Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Day After Winograd

The headline in the newspaper screamed, "PM: I am vindicated". Because the final draft of the Winograd Report stated what everyone already knew, and removed the bits that placed personal responsibility onto Olmert.

OK, so the report said that the army screwed up, every division and footsoldier is to blame for the failure to reach the objectives of the war. OK, so the army was taking orders from their military superiors, who were consulting with the cabinet and senior staff of the government of Israel. OK, the cabinet was taking orders from...the Wizard of Oz?

What the headline should have read, was "Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain".

Once again, Olmert has refused to take the difficult responsibility that comes along with the position of Prime Minister of Israel. If read accurately, the report would tell him that he and his appointed cabinet, along with the army brass, do not know how to run a war and come out victorious. Olmert and his government do not know how to protect the citizens who elected him into power, citizens who coincidentally are under threat of war and terror on a regular basis.

It is time for Olmert to pack his bags and retire.

Though the calls for his resignation have gone down from 68% (pre-report) to 53% (post-report), our Arabs neighbors have lauded the results, saying that Olmert is now even weaker in their eyes. Which translates to more rocket attacks on Sderot, and more terror infiltrations in Israeli territory.

We Israelis deserve better leadership.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Divine Intervension

Oprah Winfrey endorses Barack Obama.
JFK endorses Obama, apparently from the Great Beyond.

The day before the Winograd Committee Report is meant to be published and distributed, comes the promise of snow, which will shut down all of Jerusalem.

Leaving Olmert one more day to hold onto his tenuous power position. One more day that Ehud Barak of the Labour Party can pretend that he has the balls to leave the coalition and force early Israeli elections. One more day that Shas (the Sephardic Religious party) can whore themselves for money, in return for empty and corrupt leadership. One more day that the terrorists surrounding Israel can take advantge of our weak position and threaten our citizens.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Traditional Holidays

Since the founding of the State of Israel, there has been an effort on part of the "new" Israelis to re-define traditional Jewish holidays, more in keeping with a country trying to emulate the rest of the nations. And so I provide for you a chart of some of the major Biblical holidays, with their modern sensibilities.

Traditional Name: Chanukah
History: Macabees save nation from Toga party and jelly doughnuts
New Improved Name: Chag Urim (Festival of Lights)

(*This holiday sponsored by Toys R Us and all things oil.)

Traditional Name: Chag HaMolad (The Festival of the Birth)
History: Jesus, who was in fact Jewish, is born in a manger.
New Improved Name: Chag HaMishloach (Festival of the Take-Out Food, as modern Jews around the world celebrated by going to the movies and getting Chineese take-out)

(*This holiday sponsored by the GNP and Kung Pow Chicken)

Lag B'Omer
Traditional Name: Festival of the Trees
History: Agricultural New Year
New Improved Name: Chag HaYaar
(Festival of the Forest, have to think
Green and Global these days.)

(*This holiday sponsored by Al Gore: inventor of the internet, underrated American Vice President, Oscar winner and Nobel Prize recipient. What a guy! And by Keren Kayemet, the Israeli institution that plants trees, virtual trees in the Shmita year.)

Traditional Name: Festival of the Lot
History: Kidnapped Jewish Esther and Uncle Mordechai save nation and play dress up
New Improved Name: Chag HaShicorim (Festival of the Drunkards)

(*This holiday sponsored by AA and the junk food industry.)

Rosh HaShana
Traditional: Jewish New Year
History: All creation on their knees, begging for forgiveness, in between lots of festive meals
New Improved Name: Chag HaDieta (As in after the holiday, I will go on my diet)

Yom Kippur
Traditional Name: Day of Judgement
History: Holiest day of year where all creation assumes positive results of Rosh
Hashana, and celebrates by abstaining from all things fun. Except for the streets filled with children riding bikes, and roller blading, because they know they won't get run over by a car.
New Improved Name: Chag HaOfanaim (Festival of the Bike)
Alternative Name: Festival of the Massive Video Rentals because all TV and radio stations shut down for 25 hours.

(*This holiday sponsored by therapists, who are most concerned at the pattern of binge eating and fasting in Jewish culture and tradition.)

