I feel bad for Israel. Whenever I talk to people about Iran’s becoming a nuclear power, one thing I hear is, “I hope Israel takes out their facilities.” It seems a little strange that the American people’s foreign policy is to ask Israel – alone in the midst of bloodthirsty sharks – to go ahead and take out the big, bad Iranis.
If we took out the Iranis, what would they do? They can’t attack America. They’d probably attack Israel. Which means no matter if America or Israel attacks Iran, Iran will strike at Israel. Poor Israel.
But one thing we have to admire: Israel’s unswerving focus on surviving. While we’re wringing our hands over executive compensations, Israel is debating its very future. We’re upset about cars, Israel is considering ways to strike nuclear facilities. (Which they are good at, needless to say.) And Israel is remarkably consistent on this point. Even the slightly-left-of-center Kadima was staunchly anti-Iran. The current hodge-podge of rightists, leftists, and centrists is likewise anti-Iran. Nothing seems to unite these disparate factions that the threat of nuclear holocaust.
Nuclear holocaust. One holocaust wasn’t good enough? Puts a different spin to things, doesn’t it? Does it change your mind on how we ought to approach the issue? if Iran does nuke Israel…how will you feel if you did nothing to stop yet another senseless holocaust against the Jews? It boggles the mind, it really does, how such a small minority of people brings out so much hatred.
But Israel will survive. I know it. And America will never leave Israel stranded. Our destiny is tied with Israel’s.
Israel just concluded its elections, which were triggered when Ehud Olmert of Kadima had to step down. His successor, Tzipi Livni, could not form a government, triggering elections.
Many people expected Likud (under Binyamin Netanyahu) to win. Many more wanted Likud to win. Likud did not win. Instead, Kadima won by one seat (28 to Likud’s 27). And although this means that Tzipi Livni of Kadima will be tapped by President Shimon Peres to be the next prime minister of Israel, due to the fact that her party won the most seats in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), a complication arises. The prime minister must obtain the support of a majority of the Knesset to form a governable cabinet. Because of Israel’s multi-party system, no one party usually forms that governing bloc: there must be cooperation and support from other parties. According to the numbers, if all the left-of-center parties were to support Kadima, Tzipi Livni would not be able to form a governable coalition. The rightist bloc overwhelms the leftist bloc.
But to complicate things more, there is a kingmaker: the despised and reviled Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu. In a shock to most observers, Yisrael Beiteinu, a party often labelled as “far right,” got the third-most number of seats: 15. Even Labour, often one of the two most influential parties, got only 13. Lieberman has to choose whether to support Bibi of Likud or Tzipi of Kadima. His support will determine which of the two can form a governable coalition. And whom he will support will depend on who gives him most of what he wants. He knows he’s in a position of considerable influence, and he’s going to use this opportunity to the greatest extent that he can. This may be the only time Yisrael Beiteinu will have such influence.
Once Lieberman announces his decision, Peres will have to make a difficult decision. If Lieberman chooses Tzipi, Peres can choose Tzipi to form a government. If Lieberman chooses Bibi, Peres’s choice becomes even more difficult. He could choose Tzipi (because her party won the most seats) in hope that somehow – through whatever miracle of coalition-building – she will be able to form a government. Or he chould choose Bibi, because he may have a better chance to form a working coalition.
Nevertheless, any coalition that is formed will be full of special interests and privileges for the members of the coalition. Thus, the Knesset just may be forced to make decisions that may go against the best interests of Israel for the sake of pacifying a member of the coalition. If Yisrael Beiteinu is part of any coalition, its departure will mean an end to the coalition, so its demands will have to be met.
Seats to Israel’s political parties, from leftist to rightist:
Balad (Arab): 3
United Arab List (Arab): 5
United Torah Judaism: 4
Yisrael Beiteinu: 15
Jewish Home: 4
National Union: 4
Seats according to numerical order:
Yisrael Beiteinu: 15
United Arab List: 5
Jewish Home: 4
National Union: 4
United Torah Judaism: 4
If all leftist parties and Yisrael Beiteinu support Kadima: 71/120
If all leftist parties support Kadima, but Yisrael Beiteinu does not: 56/120
If all rightist parties support Likud: 65/120
If all rightist parties (except Yisrael Beiteinu) support Likud: 50/120
A lot of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims have been saying that the Palestinians are attacking Israel because Israel stole their land. Once Israel returns the land, the attacking will stop. This warmongering doesn’t solve anything, they say. In fact, they say it exacerbates the problem.
