. Olmert he'd fallen so low in Likud popularity his odds of winning a Knesset seat were in serious doubt. He jumped into Sharon's camp when offered the chance in return for, some say, pledging his unabated support and a possible favor in the future.

Sharon was famous for tossing around political favors to garner support for his elections, either in the Likud, or Kadima, which he started once the Likud got away from his control. Sharon was not above appointing members of Israel’s notorious crime families to positions of power, as long as the bosses supported him. Olmert followed in the Sharon political tradition. One even hears the speculation that had Sharon been indicted, Olmert might have made a deal to pardon him.

Press reports speculate that Olmert will try a last ditch effort to push through a peace deal with the Palestinians before leaving office in hopes of deflecting all the bad press and leaving with a semblance of accomplishment. Some think this is a stunt from Sharon’s playbook. When under the threat of serious investigation Sharon decided to evacuate Gush Katif, shifting the media focus to Gaza and away from himself, confident that no Attorney General nor state prosecutor would go after him during such a crises. .

Today Gush Katif is a staging ground for rockets. Israel TV reports that as many as 70 % of the Gush Katif farmers are still unemployed three years after the evacuation. Olmert reportedly believed that he could also outlast the weak legal bodies.
Given the political process, of Kadima primaries and a possible new general election, a new Prime Minister may be long time coming. A lot could happen on the stage before the fat lady sings, even a surprise ending.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hope For The Best

Uzi Dayan has joined the Likud party, according to Israeli press reports. Dayan, a reserve general, ran for the Knesset on his own Tafnit party, that failed to win any seats in the last election, with a platform of clean honest government He was shown on Tuesday shaking hands with Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Dayan reportedly was turned down by the Labor party when he approached them.

This is a boost to Netanyahu’s ambition to win the next, as yet unscheduled, election for Prime Minister. Dayan’s presence gives Netanyahu some credibility he lacked among those worried that more of the same would be forthcoming should Netanyahu be elected.

In the past Netanyahu’s reputation suffered for deals he made with party loyalists, and personal benefits derived from his position when he was Prime Minister. Another report stated that the Israel Today daily newspaper has overtaken the Maariv newspaper as the second most purchased paper in the country, after the popular Yideot Achranot.

The Israel Today newspaper is reportedly funded by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has been a long-time supporter of Netanyahu. The newspaper has been criticized for being so blatantly pro-Netanyahu as to be no more than a public relations vehicle for the former prime minister. Adelson has defended the paper’s stance by comparing it to the US Fox news channel, owned by Ruppert Murdach. Fox, according to Adelson, has it’s own right-wing agenda, so why shouldn’t Israel Today?

The Kadima faithful who once supported Ariel Sharon, the forgotten but not gone former Prime Minister, have shifted their support from Olmert to Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as their new candidate for Prime Minister. Olmert according to the polls has about a seven percent approval rating among the populace.

In an interview with Army Radio, Foreign Minister Livni said she expected she’d beat Olmert handily if he decided to run in the Kadima primaries, scheduled for sometime in September. Livni said, “It’s time for the public to regain faith in politics.”

Should Livni be elected in the Kadima primaries as the new party leader, there is talk of a possible coalition government between the Likud and Kadima. The Likud has denied this possibility exists, but political analysts say that once Livni wins the primaries, it will be an open question, determined by the state of affairs in Israel, and Netanyahu’s popularity in the polls, that will determine the fate of a coalition government.

Labor party leader and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak had his picture in the paper shaking hands with U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney. Before he left Israel Barak said that the Ministry of Defense was considering the purchase, or possible loan, of the gattling-gun anti-mortar and rocket system that has been suggested as protection from Gaza missile attacks.

Barak was not overly enthusiastic about the weapon, but has been badgered into considering the purchase by the local press. The Ministry of Defense has come out against the gattling gun system, preferring to put their resources into the Iron Dome project, that is not expected to be ready for years. Pundits expect Barak to raise the issue of this defense system with the appropriate U.S. departments when he’s in Washington.

The Ministry of Defense has lost much of its luster since the War in Lebanon II. Some observers say that the ministry is made up of fat, lazy, and perhaps corrupt bureaucrats who have shown themselves to be incapable of providing more than minimal protection for the country. Some analysts say that with the budgets shrinking, and the dollar’s value eroding by nearly 30 per cent, the Ministry of Defense is concerned about putting increasingly scarce resources into a temporary and unproved system, like the gattling gun.

‘Tell it to those poor saps living in Sderot’ said one observer. ‘Or the million people who had to flee the northern region during the War in Lebanon II.’ Another critic said that foot-dragging by the military establishment is not acceptable when lives are at stake. Others say that even if the military-industrial complex is a major factor in Israel’s economy, this sector should not be allowed to play with citizen safety in exchange for corporate income.

The countdown has begun, according to Orthodox observance, for the time that the First and Second Temples were destroyed. The traditional three-week period is, according to legend, a time when dealings between Jews and non-Jews is at a nadir, while relations between Jews and Jews are at a peak.

This was the period when in 586 BCE the Bablylonians laid siege to Jerusalem, then captured the population and destroyed the city, sending the Jews into exile for fifty years. Five hundred years later the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, ending nearly 1,000 years of Jewish rule in then Israel.

The 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av marks the day when, according to legend, both temples fell.

Commentators say it is easy to see how the outsiders attacking Israel could be construed as a bad time for the Jewish inhabitants of then Israel. And the assumption that Jews worked with Jews to resist the attacks on Jerusalem would seem to support the legend of Jewish unity in times of strife.

