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.’