But this land-for-peace proposal – how well does it work? Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip and in return, what happened? Gazans began shelling Israel incessantly.
There is no evidence whatsoever that withdrawal brings any peace. One may argue that withdrawal simply encourages the Palestinians to attack Israel unprovokedly with impunity. This is what recent events have demonstrated.
Olmert has announced he is moving to resign after his party’s primaries. This may mean his successor as head of the Kadima Party could succeed him as prime minister. But I wouldn’t count on it.
Kadima was formed by Ariel Sharon (refuah hashalem aleih) to break free from the traditionally dominant parties, Likud and Labour. When Sharon became incapacitated before elections, Olmert became leader of the Kadima Party. As a sign of support for Sharon and his policies, Kadima was swept into power.
But Olmert was and is no Sharon. Many of his policies have been disastrous for Israel. He’s probably as dovish as the Labour Party.
After being unable to secure Israeli national security (including botching the recent Israel-Lebanon war), and making outrageous concessions, Israel may very well ditch Kadima and sweep Likud back into power.
Whenever Israel feels threatened, Likud wins. Whenever everything’s fine, Labour wins.
I’m looking forward to Olmert being out, replaced by either a smarter Kadimanik or by Likud. Israel has some work to do to reestablish deterrence, thanks to Olmert.
* haShem is what religious Jews use to refer to God
So, Ahmadinezhad has said he wants to get rid of Israel. And many preoccupy themselves with how, practically, Iran could accomplish it. Launching a nuke at Israel is considered so impossible that it is dismissed. (Then again, hijacking civilian passenger airplanes and crashing them into buildings was similarly dismissed.)
But Iran doesn’t have to launch a missile. All it has to do is give a nuke to Hezbollah, who is across the border from Israel.
Ever heard of a dirty bomb? Iran could be the first one to use it, through Hezbollah.
An event and issue that continues to generate considerable amount of debate is the assassination of General Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator before Musharraf. (There was a interregnum, if you will, of politicians between Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf.)
One day, all of a sudden, Zia’s plane blew up. To this day, there has been no conclusive finding as to who was responsible. Of course, the various people who would have wanted him dead makes pinpointing the culprit extremely difficult. Was it the Americans (and, if so, which entity therein)? The Soviets? The Indians? The Israelis? Other Communists? Afghans? How did they do it?
Although Zia-ul-Haq was instrumental in allowing the Americans to fund and supply the mujahidin in Afghanistan, who were fighting the Soviets, Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization of Pakistan posed a considerable risk to the greater stability of the region, not to mention how unwieldy he (and his Islamized nation) was getting. It would have made sense to off Zia-ul-Haq before he became more of a liability than an asset. (The example of Saddam Hussein demonstrates how this can become so, although the Americans then had no idea of such a scenario: if they did it and this was why, it was simple foresight.)
Zia-ul-Haq’s vital support for the mujahidin was crucial in letting the mujahidin drive out the Soviets, thus inflicting on the previously invincible Soviets and crushing blow, one which may be credited to contributing greatly to the unraveling of the Soviet Union and fall of the Soviet Communist empire. They would have had good reasons to want Zia-ul-Haq dead; taking out America’s ambassador to Pakistan at the same time would have also served their purposes. (But then was it military intelligence or the KGB that orchestrated the explosion?)
Zia-ul-Haq was a threat to India not only because he was an Islamist and Islamizing general (both of which contribute to a very unfriendly attitude to the secular or Hindu state) but also because of his efforts behind the scenes to secure the technology to built a nuke. (Although the groundwork was laid by Zia-ul-Haq’s civilian predecessor, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whom Zia executed, Zia was very instrumental in the nuke plan’s success and development. He saw it as “the Islamic bomb”, which many other Islamist and/or Muslim allies identified with and which led to their secret assistance to Pakistan’s nuke plan.) Perhaps they thought taking him out might stall the nuke plan, if not derail it, or would put a stop to the Islamization which was souring relations between Pakistan and India even more. Similar reasons and issues could determine why the Israelis would want to take Zia out.
Perhaps Afghan nationalists were upset with the constant encroachment of Pakistani or Pakistan-funded entities upon the sovereignty of Afghanistan, and they wanted no more of it and so sought to take out Zia. Perhaps Afghan Communists, smarting from the Soviets’ defeat and unable to do anything, sought to exact revenge by assassinating Zia.
No one knows.