But historians say that during the period of the Second Temple’s destruction groups inside the old city walls fought furiously with each other, some in favor of surrender, others in favor of battle.

Today the siege engines are not embedded in the ground outside Israel’s gates, but the internal squabbling among the leaders has a deleterious effect on the moral of the population.

Hezbollah is expected to attack this summer, according to the head of Israel’s Military Intelligence. Al Quida cells have been discovered in the West Bank, and even in East Jerusalem. But so far, no missiles are flying. No bombs are going off. Even the suicide bombers have chosen highly inefficient weapons. A tractor can decimate a few people before the behemoth is stopped. Both times the tractor was used as a weapon in the last few weeks the tractor’s drivers were shot and killed within minutes. The security fence appears to be working, like it or not.

So what is there to worry about, ask the defenders of the political establishment?

Perhaps nothing. Perhaps Hezbollah is bluffing. Perhaps Iran is bluffing. Perhaps Syria is going to join the US galaxy. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Outgoing U.S. Sec. Of State Rice is trying hard to very quietly cobble together some peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, while at the same time sending emissaries to the press warning that an attack on Iran would be a disaster, as U.S. Sec. Of Defense Robert Gates said recently.

Some speculate that U.S. President George W. Bush still has plans to strike at Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Some speculate that Israel would be party to this strike. Others say that President Bush doesn’t have the mettle to hit Iran at this time, if at all, and that Israel doesn’t have the ability to do it alone,

Iran then will have to be drawn into the U.S. orbit by the next president that looks to be Barak Hussein Obama. It may just be that Obama is the last hope of Western Civilization, because if he can’t use his formidable oratory skills to sway Iran, both Israel and the US will be looking at a very dangerous, and scary world. One that will not be easily defeated. The Western World’s armies, including those of Israel and the US, have shown themselves recently to be ineffective in just about everything. That could change with a different mindset, one that looks more to efficiency in defending a nation than in personal aggrandizement and profit.

But meanwhile, as one analyst said, ‘It’s time to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.’

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Country Of One

Morris ‘Moshe’ Talansky, is still undergoing cross examination in the deposition of witnesses in possible bribery charges against `PM Ehud Olmert.

The 71-year old American businessman, reportedly a committed Zionist fundraiser, displayed a flawed memory Sunday. Under cross-examination he said he couldn’t recall exact sums of money he gave to then Trade and Commerce Minister Olmert, nor exact dates. The substance of his testimony, however, was the same. Talansky maintains he turned over large sums of cash money to Olmert over a period of more than a decade.

Police have also questioned Joe Elmaleh, another former Israel,i now American businessman, over a loan he gave to Olmert almost fifteen years ago that has not yet been repaid.

Olmert says he has until Jan 1 2009 to repay the loan. Police suspect the $75,000 was for some type of bribe to Olmert in exchange for favorable terms on government contracts and land deals. Elmaleh was once head of the Yoel oil exploration company, and Olmert was a board member. The company never found oil in Israel and Elmaleh eventually moved to the US.

And a replacement for Olmert may not be so fast in coming. His Kadima party may not hold primary elections after all. According to press reports PM Olmert has been maneuvering behind the scenes to scotch the idea, and is now only eight votes away from winning a vote postponing the primaries indefinitely. Should PM Olmert succeed in postponing the primaries, he will be able to finish out his term in office without turning over the Prime Minister’s job to another Kadima member.

Added to this drama is the fact that the USA and Iran are showing cracks in their toe-to-toe confrontation over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The USA has agreed to continue diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to halt research into nuclear arms production. Reportedly the USA has agreed to open an office in Tehran, probably situated within the office of the Swiss embassy. This will be the first time the USA has had a diplomatic presence in Iran since 1979 when the Iranians broke into the US Embassy and held Americans hostage.

Israel, however, is still considering a military strike against Iranian plants developing nuclear weapons. Other disturbing reports in the Israeli media indicate that Israel’s military planners might have more ambition than skill.

Haggai Alon, Political Adviser to then Defense Minister Amir Peretz during the War in Lebanon II, gave a lengthy interview to Akiva Eldar, the Haaretz newspaper’s leading political correspondent, detailing misinformation that various military factions provided the Defense Minister leading up to and during the War in Lebanon II. According to Alon much of the information Peretz received had a hidden agenda with one department of the military, or military industry, at odd with another, using Peretz as the scapegoat.

Political analysts say Alon’s sudden revelation of these facts may coincide with Amir Peretz’s attempts to rehabilitate his political career. Following his resignation after the failures of the War in Lebanon II, Peretz has, until recently, withdrawn from public life.

According to Haggai Alon, Israel’s military industries had the most influence in the decisions to attack Lebanon. Alon said Israel only used the kidnapping of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser as an excuse to bomb Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut, never expecting Hezbollah to counter-attack.

Alon said Israel’s defense establishment believed Hezbollah was unprepared for war, and knew Israel was as well. A limited aerial campaign was chosen to weaken Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Beirut. It was clear after the first few hours that neither Goldwasser nor Regev could be rescued. Other reports

Another report in the weekend newspapers spoke about poor planning, and poor execution by the Army. The report stated that bits and pieces of intelligence that were gathered by some well-placed sources was not turned over to the proper army units until after the kidnapping. Col. Gal Hirsch, who resigned from the army after the war, put his troops on high alert along the border based only on his own suspicion that Hezbollah was planning something. He had to cancel the alert status after three weeks because he had no real proof of a planned attack.

