Friday, April 10, 2009

The Iranian Missile Threat

Dire predictions about Israel's imminent demise at the hands of Iranians shooting nuclear missiles have been circulating on the internet usually forwarded by well-meaning concerned friends of Israel.

In these missives U.S. President Obama is criticized for backtracking on pledges to protect Israel. These critics use photographs of Obama ostensibly bowing to Saudi rulers. No mention is made of Obama hosting a Passover Seder in the White House, celebrating the Jews escape from bondage in Egypt to freedom, for the first time in History.

During the race for US president there was a smear campaign against Obama. Many of the claims were false. By common agreement the man has great talent as a speaker, but the public is still waiting to see how he does as a doer.

The new Israeli Netanyahu government may try to strike at Iran, or may not. Israel reportedly needs fly-by codes from the US Air Force before it can
penetrate air space over certain routes without being shot down as enemy aircraft out to do a US base damage. The US has so far been reluctant to provide these codes. They didn't give them during the Bush administration, either. The US policy is to see if they can talk Iran down from the tree without having to go up and get them.

At the same time numerous 'accidents' have befallen Iranian scientists responsible for the nuclear program, and army officers involved in attack and defense. Not long ago an entire convoy was destroyed inside Iran, not to be confused with the convoy of Iranian weapons passing through Sudan bound for Gaza.

Israel's military leaders are split on the course to take against Iran. Much of the 'bomb Iran' verbiage is a smoke screen to cover the uncomfortable fact that Israel may not be able to succeed in destroying all of the nuclear facilities, and might instead trigger an Iranian missile attack, supported by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria, and Hamas in Gaza.

Then of course there's the issue of Iranian ground troops. Iran is a country of some 78 million people. A country that fought a vicious bloody ground war with Iraq for over 8 years. An air strike at Iran isn't going to be the end of the war just the beginning of a long series of battles. So while arm-chair generals spouting off on the internet may spur on Israeli military action, the reality isn't as clearly seen.

Lastly, Israel has been developing anti-missile systems over the last few years as a defense against Iranian threats. No one in Israel takes these Iranian threats lightly. At least no sane person. However, that doesn't mean Israel will cease to exist within two years just because an internet commentator says so.

A link to an article that appeared in today's Haaretz on-line edition. ( talks about Israel's new air defense system. While this system is expensive and incomplete, coupled with the other anti-missile systems in place one hopes Iranian weapons will be terminated in flight before they reach Israel.

A country that has fought about eight wars since 1948, depending on how you count, and is well aware of the dangers posed by men like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cronies. Whatever can be done will be done to insure Israel's survival. President Obama is no enemy of Israel and can be counted on in the final analysis to help Israel in her time of need, bowing to the Saudis or not.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Hand In The Sky

Wouldn't it be funny if we were just stuff that happened, we meaning the earth, in a galaxy that was part of a universe filled with galaxies that had other earths just like or almost like ours and other galaxies almost like ours, and yet all together all the galaxies and universes were just part of the atomic structure, part of the sub-atomic structure actually, or one atom that made up one molecule that made up one compound that was attached to other compounds that formed matter in the shape of organs and bones and whatever that comprised a person, and that person was only one of billions on some planet somewhere, that was only part of a galaxy that was part of a universe that itself was only one universe of many and that universe was itself only part of the subatomic particle of yet another atom.....
or that some force manifested itself in a way to shape the galaxies into a form, like a hand in deep black space, that became a person, that each person was made up of billions of galaxies...

Still doesn't answer the question, where did that smallest particle of matter in any universe anywhere come from?

Happy Passover

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Fool's?

Israel’s 32nd government was sworn in on Wednesday April 1,2009. To some analysts the 30 member cabinet was an April Fool’s joke. To others a bulwark against encroaching Arab control of the region, to yet others a lifeline in a time of economic uncertainty.

Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu is Israel’s new PM with a record number of cabinet ministers. A few of them, like Labor’s Avishai Braverman, made ideological noises while the negotiations were going on, swearing they would never join a right-wing coalition government: that is until these noisemakers like Braverman were handed a cabinet post, then they shut up.

For a time Braverman was among the holdouts, the rebels, in the Labor party barking at the heels of party leader Ehud Barak, forming their own rival groups to unseat the Defense Minister, all with an eye on replacing Barak if possible. Former radio and TV journalist Shelly Yakamovitch was one of the leaders of the opposition to Labor joining the Likud lead coalition. She had Braverman by her side, as well as Ofer Pines. But the rebels didn’t succeed. Barak negotiated a good place for those who joined him in supporting Netanyahu, thus keeping his political life afloat and holding onto the Defense Ministry portfolio.

Most who followed Barak received ministerial posts, like Braverman, while others like Matan Vilnai received deputy ministerial posts. Braverman, the former head of Ben Gurion University, has high political ambitions and according to analysts realized he was better off as a minister in Netanyahu’s government than a backbencher in the opposition lead by Yakamotvich and Pines.

What we have here are egos on display. Some pundits have criticized the likes of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for accepting a post to which he is unsuited. Others have criticized Kadima leader Tzipi Livni for not signing on with Netanyahu and form a national unity government that would ostensibly be for the good of the country.

But what’s good for the country, according to one analyst, comes after what’s good for the politician. Israel radio’s Reshet Bet’s Keren Neubach hosted a conversation between two economists on Wednesday morning. One, Dr. Avi Ben Bassat, was even the former Director-General of the Finance Ministry. In the conversation it came out that Yuval Steinitz, the new Finance Minister, and Gideon Saar, the new Education Minister were both given their jobs because they were loyal friends to Netanyahu. The radio talk show participants snickered. “That’s the way Israel is run,” said one.

Both Ben Bessat and the other interviewee, a professor of economics at Tel Aviv University, agreed that Yuval Steinitz didn’t need to have a Ph.D. in economics in order to be Finance Minister, (Steinitz has a PH.D. in Philosophy) but should have some understanding of business and the marketplace. Some familiarity with the lexicon used by economists would also be helpful. Neubach pointed out that as a journalist she was often given statements and papers by the Ministry of Finance that neither she nor, according to her, many Knesset members understood.

It was precisely for this reason, said Ben Bessat, that someone with a background in the field was needed to run this important ministry. But politics, not merit, were the deciding factors in this new government. The Haaretz newspaper today estimated it would take Steinitz about a year to figure out how to run the Finance Ministry.

Meanwhile Netanyahu, who fancies himself an expert economist, will be in de facto charge of that ministry. How effective the government will be, or how long it will last, remains to be seen.

Another analyst said that Netanyahu must think only he can solve the problems facing Israel or why else did he fight for the post for ten years and then make deals that put 37 Knesset members in his cabinet? Where are the idealists? What we have are the egoists. Scary stuff, said the analysts.

One cynic quipped, “I'd have a big ego if I had something to be egotistical about. These guys? Hard to fathom!”

“Entertainers, I can understand,” he said. “You have talent. You have a voice, like Pavarotti, you get up in front of an audience and make the hair stand up on the back of a listener's neck. You impress with your beauty, your grace, your ability to swing a low-slung roadster around a race-track, glide across the ice moving the puck as if it were attached to the stick by a magnet, sail towards the net like a bird in flight and slam the ball through the rim, these things I can understand. But simply the ability, and the talent, to convince people or bribe people to support you for a position just because you're driven to it, with no real consideration for what the man in the street needs, astounds me. No matter what I think today it always comes back to that concept, ego driven rulers.”

April Fool or April fools. Only time will tell.