Traditional Name: Feast of the Tabernacle
History: To thank G-d for protecting us in the deser, though not asking directions for 40 years, Jews live in windy huts
New Improved Name: Chag HaDvorim (Festival of the Bees, who swarm looking for
warm Jewish food and honey)

(*This holiday sponsored by Christmas lights, bought on sale and used in the Succah.)

Traditional Name: The Time of the Giving of the Torah
History: Encounter with greatness at Mt. Sinai , celebrated by pulling an all nighter, like in college
New Improved Name: Chag Motzarei Chalav (The Dairy Holiday)

(*This holiday sponsored by the Israeli Dairy farmers, who are out to punish the Lactose Intolerant.)

Traditional Name: Festival of the Matzot
History: Starts with a four-cup wine feast, no bread for a week, and trust me, Matza is no substitute
New Improved Name: Chag Baayot HaIcool (Festival of Problematic Digestion)

(*This holiday is (a) Kosher for Passover (b) Kosher for Passover only for those who can eat Legumes (c) Kosher for Passover for those who cannot eat Legumes.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Olmert's Shrinking Coalition

With the loss of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by the Russian Lieberman, over "core issues," Ehud Olmert still has 67 seats in his coaltion, and claims not to be worried. He will continue to plow through his plans for Middle East Peace, giving away half the country at bargain prices to terrorists, and fulfilling the mandate of his Lame Duck poltical Daddy, George Bush.

Isn't it time (to rephrase a quote from American Presidential candidate, Ron Paul) that America stopped giving Israel billions of dollars per year, stopped treating this very capable 60 year old country like a teenager and providing us with a conditional allowance? How much longer does Israel have to abide by, "As long as you live in my house, young man, you will do what I tell you" ? When does Israel start to protect its citizens, without asking permission from the rest of the universe?

As proof of this argument, since Bush's visit last week, and Olmert's repeated press conferences in which he has promised to help build a Palestinian state within Israeli territory, the missile attacks on Sderot have increased exponentially.

The next in line to leave Olmert's coalition could be either the Shas party, who may have to look past the whoredom for seminary funds that is their modus operndi. Or the Labour party will be forced to leave the goverment once the Winograd Committee Report is published on January 30th. Either way, Israel will G-d willing be calling early elections, and will finally unseat the slick, power-addicted Prime Minister.

Which begs the question, which person of quality and commitment could step in and do a better job?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Countdown to Winograd

The Ehud Olmert-George Bush lovefest ends tomorrow, and thank G-d for that; as a resident of Jerusalem I am tired of the city wide "house arrest" that has been imposed for the duration of the American President's visit. This visit to the Middle East cost the American taxpayers $40 million dollars, and has cost Israel over 25 million shequel as well, because of the increased police presence and the closure of public transportation and businesses for three days.

It should be noted that Bush and Olmert did not visit Sderot, where citizens are bombed and under serious threat on a daily basis. Nor did Bush speak with Hamas in Aza, towards the goal of limiting terrorist activity or returning the three Israeli MIAs, kidnapped close to two years ago.
This trip involved sight-seeing and glad-handling, so that Bush's presidency would record one visit to this area - meeting with a weak Olmert and an equally lame Abbas -before his second term ends on the note of general miserable failure.

Once Bush leaves on Friday, Ehud Olmert will not be able to escape the impending publication of the Winograd Committee's report, a document that by all accounts and rumors will demand the immediate resignation of Olmert and many of his senior staff and ministers. Olmert, however, should not shoulder the consequences on his own.

At the very least his Foreign Minister and fellow member of the Kadima party, Tzippi Livini, should resign as well. Recent reports revealed that Livni had the opportunity, only one week after the kidnapping of the MIAs, to return two of the three men safely into Israeli hands, and she botched the negotiations. Now we don't have access to any information about these soldiers, the government cannot even state with certainty that they are still alive.

Ehud Barak of the Labour party has indicated that he may leave the coalition and force early elections. Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu of the Likud party has called for Olmert's resignation even before the final report becomes the main event, as the Prime Minister is already under suspicion in several criminal investigations. Olmert has responded by saying that he will "never" leave his office, and that as the person who made the mistakes cited in the report, he is in the best position to resolve them.