According to the report Hezbollah was indeed planning an attack, and was in position, only waiting until the high alert status was lowered before springing their trap. Had the intelligence information reached Hirsh during the high alert the kidnappings might have been prevented.

Other analysts say that if the trap hadn’t been sprung that day, it would have been another, since Hezollah had a plan to kidnap Israelis soldiers. In the Regev-Goldwasser case, Hezbollah had over twenty men in place with a carefully scripted scenario that they followed with iron discipline. First they sucked in a patrol, attacked that patrol, then attacked a patrol that came in to rescue the first, snatching the two soldiers during the second attack.

Even though Israel was ill prepared to go to war over the two men, PM Olmert believed it was necessary to show Hezbollah the rules of the game had changed, and okayed the Army’s plan for the bombardment of Beirut. This attacked unleashed another trap laid by Hezbollah, a storm of rockets that fell unabated for nearly a month. Finally, according to this report, Israel realized they had to go to war, but it took three weeks for Israel to actually make that decision.

Haggai Alon, the former aide, told Haaretz that the Defense Minister was presented with plans by the army that military experts on the Ministry of Defense staff said stood no chance of success, like inserting a small group of commandos in Lebanon with only rifles and handguns. This would put the soldiers at high-risk of death or capture, and was ruled out as unreasonable.

According to Alon, the army then lost no time leaking to the press that Defense Minister Peretz was turning down viable options to free Goldwasser and Regev. Alon said various factions within the military even kept information secret from each other, information that could have allowed a different more positive result to the conflict.

It was a damning interview which some observers said indicated that there was a separate war going on fought and managed not by the government but by various factions within the military, often at odds with each other. Trying to prove, as one pundit said, who was stronger and sneaker than the other.

The army, said Alon, consistently misrepresented their strength and capabilities while providing little or nothing in the way of intelligence that would help in the management of the war.

Given this assessment, some analysts worried that the same military-industrial complex would be responsible for managing the attack on Iranian nuclear weapons. As one pundit put it, “If I were the Iranians, knowing what I know about Israel’s capabilities and execution of plans during the War in Lebanon II, I don’t think I’d be too worried about the fate of my nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, the head of Israel’s military intelligence issued a warning that Hezbollah was planning a major terrorist action, either a kidnapping or something else, in retribution for the assassination of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyah in Damascus a few months ago.

Given the severe crises facing he country, one wonders who would be best at the helm, the current Prime Minister, or one of his competitors? So far, none of them seem to be interested in the good of anything other than their own ambitions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pain and Politics

“In Israel there’s no such thing as international relations, only local politics,” the former U.S. Sec. State Henry Kissinger reportedly said.

In the case of 31-year old Ehud Goldwasser and 26-year old Eldad Regev, the quip becomes especially poignant.

Analysts are scratching their heads wondering at the exchange. Granted, pundits admit, Israel doesn’t leave its dead and wounded on the battlefield. All efforts are made to bring them home.

Witness the Gilad Shalit kidnapping. Two years after he was snatched from his army post on the Gaza border, he is still in captivity, somewhere, and alive, by all indications.

Goldwasser and Regev were snatched during a well-orchestrated kidnapping on the Lebanese/Israeli border. Another jeep had been ambushed, and Eldad and Udi jumped into their armed army Hummer and crossed into S. Lebanon to help out. Their kidnappers were waiting for them. Anyone who knows anything about Hezbollah knows they’re very sophisticated when it comes to an ambush.

U.N. troops were nearby, but couldn’t or didn’t help. By the time other Israeli units were on the scene Goldwasser and Regev were gone. Their kidnapping resulted in Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s hasty invasion of Lebanon, to free these two reserve soldiers, bring them back home, and show the Arab world this new Prime Minister wasn’t a pushover.

From the outset Hezbollah leader Shiek Nasrallah had aimed at the release of one of Lebanon’s top terrorists: Samir Kuntar in jail in Israel. Kuntar had become a symbol of the ‘resistance’ to Israel. He was involved in a 1979 raid on the coastal village of Nahariya, in which a number of people were killed, including an infant. Kuntar murdered a policeman who tried to stop him, then bludgeoned an infant to death with his rifle butt.

The infant’s mother hid in the closet of her apartment with her young daughter when the terrorists rampaged through the building. She kept the child quiet by holding her close. When the danger had passed it turned out the child had suffocated. The poor woman lost two children because of Samir Kuntar.

Nasrallah has been boasting for years that he’d secure the release of Kuntar. Nasrallah was out for Kuntar in exchange for information on Ron Arad, the Israeli pilot lost during the 1981 War in Lebanon. One observer asked why a bloodthirsty killer like Kuntar became an icon for a resistance group, but then answered that civilized people are looking at the conflict from the side of Western democracy and polite civilization.

What Nasrallah showed, according to Arab analysts, is that he’d coolly kept the corpses of the two soldiers for two years, negotiating their release in exchange for a list of Hezbollah prisoners, including Kuntar, who by the way was in jail long before Hezbollah was even formed. Because of this, and other actions, Nazrallah, according to the New York Times, is now the most admired Arab leader in the world.

College campuses took up the cause of the two missing soldiers. A public relations campaign was mounted, with Ehud Goldwasser’s mother Miki making frequent media appearances, pressuring the government to arrange for her son’s freedom. Karnit Goldwasser, Ehud’s wife, was also part of the PR campaign. No one can blame these families for trying to get their men home. Today, Olmert’s people say the PR pressure resulted in a bad deal. Regev and Goldwasser proved better negotiating chips than Ron Arad.

