Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Regular readers know that I have occasionally posted emails from an anonymous Israeli professor of political science, emeritus, at Hebrew University. The latest from the "professor at war" is decidedly "half empty." Offer your comments below (and try not to obssess about the reference to The Lancet study).
If you cannot tolerate the mutterings of a depressed old man, do not read further.
Here in Israel we have finished with the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Succoth. It is "after the holidays," when the country goes back to work. Barring strikes, the universities will open in another week. The Knesset and government officials are back from vacation.
Given recent performances, here and elsewhere, we have little reason to look toward officialdom for anything good.
Close by, the IDF has been escalating in Gaza. It has killed a couple of dozen Palestinians in recent days, which for this little war is a lot. Why the increased action? Reports are that a substantial stream of weapons are coming over the Egyptian border, threatening to provide Hamas with the means to increase its violence. Some of that may be directed against fellow Palestinians in their low-level civil war. The IDF is doing what it can to minimize the damage to us.
More important than the fact of the weapons stream is its arrival despite agreements of Egypt, with European and American backing, to assure control of Gaza's border with Egypt.
And need we require any better indication about international cooperation than North Korea's explosion of a nuclear weapon? Years of diplomatic dithering produced that explosion, and the ultimate means of North Korea to resist the pressures that now seem to be on offer, weakened by Chinese and Russian efforts not to offend too greatly. The next chapter in this story is well along. The same international regime that produced success in Korea is stuttering about incentives and sanctions with respect to Iran, even while North Korea is earning some of its foreign exchange by selling weapons technology to that country.
And how good is the heroic regime headed by George W. Bush? Simple people cannot probe the innards of the estimates. However, reputable demographers are saying that his war to produce democracy has caused something in the range of 400,000 to 900,000 Iraqi deaths, with a mid-point of 601,000 as a likely number. Even if the minimum estimate is much higher than the true number, as hoped by the White House, the reality is far from a good sign. If this is an indication of going it alone in the pursuit of national security, it is hardly more commendable than international cooperation.
Close to this home the police are recommending the indictment of Israel's president for a series of sexual crimes. It is also likely that the police will recommend charges of attempted blackmail against one of the principal ladies in this story. Israeli women are not entirely virtuous.
There are political crises brewing for the Olmert government. Along with official inquiries about incompetence in managing the recent war in Lebanon and corruption in the highest places, the prime minister is pursuing an enlargement of his government coalition. There have been problems with his partners in the Labor Party, producing some issues about enacting a budget and other messiness.
Some are upset that the prime minister is considering bringing into the government a party that advocates land and population trading between Israel and Palestine, what some call racism and ethnic cleansing. What is also important for this accumulation of depressing news is that the party being enticed into the coalition wants a change in regime. On the table is a far reaching but sketchily conceived proposal to remake Israel's parliamentary regime into something like the American presidential regime. From all indications, the authors and supporters have not the faintest ideas about the differences between Israeli and American society, economy, and political practice, but that will not stop them. The Knesset that could choose as national president a serial sexual harasser, with a long history of activity, can do anything.
The one bit of Americana that attracts me is Rip Van Winkle. Could I really go somewhere and sleep for 20 years? By the time I awake--if I do--it should be too late for me to care about what is happening here or elsewhere.
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
I share the lack of enthusiasm for international diplomacy. It hasn't produced much relative to the states that wish to threaten America in specific and our civilization in general.
The current demand that we continue diplomacy despite its repeated failures is IMHO a function of denial.
Gaza is scary. We are seeing what unbridled hate can do to a group of people. It's ugly and I don't see any way out except via drastic means.
My goodness Israeli politics seem everybit as lively as ours. It would be more entertaining if the country wasn't surrounded by madmen bent on death and destruction.
Yes, the musings of a depressed old man, Just what I needed on a cold rainy Tuesday morning.
I an fully relate though I am youngish woman since I am also living in Israel.
Our politics are much livlier than yours. We have the vintage that we in the forefront of the so-called war on terror and it is pretty obivious that it will enter into another hot phase in our neighborhood pretty soon.