Sunday, December 11, 2005


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, December 11, 2005

From Israel

Arlene Kushner
December 11, 2005

[] How nice to begin by writing about something up and cheerful: It's a boy -- of weight and name unannounced as yet -- born to a Thai elephant named Tamar at the Jerusalem zoo early Saturday morning. During my trips to the zoo, I have long been fascinated by the Thai elephants, gifts of Thailand some ten years ago. Asian elephants, smaller than African elephants, are an endangered species, and this baby, conceived by artificial insemination, is considered a victory for the preservation of the species. The elephants have three handlers (two Thai and one Palestinian, apparently) who remain with them at all times -- they are the only handlers who actually live on the zoo premises -- their presence keeps the elephants calm. The animals are kept busy via various routines, and are actually taken out of their compound for walks around the zoo. It's neat.

If you're planning a trip to Israel -- even if you have no children or grandchildren -- I suggest a visit to this marvelous zoo, which is so beautifully landscaped and such a pleasure to stroll through.

[] More good news: Yisrael Aumann, a religious man of extraordinary decency and a professor at Hebrew University, has won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his game theory and done the Jewish people and Israel honor. He hopes his theory can be applied to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

How I wish there were other news as upbeat as this, but, sadly, there is not:

[] Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, who was clamoring to become head of the Likud in the primary, has now decided to bolt his party and join Sharon at Kadima. Mofaz, who has not been doing well in the polls, had promised to stay in Likud no matter the results of the primary. His actions are politically obscene and politicians of every stripe are seeing it this way:

Likud MK Ayoub Kara: "...The mask has been removed from Mofaz's face, and he has been revealed as just another two-bit politician who is concerned only about himself."

Netanyahu (the frontrunner in the Likud race): "This gives new meaning to the word opportunism."

MK Avraham Poraz (Shinui): "...What he did is so degrading that I look around and wonder what it will cause the public to think about politicians in general..."

MK Zahava Gal'on (Meretz -- left wing): "Kadima is becoming a refugee camp for losers from all the other parties."

Ah! the question is when the public will realize that Kadima is composed of losers and will stop indicating to polsters that they would vote for this party. The fact that Kadima is doing well in the polls right now is a phenomenon that is totally beyond my capacity to comprehend.

I have been following Mofaz's career and decisions he's made as Defense Minister long enough so that I would not be shocked by anything he does -- it has been clear for some time that he is an opportunist.

There is only one issue of concern to me here: Sharon loyalists in Likud would have split their votes between Mofaz and Shalom. This gives Shalom a boost; his emergence as head of Likud would be a horror for the nation, for he and Sharon would manage things jointly. There are eight days until the Likud primary, and I pray that Netanyahu maintains his lead.

[] There are conflicting reports from the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz regarding whether the U.S. and other members of the Quartet are now pressuring Israel with regard to initiating the "free passage" route that Israel has balked on starting because the PA has not delivered on its end. How long will Israel hold out? This is a worrisome situation. It is Ha'aretz that says the U.S. is demanding we start the conveys as promised on time this week.

There is totally one-sided thinking on the part of members of the Quartet regarding Israeli "responsibility" for the economic viability of the Palestinians. We are supposed to give them jobs inside of Israel, and allow them to export their materials via Israel and allow them to travel back and forth over Israeli territory. While focus is on Palestinian economic needs, Israeli security needs are lightly dismissed. The argument is that if they have economic viablity the Palestinians will no longer present a security risk, but this is nonsense.

Even aside from their failure to deal with the issue of terrorism from their side, the Palestinians have failed in other ways that impinge directly on their ability to be economically viable, yet the Quartet cuts them slack and does not hold them accountable. There is, primarily, a breathtaking degree of corruption, so that money that should go to projects to help the people ends up in private bank accounts. There was the willful destruction of greenhouses built by the people of Gush Katif, which they were supposed to use, just as there was the willful destruction of other infrastructure (schools, for example) left behind. And then, as corollary, there is the loss of confidence on the part of potential international investors as a result of this wholesale destruction and the general chaos.
[] According to the Times of London today, "ISRAEL'S armed forces have been ordered by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, to be ready by the end of March for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military sources have revealed."

Israel is, of course, denying this. Would we acknowledge it? But here's a case of praying that indeed Israel is doing this.

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