Forensic evidence gathered at the checkpoint where the bodies were exchanged points to the conclusion that both men died in the kidnapping. So, even had Israel won the war all that would have been accomplished was the return of their bodies. The critics, of course, ask, ‘what was the war all about if all we got back were bodies? And paid the price of another 160 dead soldiers in the process?”

Some analysts now point to the current, very painful, exchange of Arab prisoners for the corpses of the two reserve solders. According to press reports aired during the last few weeks, Samir Kuntar reportedly has made peace with his past. An Israeli media report recently said he regretted what he’d done nearly thirty-years ago. Socially active Israelis thought perhaps Kuntar had been in jail long enough, especially if he was repentant. He’d paid his debt to society.

Many back-alley reports posited over the last six-months that both Goldwasser and Regev were deceased. Still the negotiations continued. Better to have the bodies home, the case closed, than another Ron Arad. Even today bumper stickers appear on cars with “Free Ron Arad” printed on them.

But was that the main reason for the exchange? Political analysts point to the tremendous pressure Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert is under. He is being investigated for a number of crimes. His political future is not uncertain, the experts say, it is, baring any miracles, essentially over.

So in keeping with the Henry Kissinger adage, Olmert, according to some analysts, wants to close the chapter that began with the kidnapping, continued on with the War in Lebanon II, and end it with the return of the two soldiers whose kidnapping started the war in the first place. Olmert, these analysts say, can now step down from office having come back to where he started. Except, of course, for Gilad Shalit, still held captive in Gaza.

An Israeli professor speculated on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet this morning that the problem was Israel’s soft heart. The professor, a woman, said that Israel had to begin playing from Hezbollah’s ruthless rules.

The professor also criticized Israel’s delicate approach to sensibilities of the viewing public. She claimed that the army and police were in possession of video clips and stills of the dead terrorists, naked, blown apart, immodestly presented. These photographs would be an embarrassment to the terrorist’s families. And might just prevent other terrorists from doing the same thing, since they’d bring shame to their parents and relatives.

Another fact she claims would be helpful is making it plain to the world that almost all the female terrorists commit suicide because of a family scandal. These women have been found not to be virgins, and advised by their Moslem religious leaders, that a way out of shame was becoming a Shahid, a martyr. Only then could these women find their way into paradise.

According to the professor, by publicizing the fact of these women’s shame they’d no longer be ‘martyrs’ but disgraced women, seeking some desperate solution to their embarrassment. But of course, the professor concludes, Israel doesn’t play by those crude rules. It is simply not done. Israeli journalistic ethics prevent such things. But should they? The question arises, is this a war or a game of cricket?

Israeli philosophers talk about Jews setting a higher standard on the playing field. Not lowering themselves to the standards employed by Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Queda, but rather seeking nicer, more elegant ways, to win. Ways that do not betray the Jewish ethics that are embodied in the texts, the bible, the philosophy.

Jews, these philosophers point out, have been persecuted and hounded for centuries that stretch into millennia, and now that the Jews have their own state, they are honor bound to behave better than those who persecuted them throughout history. This burden has shackled Israel, but at the same time, it is a source of pride. Sure, one observer said, Israel could have taken possession of Regev and Goldwasser’s bodies, and then thumbed their noses at Nasrallah, not turned over anyone. Let him fume. Let him start firing his 40,000 rockets. Let the war begin.

But Israel didn’t do that. Israel stuck to her word. No double-cross. Kuntar was released, sent across the border with his other buddies. Israel was left with bones and body parts.

Granted, in this world of ghosts and shadows, who knows how many men in that group have been turned into double agents? But the front pages of the International Herald Tribune, the Haaretz newspaper showed pictures of Kuntar, in a Hezbollah army uniform, standing at Nasrallah’s right hand. Another released terrorist also in uniform was at Nasrallah’s left hand.

One of the pictures of Kuntar was chosen for a purpose. He had a mad grin on his face, his eyes were gleaming, his arm was outstretched, fingers forward, as if in a Nazi salute, and to top it off he had a neat little black mustache on his upper lip. If he has recanted his evil ways, he sure didn’t look it this morning. And if he hasn’t, then his release may come back to haunt Israel for years to come.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jerusalem Isn't Israel

