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.