A leader in a democracy must take full responsibility for his errors, and cannot hold himself outside the law he claims to represent. Olmert must leave now, before he perpetrates any more damage on Israel and its citizens.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Saving the Planet...One Plastic Bag at a Time

(Another installment of Life in Israel)

A Chiropractic colleague of mine recently explained to me that his yardstick for choosing friends is the following: "I don't like people who litter." I exclaimed that surely there must be a higher moral or social characteristic that defines a worthwhile person, and he had me think about his definition. In fact, the people I choose to call friends, those I respect and admire and enjoy their company, do not randomly distribute garbage on the streets; and those whom I dislike are generally disrespectful to others, and to the Earth.

Israel began implementing two policies this week, plans that are meant to assist in the fight for Gaea's survival. The first incorporates a penalty against older less maintained vehicles whose fuel emissions don't meet modern standards, and add to the pollution in larger cities. But they haven't decided how they will enforce the new law, and so it becomes part of a running list of "laws without teeth."

The second initiative addresses the issue of plastic versus paper, and paradoxically, supermarkets are now charging clients extra if they choose to use recycled paper bags, rather than for the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. Most clients will not want to pay for the privilege of being eco-conscious, and so the planet will suffer.

Bravo for the backwards politics of a nation that could do so much better for itself and the environment, and falls vastly short.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Lame Duck Visits Israel

I gave the Israeli version of Survivor one more chance last night, and watched the agonizing episode. Luckily I had taped it, and was able to flip through the more tedious moments. I don't think I care who wins, in fact I hope they all get stuck in the Caribbean and don't return to Israel.

What I did notice while watching is that the behaviour of the Israeli contestants illustrate the basic flaws in our approach to a negotiation and settlement with the Arabs in our region.

Firstly, the players [in Survivor] seem to forget that this is a winner take all event, and instead, fought to keep the weakest player on board, while voting out another member of the tribe who could lead them successfully through physical challenges. Likewise, we Israelis try to apply Western values to a Muslim society which takes advantage of weakness. The more we try to give them, the more we say "they don't really mean to drive us into the sea," the more they will assail our land with bombs from the sky and terrorists from within.

Second, the Israeli Survivors talk too much, to the camera and to each other. They reveal too much of their plan to others, and the editors of the program do not have the common sense to leave out parts of the show that are noise and filler. The reason the American version of the television program works so well is because each episode has a formula, and it all fits into one hour, including commercials. On the local and international political negotiation front, we Israelis make the mistake of showing all our cards before anyone asks, we publish our secret plans on the front page of every newspaper, for all to read. It would not hurt us to selectively speak, and do more listening.

The long war that Israel and Jews have been fighting against the Arabs, and all those who would try to wipe us and our country off the map, boils down to one fact: in a winner-takes-all conflict, you lose by playing nicely with others. We must be proactive and offensive in our actions, we must protect our citizens first and foremost from those who have proven to be immediate and real threats. An idea that Prime Minister Olmert has failed to grasp, because he is too busy keeping himself out of jail.

Every other country on the planet would put their very existence and safety before others, that is a basic human right that Israel inexplicably denies itself.

Here's hoping that President Bush, when he visits Israel this week, can start to comprehend that Survivor reality.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mister Rogers on Relationships

Fred McFeely Rogers, known as Mister Rogers to the civilized world, was a calming and assuring presence in my life when I was a child. Even today, I find his simple approach to life comforting and totally on target. Reading his books as an adult, I feel like he still values me as a person, that he is speaking directly to me and my struggles.

That is the power of the man, and his words.

Given my frustration with the dating and marriage scene, I found this advice of his most helpful, and wish to pass it on to those readers who could use it:

"Love" is a word to use with care. It means many different things and can be expressed in many different ways. But I think it means that a person can grow to his or her fullest potential only in mutually caring relationships with other human beings.

Mutually caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in others' achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain. We need to accept the fact that it is not in the power of any human being to provide all these things all the time. For any of us, mutually caring relationships will also always include some measure of unkindness and impatience, intolerance, pessimism, envy, self-doubt, and disappointment.

Love doesn't mean a state of perfect caring. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now - and to go on caring through joyful times and through times that may bring us pain.

May the new year bring us all joy, and the love that we need in our lives.