Iran continues to test fire missiles ostensibly capable of reaching Israeli and European targets. More tests of the Shab 3 rocket were carried out Thursday, according to Tehran Television.
General Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force, claimed on Iranian television that a Shahab-3 long-range ballistic missile had been tested, which is capable of traveling longer distances, with greater accuracy, and with a larger payload. Media reports state that nine-missiles were fired.
According to Israeli experts these tests are part of a bluff that Teharan is carrying out. Uzi Rubin, a program director in the group that developed the Arrow anti-missile system, is convinced that this was not a new version of the Iranian ballistic missile. The Arrow-3, which is funded in a multi-year program entitled Tefen, will be capable of intercepting ballistic missiles higher and further away from Israel. (The Iron Dome project expected to go on line between 2009-2012, will include short-range missile defenses.)
In a report published in the Haaretz Newspaper on Wednesday, Rubin said, "From what I saw, this is an old version of the Shahab-3, and contrary to their claims, it is not capable of reaching 2,000 kilometers, only 1,300 kilometers."
According to published reports, if the Shab-3 missile works, it could hit Israel within eleven minutes after launch. The missile, however, is liquid fuel powered. While on the ground being fueled for flight it is vulnerable to attack.
Israel meanwhile has made public some of its own weaponry; a move experts believe is aimed as a warning to Tehran. One weapon is a new Israeli spy plane capable of finding targets in Iran.
The Iranians are also reportedly developing a new solid fuel rocket that won’t be as vulnerable to attack on the ground. Not long before his retirement Former Air Force Chief Major General Schkedi asked the US to speed-up the delivery of the new F-35 advanced fighter jet. This was seen as yet another example of Israel’s desire to be prepared to attack Iran or counter-attack should Iran strike first.
Military analysts estimate that Iran has several thousand missiles spread around the Persian Gulf, and tens of thousands of short-range missiles in the hands of her allies, like Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
According to Israel Television’s Arab affairs reporter Hezbollah has an estimated 20,000 short-range missiles, approximately six thousand more than they had in the War in Lebanon II. Hezbollah claims they have forty thousand weapons, but those claims are exaggerated, experts say.
The Iranians have announced the resumption of their nuclear program in response to Israel’s threats. Israel TV’s analyst said that the immanent danger of a nuclear attack doesn’t exist, but should Israel attack Iran, Israel should expect not only the Iranian long-range missiles, but those from Iranian allies, which could have a devastating effect.
All of this amid the on-going crises in the government. According to press reports Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party has declared it will hold new elections in mid-September. Olmert’s advisors have said that after polling the constituency it appears Olmert doesn’t have a chance at a nomination, and has decided not to seek a new term.
This comes as Moshe Talansky, the State Prosecutor’s key witness to the Olmert corruption scandal, returned to Israel to offer more testimony in the bribe-taking affair. Another State’s witness has also emerged from the shadows, a woman who reportedly witnessed Olmert receiving cash from Talansky.
The scene of the Prime Minister of Israel going on trial and being sentenced to prison is not one that most Israelis want to see broadcast on television screens around the world. Pundits are speculating how the government and State Prosecutor’s office will deal with this public relations disaster in the making.
Israel still has a bad smell from the case of former President Moshe Katzav, convicted of rape. Katzav is currently appealing his verdict. Minister Chaim Ramon of Olmert’s Kadmia party, was recently convicted of indecent sexual behavior for forcing a kiss on one of his female subordinates. Former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson, also of Kadmia, is awaiting trial on fraud and breach of public trust accusations.
According to analysts a culture of soft corruption exists in the political establishment. Olmert, it is said, was just conducting ‘business as usual. Business as usual in Israel can also mean a constant preparedness for war. Critics wonder if Olmert’s peace overtures to Syria are part of his job, or if he’s looking to leave a positive legacy for history. Olmert has asked the US to step in and broker a deal with Syria.
Some military analysts think that a deal with Syria would entail enticing Syria away from the grasp of Iran. Experts say when the US gets involved that usually means, that US money will be part of the deal. When the US brokered a deal with Egypt, the price tag was about $2 Billion a year in foreign aid.
Skeptics think that Syria is just playing with Israel in hopes of extracting better weapons and funds from Iran and Russia. According to experts, since Russia’s Putin nationalized the Russia oil fields, coupled with the extra-ordinary rise in oil prices, Russia is awash in money. Putin hopes to bring Russia back to super-power status using this money. He has been influence peddling, and supplying weapons, where necessary to get more power in the region.
The final negotiations with Hezbollah took place with Israel agreeing to the release of Samir Kuntar, a Hezbollah terrorist sitting in an Israeli prison for the last two decades. Kuntar was responsible for the raid on a Nahariya coastline that resulted in the death of several people, including an Israeli policeman. The policeman’s brothers said they have no objection to releasing the terrorist, but not in exchange for dead bodies, rather live ones, like Gilad Shalit.
According to informed sources Goldwasser and Regev, two of the soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah two years ago in an act that started the War in Lebanon II are both dead. Israel is negotiating the return of their bodies in exchange for Hezbollah prisoners. Hezbollah is demanding 1,000 prisoners, Israel has offered 450. Gilad Shalit is not part of the package.
Recently an Israeli author based in Tel Aviv said, “Jerusalem isn’t Israel.” In fact she’s correct. Jerusalem doesn’t represent the population. It is cut-off from mainstream Israel. “Yes,” we replied. “We like to live on islands.”
And Jerusalem is an island. When discussing Jerusalem with friends and neighbors one is always quick to point out that Jerusalem isn’t Israel. It is a bubble, caught in time. Poets and writers have always found Jerusalem more exotic than Tel Aviv, unless of course one is from someplace like Obscure, Wyoming, in which case anyplace outside of the town boundary is exotic.
More and more Jerusalem is turning ultra-Orthodox. While Jerusalem has some non-religious components, they are increasingly rare. Mainly it is the government offices, and related institutions, which keep Jerusalem even moderately liberal.
In contrast, the ultra-Orthodox community is abandoning Tel Aviv to the secular residents. Once a hub of Hassidic and ultra-Orthodox life, today the population prefers Emmanuel or Benei Brak. Or Jerusalem.
Jerusalem’s mayor Luplianski, whose term is soon to end, seems to represent the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi community, more than any other. In all fairness, the ultra-Orthodox communities are usually poorer with a higher population concentration, and have long been ignored.
Jerusalem’s history goes back over 3,000 years, to the time when David snuck in through a water tunnel and captured the walled city from the Jebusites, a few thousand at most,. Today Jerusalem has a population of over 730,000, in an area of 125 square kilometers (about 49 sq.mi). The Old City of Jerusalem, declared a World Heritage Site, is only 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq.mi) but is the spiritual home of Judaism, and Christianity and is the third holiest site in Islam..
Just as the walled Old City, with its narrow winding step-filled streets, is vastly different from the modern city, so is Jerusalem as a whole vastly different from the rest of Israel. The mores and folkways are different. The city is becoming ‘black’ meaning men in black suits and white shirts, women with heads covered and long dresses with long sleeves, only the skin of their faces showing. More and more buses in Jerusalem now even have separate seating for men and women.
But iit s in Jerusalem that the decisions are made. In the Knesset. In the Prime Minister’s office, in the other ministries, all in Jerusalem. Most of the decision makers drive in from the Tel Aviv area. Yet they don’t like it in Jerusalem.. Too religious. Too confining. Too many streets closing up for Shabat. The secular bureaucrats are seeking housing outside of Jerusalem and commuting.
Now there’s talk of dividing Jerusalem in a peace treaty. But divide it how? If someone tries it a new right-wing Moshe Talansky will pop up with new evidence of old scandals, and unseat yet another Prime Minister. So for the time being Jerusalem is slowly turning into a Jewish version of Talibanistan. Which is actually good for Jerusalem.
Because if everyone agrees Jerusalem isn’t Israel, there’s no sense in Iran attacking the Holy City. And if nothing else that’s good news for those who live here. Maybe that’s why so many hotels are going up in Jerusalem, even a Four Seasons. When the rockets start to fall all those new millionaires in Tel Aviv will be fighting for rooms in Jerusalem like NBA stars fighting for the ball under the basket, elbows and knees flying.
Only one catch, though, by then the Mayor, whoever he is, will probably make every man, even visitors, wear a skullcap, and the women cover their heads, just like they have to do now, at the Western Wall. But at least there won’t be any rockets.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Knife To A Gunfight