Obviously, there is a whole plethora of theories (more often than not conspiracy theories) regarding who did it and why. And so such a state of affairs, which now exists to some extent with Benazir’s assassination, is nothing new to Pakistanis. (Indeed, such a state of affairs is not new regarding assassinations: consider the many theories and opinions regarding the culprits the motives thereof for the assassination attempts on Kennedy, John Paul II, Liaquat Ali Khan of Pakistan, and King Birendra of Nepal.) Whereas some assassination attempts, such as those on Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Reagan, Yitzhak Rabin are clear-cut with regard to culprits and motives (Hindu nationalists, Sikhs, Tamil nationalists, star-struck idiot, and Israeli far-right nationalist, respectively), others are not.
But in Pakistan, violence is simply a part of life, political or otherwise.
I saw Charlie Wilson’s War today. Now, it has been bashed, and some of that is justified, but it’s a great movie if you look over these bash-worthy elements.
In its fight against the evil Communists–and the movie takes quite some time making the case that the Russians were evil, evil indeed–it makes America and its cause for freedom and against Communism quite strong and powerful. Why, if one looks it at that way, this movie is actually pro-American. And it perhaps shows that only America is able to work out such complicated and seemingly impossible schemes to get what’s needed, what with Israel and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperating to defeat the Soviets. (There’s a funny scene of a spat between an Egyptian and an Israeli; what makes it interesting is that they agree to cooperate nevertheless. There’s also a scene about Zia-ul-Haq and his concerns about receiving aid from Israel.) It also shows that Americans of various types–an ultra-rightwing ueber-Christian woman and a slutty, drug-using Democrat politician–can unite behind a good cause.
After many scenes showing how the Afghanis are simply being slaughtered by the Soviets, the scenes begin showing how the Afghanis take down the Soviets. Along with it is a most unexpected chorus in the background: “And he shall purify the sons of Levi that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness” (No. 7, Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah, a quote from Malachi 3:3). Here’s a YouTube presentation of that chorus.
It also teaches us a lesson: consider the long run. It shows how we were reluctant to rebuild Afghanistan after the Soviets left. Part of it was understandable: we were quite busy rebuilding former Communist Europe as well, so Afghanistan was small fry. But that unwillingness cost us: it opened the door for the Islamist takeover of Afghanistan. And Wilson did make a good point: we could not claim victory for the Soviet defeat because our assistance was covert, and revealing our assistance would have negative repercussions for many players. Nevertheless, our strategy has changed dramatically, what with our major focus now in Afghanistan and Iraq being rebuilding along with killing the bad guys. So we learned our lesson, I would hope.
It’s rated R for good reasons, dealing mainly with sexuality. But it is a good movie, funny at times, and moving in what we can accomplish.
Now, in discussions regarding Israel and its borders, people will have no choice but to bring up a thorny issue: the Territories. This refers to what Israel calls “Judea and Samaria”, what is known more commonly as “The West Bank” (that is, area on and around the west bank of the River Jordan), and what many Muslims and others sympathetic to the Arab claimants thereof call the “Occupied Territories” (that is, the (Arab) territories occupied by Israel as a consequence of the Six Day War in 1967). Some mistakenly may call it “Palestine”. (See note 1 below.) Others use “the Territories” to include the Golan Heights in the north and the Gaza Strip on the west; hereinafter “The Territory” will refer solely to the Territories of Judea and Samaria. Although theories and ideas have been floated to the effect that The State of Israel should or would withdraw from The Territory, in effect an uneasy division has taken place wherein The State of Israel maintains control and hold over Israeli settlements, upon key resources, and upon roads and the like, while the Palestinian National Authority maintains control and hold over Palestinian enclaves, which are necessarily separate from Israeli enclaves (in some cases, physically so). Often, the Israeli enclaves (called “settlements”) are considered a major obstacle in any peace process by which Palestinians are granted exclusive control over The Territory. The existence and spread of these enclaves necessitate The State of Israel to maintain a large amount of oversight and control and influence over the entire Territory. The only solution — so it is said — whereby The State of Israel would be able to fully withdraw and grant sovereignty to the Palestinians over the entire Territory is the dismantling of these enclaves and the total withdrawal of all Israeli entities or interests from The Territory. But this oversimplifies the actual reality of the situation: Israeli enclaves do not constitute the sole reason The State of Israel retains a vested interest in The Territory. There are two other reasons why The State of Israel ought to retain control and influence over The Territory: resources and the anti-Israeli plank of the Palestinian platform. Read the rest of this entry »
The whole deal with Farfour the Mickey Mouse look-alike and now Nahoul the Bee (Türkçe’de: Farfur Sıçanı ve Nahul Bal Arısı) may demonstrate some reasons why I have little pity or compassion for many Palestinians.
