Monday, March 02, 2009

Ego And The Public Good

Egos at play. Has it ever been any different? Isn’t that the name of politics? Perhaps
even of leadership, in any field?

In the Middle East today egos have gathered in Sharm El Shek for a meeting on how best to rebuild Gaza. Leaders from all the major countries of the world came to pledge money for the embattled Palestinians living under the thumb of Israel.

The US showed up in the form of U.S.Sec of State Hilary Clinton, who pledged $300 million and spoke about breaking the cycle of violence. She was seen shaking hands with French Prime Minister Sarkozy, no stranger to ego enhancement. The same man who married the super model and made sure that when a photograph of him in a bathing suit appeared in the French newspaper the paper used Photoshop to correct the inner tube of fat around his stomach.

Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that perhaps the gathering should first concentrate on stopping the Hamas rockets from landing in Israel before rewarding Hamas for their years of attacks.

Over the past weekend Hamas launched no less than a dozen rockets into Israel. One Grad rocket struck dangerously close to an Ashkelon school, that was closed, luckily, and last night another fell in a courtyard in Sderot. In view of these attacks Netanyahu’s modest request was anything but outlandish.

Still, they gathered, and pledged support. The Gulf Arab states plan to pledge $1.65 billion in aid over a five year period. The EU will pledge $552.6 million, both for Gaza’s reconstruction and to help pay for the reforms of the Palestinian Authority. Britain pledged $43 million to rebuild Gaza’s economy. The PA is reportedly seeking up to $2.7 billion from donor nations for the Gaza recovery. What will they do with it? So far the egos at play in the PA have siphoned off most of the aid given to the Palestinians into their own pockets. Why would this be any different?

Hamas complained they were not invited to the party. They should complain. They are the 800 pound gorilla in the play. Hamas’ popularity is high. They are considered a winner in the war against the aggressive Israelis. Hamas still has kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and still lobs rockets at Israel at will.

Last night Israel TV showed a clip from the Arab Al Jazeera TV networks report from Gaza. A reporter, in flak jacket for no obvious reason, squatted beside a masked Hamas fighter who first proudly showed the Grad warhead, about the size of a pointed steel tennis ball, to the reporter, then inserted it into the slender rocket and shoved both down the tube hidden in the sand with only a few inches of rim visible to the naked eye. A long fuse snaked out of the tube. The fighter lit the fuse and by the time the rocket took flight both reporter and fighter were far away.

No robotic predator drone nor IDF helicopter would spot this rocket until it was airborne. Israel, with all its might and sophistication, was being toyed with by an under funded under armed militia. Each rocket was an embarrassment to Israel. Each day they fired another Grad was another day that the achievements of the Cast Lead operation diminished into near invisibility.

The ego of Ehud Barak, current Defense Minister is still obvious. He would sorely love to be the Defense Minister in the Netanyahu-lead government, even though the two men have been bitter rivals for a decade and a half. Barak wants to be in the limelight, not in the back benches.

However former Chief-of-Staff Shaul Mofaz, of the Kadima party, also wants that job. He is maneuvering to get Kadima to join Netanyahu in the coalition, but so far has only run into Kadima party leader’s Tzipi Livni’s obdurate behavior in the face of compromise. Either Kadima gets a rotation agreement, where Livni and Netanyahu will take turns being Prime Minister, or she goes into the opposition. Kadima party members like Mofaz, and current Finance Minister Bar On aren’t so happy about sitting on the sidelines if they can help it. One pundit even postulated that Mofaz would abandon Kadima and jump back to the Likud at first opportunity.

One wonders where the public good comes in all of these considerations? Or if it comes up at all? More egos, and more egos.

Perhaps someone has the good of the people in mind. But who?