On Wednesday three people were killed and scores wounded when Hussam Duwiyat, 30, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Zur Baher, stole a huge tractor from the construction site where he was working and drove it into a bus and a number of cars on busy Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem, just past the teeming Machne Yehuda outdoor produce market..

An 20-year old soldier on leave from basic training along with a security guard from a nearby building jumped on the tractor. The security guard wrestled with the wheel piling the tractor up on a cement construction barricade, while the soldier took the guards pistol and fired three shots into Duwiyat’s head. A policeman then jumped on the tractor and fired more shots into Duwiyat. Within minutes the event was over, and Duwiyat was slumped dead in the tractor’s cabin.

Later Duwiyat’s family set up a mourner’s tent, but was told to take it down by the Border Police. PM Olmert called on the police to destroy Duwiyat’s home. TV interviews with the family and neighbors showed dismay and confusion on the faces of those interviewed.

The press continued to call Duwiyat a terrorist, but more evidence came in to contradict this claim. Duwiyat was the father of small children, and had been married to a Jewish woman. He had a police record as a rapist and a drug addict. This wasn’t the profile of a terrorist.

A few minutes before the event Diwouat was eating and joking with his fellow workers during a lunch break. One observer said that a driver had probably upset Duwiyat who lost his temper and went on a rampage in a horrendous example of simple road rage.

Pundits said it was unlikely Duwiyat was a terrorist. “Why chose the middle of the day to carry out the attack, and then have an employee in the middle of his shift do the deed?” one asked “He was mad about something,” another observer said. “He wasn’t a terrorist.”

Police investigating the matter showed no connection between Duwiyat and any Palestinian terror organizations. Later questions came in if lethal force was necessary, since the tractor was already nearly immobilized. But in anything that looks like a terrorist attack, it was an open question how far the man planned to go, or if he had other weapons at his disposal. Termination is the simplest way, said a security official.

Meanwhile, the saber rattling continues. Israel’s ex-Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, now a cabinet minister in the government, has called on Israel to attack Iran before it is too late. An ABC-TV report showed over 100 Israeli jets in the skies over Turkey on a military exercise. Later an official Israeli source was quoted as saying the exercise was meant to test the fundamentals of a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But other military analysts have warned that such a strike could have dire consequences. A US official said if Israel attacked Iran it would cause havoc in the region. Other Arab countries were expected to respond to the attack, even though many were not enamored with Iran or the behavior of her leaders.

One expert said such talk might encourage Iran to strike first at Israel, tossing the entire military establishment into a panic, confusing the plans for an attack, or counter-attack.
Should Iran use its long-range missiles against Israel the damage could be horrendous.

On the heels of this analysis came a speech this week by Major General (res.) Eitan Ben Eliahu, former head of the Israeli Air force from 1996 to 2,000. Ben Eiahu was speaking to the prestigious Israel Missile Defense Association. A number of highly respected former defense officials were in the audience.

Ben-Eliahu said that the old model of how Israel goes to war has had to change. In the 1950’s the concept was a preemptive strike to disrupt the enemy’s war preparations, and then a holding action until Israel achieves superiority in the air. Then a breakthrough in order to establish final lines of battle and the defeat of the enemy.

According to Ben-Eliahu, preparations for that 1950’s scenario cost the government $30 billion. However times have changed. In the (1968-1970) War of Attrition Israel lost 100 planes due to improved Arab capabilities. They’d learned how to defend against a surprise air attack, by hiding their planes underground, and using new Russian supplied anti-aircraft missiles. Because of this Israel lost 100 planes during the War of Attrition, and 277 in the Yom Kippur war, and 99 in the first Lebanon war.