Such hatred — being taught to children, no less! — is simply unacceptable and is quite vile.
Such characters — or, rather, the tendency to use such characters to teach hatred to Arab children — also demonstrate some reasons why there will never be peace in that region: every generation is raised to hate (for example: the Arabs) or fear (for example: the Israelis).
If there is any vicious cycle, here it is. And the fault lies squarely on the Arabs: if they did not teach so much hatred, they would be able to co-exist with the Israelis.
So don’t shove that “co-exist” dreck down my throat: convince the spontaneously explosive Arabs first.
Although some characterize it as a curse, in reality “pulsa de nura” (Aramaic for “bolt of light”) is a prayer: it is a prayer beseeching God to deliver judgment on someone if that someone has sinned greviously against God. This is not taken lightly at all, and evidently even secular / atheist / agnostic / inactive / non-religious Jews dread it.
Many rabbis deny it exists. One Chicago rabbi published the text (as a PDF file) on his website, in order to dispell rumors about it.
The prayer is tied to Kabbalah (the real kind; in other words: Jewish mysticism or esotericism; to be more accurate, popular practical Kabbalah, which tends a bit to the superstitious side), and as such probably involves pronouncing or spelling names of God, petitioning angels, and so on. (I downloaded the PDF but have not read it; in any case, it would probably be in Aramaic, which I know very little of. Were it in Hebrew, I would have be able to make out what it meant.)
Evidently, the text for it is not easily found (probably because people fear misusing it: if misused, the person performing the prayer could be severely punished) or is not very common, but is used commonly in ultra-Orthodox circles against politicians they oppose. (As such, it would be found mainly in books circulating in ultra-Orthodox esoteric circles.)
But here is the puzzling part about it: there have been two well-known instances recently when pulsa de nura was used. The first time was against Yitzchak Rabin; he was assassinated within a month’s time. (I remember reading reports about the prayer, and then soon thereafter of the assassination.) The second time was against Ariel Sharon; he was felled by two major strokes within six months. (I remember reading about the prayer and expecting something very bad to happen to Sharon, all appearances to the contrary at that time. Then,…)
Although people dismiss these as simple coincidences, I don’t know if I am so sure about that. Even Sharon’s health was extraordinarily robust before he was mysteriously struck.
(I should do a post on Jewish esotericism: explain what it’s really about. None of this Kabbalah Centre nonsense.)
I will begin by saying that I am an ardent Zionist. From the perspective of international relations, the international state system which currently prevails, World War III, and Cold War II, as an ardent American exceptionalist (please see “American exceptionalism” by Wikipedia for information on this term I just found) it only makes sense to be a Zionist.
You must have heard that term, “Zionist.” It is often used pejoratively by many peoples of the world. But it is something we ought to be familiar with, if only because of its rôle in world politics.
What Zionism is depends on which phase one is considering. In its early, initial phase, “Zionism” referred to the belief that Jews ought to establish an atonomous presence. In the beginning, a prevalent interpretation concerned itself solely with the establishment of a polity, anywhere in the world, wherein Jews could exercise autonomy. But this aspect condensed to themes that had run through Jewish liturgy, belief, theology, religion, expectations, and history for millennia: the reestablishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Read the rest of this entry »
These days, we are somewhat wont to think of the Turks as friends of The West. What greater indication is there of their love of The West than their quite public desire to join us, via The European Union?
But there is more to Turkey’s relationship with The West than meets the eye. The state itself is very secular. The military, which essentially established the modern Republic of Turkey, is quite active in ousting Islamist governments or governments it thinks has not been secular enough. Even today, the Turkish military remains a very important and powerful part of the Turkish government. Compared to other Muslim states in the region, Turkey is very open-minded, liberal, and secular.
But, whether we or the Turkish military like it or not, Turkey has been going through an Islamization phase. Read the rest of this entry »
Many people in the Middle East…in fact, many people throughout the world believe that Israel is a puppet under the command of The United States. It is believed that Israel does nothing without The United States’ orders or, at the very least, permission. Such characterizations are most evident in anti-Israeli propaganda when Israel makes the unforgivable mistake of trying to save itself from hostile forces. Consider, for example, how the recent Israeli-Lebanon war was characterized as one between Israel and The United States on one hand and poor, amateurish, ill-equipped freedom fighters (that is, the terrorists of Hezbollah) on the other hand. Except for supporting Israel and agreeing to speed up arms deliveries, The United States had no role with or upon Israel whatsoever.