The defence budget jumped up to between $35-$40 billion. Now Israel had to deal with Scud missiles. 40 were launched from Iraq during the 1991 attacks on Israel. But the threat increased in scope and danger. Now, says Ben-Eliahu, Israel has to prepare for strikes against the home front, a short warning time between the outbreak of a war and the establishment of a front, longer fighting times, and most significantly, non-conventional and nuclear weapons.

The new estimated costs to prepare for the defense of Israel are about $50 billion. Israel has to prepare for a war against Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the terrorist entities in Lebanon and Gaza. According to Ben-Eliahu Israel will have to fight on three fronts, be able to crush the enemy on one front; and to absorb and deal out punishment from long-range rockets.

In the chilling assessment Ben-Eliahu said that Israel must prepare for a war that will last for up to three-weeks. Syria and Iran, he says, might launch between 250 and 300 long-range missiles at Israel (the Shihabs and Scuds) and another 5,000 short-range missiles, mostly from Lebanon.

Israel will need at least 700 anti-missile missiles, and be ready to use ground forces to take out the short-range missiles. Ground forces must also be used, he said, if Syria enters the fray. This after a concerted aerial attack to destroy their military infrastructure. Israel will also have to go into Gaza to neutralize the rockets fired from there by Palestinian terror groups.

In the South Israel must develop more shelters for civilians and better early warning systems. But Ben Eliahu warned that above all Israel must develop methods to confront the chemical and nuclear threat.

Not exactly a cheery analysis.

This coupled with the warning that Iran might launch their own pre-emptive strike based on an assumption Israel is about to attack.

One Israeli military analyst said that if Israel is to strike, it will take place before the next U.S. President is sworn in. Some believe this is bad for Israel since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has already shown himself to lack sufficient military experience to win a war, even with ex-Chief of Staff Ehud Barak as his Minister of Defense.

Many Israeli experts expect Barak Obama to be the next U.S. President. A recent poll in Israel showed that most Israelis don’t expect Obama to back Israel when the chips are down.

One thing is certain. If Bush gives Israel a nod, or a prod, to hit Iran, neither Israel, nor the Middle East, might ever be the same. The question is, though, even if Israel doesn’t strike first, won’t the Iranians, sooner or later, hit Israel, causing the same chain reaction as if Israel had struck first.

Iran is not without her weapons in a battle against Israel, and not all are in the sky or on the battlefield. Iran has also threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz should Israel attack, cutting off the flow of oil to the West, causing the price of gasoline to skyrocket.

But Israeli leaders like President Shimon Peres have been warning about Iran for years, even before the bombing on the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in the 1980’s. Iran, Israeli intelligence officials believe, was behind that event.

If Israel does nothing Iran is expected to strike, if Israel strikes first, Iran is expected to strike back. In either case, unless Barak Obama is as good at persuading the Iranians and other radical Arabs to put down their weapons and accept Israel as he is swaying the Democratic and, he hopes, the American voters, then perhaps there is a chance.

Or perhaps planning to talk these people into peace is really no more than bringing a knife to a gunfight. A gunfight where the weapons are already drawn, hammer’s cocked, ready to fire.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mendocino To Berlin

The countryside of Northern California is awash in brushfires. Acrid smoke is filling the air destroying natural beautify and wildlife. Eyes are reportedly tearing from San Francisco to Mendocino.

On a recent trip to California one was struck by the beauty of the redwood forests, the raw jagged beautiful coastline and the consistent bark of sea lions from their perch on an outcropping near the shore.

Boutique wineries dot the area. One was known by its proximity to the San Andreas Fault, that lies ten miles off shore.

But one of the most interesting sights were the aging hippies, long gray hair tied in a bun, earrings in their ears, scarves wrapped around their foreheads, meandering around some of the towns. Billboards blared out their message, “Vote No For Amendment B.” The of the local radio also dealt with “Amendment B.” As far as one could tell “Amendment B” was a county-wide rule that would limit the amount of marijuana plants needed for “medicinal purposes” a homeowner could possess.

Now, according to a local resident who did not grow or use marijuana for medicinal or other purposes, one could grow up to twenty-five marijuana plants. “Amendment B” would limit the amount to eight plants.

The radio call-in program fleshed out the issue. Local residents explained that new neighbors were not only exceeding the twenty-five plant limit, but had entire fields under cultivation, with generators running all night to keep the processing plants going.

One caller complained that he was afraid to tell his neighbors to stop their activities, or go to the police, for fear of reprisals. Apparently these new neighbors were Mexican drug-lords who were taking advantage of the liberal California laws to make money. The caller to the radio show wanted to know how they were going to meet their “medicinal” needs on only eight plants.

In Mendocino County, and other places in California, it is legal to hold limited amounts of marijuana if a doctor has filled out the appropriate form and the patient is registered as a medicinal user.

According to one source, receiving permission for medicinal use is not difficult. “But what do they need ten pounds of marijuana a year for? That’s what this eight-plant rule is. Ten pounds of pot a year. And they say that’s not enough.”

The average visitor doesn’t know how much pot comes from one plant. Nor how lucrative the industry is. “The growers, these Mexican gangsters, are the ones paying for the “Vote No To Amendment B” campaign. They’re buying these politicians on the local board.”

Is this true? Could be, but one has to be careful. Mendocino is not only made up of wealthy homeowners from San Francisco and even LA, but also people who have vineyards, ranches and other establishments who are simply trying to make a living. It is also made up of a lot of old grouches. Some hippies, some just grouches. People who moved way up to Mendocino for the view, the quiet, the seclusion, not because they could smoke their pot legally.

Mendocino was, according to some old timers, once a haven for hippies, back in the 60’s when young people slept out in sleeping bags, pitched tents, started communes. Most left to get on with their normal lives, a few stayed, never changed their lifestyle or their thought process: sort of just petrified right there back in 1968.

Listening to the radio one heard first about the controversial ‘Amendment B’ but then the callers would inevitably get onto the military industrial complex, and how the Bush administration was destroying America and the world. The traveler even heard a rant on UFO’s and Bush, but that conversation was linked to how much weed the caller could or couldn’t smoke in a given year, so drug-induced hallucinations and paranoid fantasies seemed part of his mental process.

As if there weren’t things more important to think about, or worry about. Wine and grass and the San Andreas Fault. Maybe they all went together, the latter the threat, the first two ways to escape it without leaving the county.

Mendocino comes up as a reminder that alleged corruption in politics isn’t limited to the goings on in Israel. Supposed Mexican drug lords controlling a pot amendment is small potatoes compared to Israel’s Prime Minister with envelopes of cash in his pocket. But the principle is the same.

Then there’s Berlin. It is a strange trip that leads from Mendocino to Berlin but also passes through San Jose where the daughter of Major Ernst Bloch lives. Major Bloch was a hero in the German Army during World War I. He was a professional soldier and served loyally all the way through the war until he was killed defending Berlin. There were two interesting things about Ernst Bloch, one was that he was half-Jewish, and two that he was involved in the rescue of the sixth Lubavitch Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1939.

The Warsaw Ghetto in 1939 is about as far as you can get in both thought and circumstance from pastoral Mendocino of 2008. The Nazis had declared war on Poland. The city of Warsaw was occupied. Jews, already battered and abused in Germany, were now the targets of persecution in Poland. Ultimately over 2 and a half million Polish Jews would die at the hands of the Nazi occupiers before the end of the war.

Rabbi Schneerson became the bone the Americans tossed to the American Jews who were clamoring for something to be done about the German persecution of the Jews in Germany. How he was rescued was a “strange story” according to Dr. Winfred Meyer of the Anti-`Semitism institute at the Technical University of Berlin. “It involved the Americans passing information to the Abwer(the German Intelligence service) who then passed it to the Lubavitch, telling them to tell the Rabbi in Warsaw to surrender to the German army officer looking for him.”

The German officer was Ernst Bloch, son of a Berlin Jewish doctor and Gentile mother, who worked for the Abwer. He had orders to save the Rebbe, and he did, taking him out of the Ghetto, blustering and bluffing, using ‘military secret’ as an excuse . The Rebbe had an entourage of 18, all ultra-Orthodox Hassidic Jews, the men in black kaftans, with side curls, long beards, and black hats, the women with their heads coved, the male children with skullcaps.

Bloch commandeered a first-class cabin, to the chagrin of the German officers forced to stand in the corridor on the ride to Berlin. From Berlin the Rebbe was spirited out of German to Riga, and later to the USA. His son-in-law Menachem Mendel Schneerson later took over the small Lubavitch sect and turned it into the Hassidic version of McDonald’s, with a branch on every corner.

Bloch’s daughter lives in a small apartment an hour from San Francisco. She left Germany in 1968, and has mixed feelings about her father. She doesn’t understand why he didn’t just quit, walk away, have nothing to do with the Nazi army. Good question.

In Berlin today one is struck by how alive the city is, how vibrant, and gay (the mayor is reportedly homosexual.) There’s something of a Jewish Revival going on there. Small reminders are embedded in the sidewalks, though. Names of people who once lived on the street, Jewish people, who perished in the camps. There’s the Jewish Museum, and the memorial to the murdered Jews, slabs of concrete that look like coffins taking up a few very valuable acres near the Reichstadt, the German parliament.

One can enjoy Berlin. It’s a wonderful city. East Berlin is now like Soho in New York, alive with clubs and theaters, restaurants and pubs. West Berlin is staid, but elegant. Rebuilt so long ago most people don’t remember what happened there. And that’s Berlin, too. Don’t think too deeply and it’s a fine place, but the past is still there to haunt the visitor.

The Germans are happy, they say, to see Jews back in town. There are approximately 150,000 Jews in Germany today, eighty-percent come from the former Soviet Union. You find them in the synagogues, in the kosher restaurants, in the Jewish community centers. If there’s a Jewish revival in Germany today, they’re it.

Oh, and Mendocino? A ship crashed on the shore of Mendocino in the 1800’s, during the height of the opium trade. The ship was taking goods to India, picking up opium and delivering it to China, picking up goods from China and selling them in the US. A search party came upon a band of Native American dressed up in Chinese garb. The Native Americans lived in a beautiful forest, right along the sea. Soon the forest became San Francisco, and the Native Americans slowly disappeared. The new residents of their villages are well-to-do retirees and artists.

The history of the place is remembered in the old Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. Museum. The original people are gone, and the new comers have changed the face of the place, much as today’s `Berliners have changed the face of what was sixty-years ago. Both are still the same place, but both are different. Both had natives who are no longer there, with new people taking their place. And in both instances it’s better not to dig too deeply into the past; or the beauty and enjoyment sort of fade out leaving dark memories.