Shortly before the near-miraculous Six-Day War, Israel consulted with the government of The United States regarding its situation. The Government made it perfectly clear, with no unmistaken terms, that The United States would not support any preemptive strike whatsoever. Were Israel to be attacked by Arab forces (Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were mobilizing to attack Israel), The United States would rush to Israel’s support; but were Israel to strike first, Israel would be in the situation alone, without any help, assistance, or support from The United States. All this notwithstanding, Israel struck first, in essence discarding the stern warning from The United States’ government. Read the rest of this entry »
geoff of Uncommon Misconceptions has been doing an excellent job posting on what can be called the Second Cold War: the efforts of Russia and China to check, hinder, diminish, and threaten America’s influence (or, rather, that of capitalism and The West) just as The Soviet Union tried to do during the First Cold War. I do lament that this is something that has not been on the People’s mind lately. (Although I do know that certain agencies of the government have kept this on their mind, seeing it as a continuation of a traditional threat or issue rather than the resurgence of a new one.)
For more information, please read the following by geoff of Uncommon Misconceptions:
- “The real problem with Iran”
- “More on Iran and its relationships”
- “The Sino-Russian clubhouse, and guess who wants in?”
- His comment on “On the question of more troops – addendum”
Now, let us delve a little into international relations. Read the rest of this entry »
I will admit I feel guilty for laughing at this, but here it is anyway:
Of course these days, whenever they are anticipating a post-Allah-Akbar-event backlash, it is the Islamists and their supporters who claim to be the “new Jews.” We can only hope they should be so lucky.
From “What happens to those who take biblical stuff literally?” by AbbaGav of AbbaGav.
Vital Perspective writes: “Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says a new Palestinian government will not recognize Israel or accept a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.” (Do read the rest of the short post: “Hamas Says Unity Govt Will Not Recognize Israel or Accept Two-State Solution” at Vital Perspective.)
This is very bad news, and I suspect it means that a unity government will not be formed. Frankly, under pressure from certain allies of Israel in The West (namely, The United States), the international commuity will not accept any Palestinian government that does not recognize Israel or, at the very least, that does not recognize the two-state solution. The two-state solution is the foundation of Israeli-Palestinian relations and, indeed, the future of Israel and Palestine. Read the rest of this entry »
In the November 12, 2006, issue of Magazine of The New York Times, letters to the editors were published which had some very good points. I present them here with some comments by me. Read the rest of this entry »
In “So, how’s that peacekeeping thing going?”, HayZeus of HayZeus, Inc., links to a post, “The Gathering Storm, Redux” by Spook86 of In From the Cold, which discusses the situation between Israel and Lebanon. It is a good (though not very optimistic) read.
Two questions, if I may:
1. Would Hizbullah still be interested in taking on Israel considering Hizbullah’s claims that it suffered more than they expected in the last encounter? Or are such claims (as I suspect) simply propaganda to lull their opponents into a false sense of security?
2. How would a new Israel-Lebanon war benefit Syria and/or Iran? (I ask so as to figure out Syria and Iran’s intentions.)
I believe Hizballah was emblodened by what happened last summer, despite the losses it suffered at the hands of the IDF. Their rapid resupply strikes me as someone getting ready for an inevitable rematch, vice an organization looking for some sort of diplomatic settlement.
The potential benefits to Iran and Syria are enormous. By backing Hizballah, they get an eager proxy who can fight their common enemy, with little danger to themselves. Supporting terror groups in the Levant has always been Damascus’s favorite tool for putting pressure on Israel, and potentially forcing some sort of favorable settlement over the Golan. Creating a short-range problem also forces the Israelis to spend defense dollars on that problem, versus concentrating their resources on traditional enemies, i.e. Iran and Syria.
If there is a second Lebanese War, I don’t expect the Israelis to confine their operations to Lebanon. It makes no sense to allow Iranian transports to land in Damascus, offload military hardware and return to Tehran for another load. Israel must devise a military strategy for crushing Hizballah, and neutralizing Syria as well–no small feat. Once those issues are resolved, they can focus on Iran. Meanwhile, Tehran has to decide how far they want to go in supporting both Hizballah and Syria. Currently, the Israeli nuclear deterrent, coupled with weaknesses in Iran’s conventional forces, limits what they can do.
(With thanks to HayZeus for bringing this to my attention, and to Spook86 for such a great post and for answering my questions so well.)