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The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Shana tova to you all. May the new year bring peace, health, prosperity, and many pleasures.
Currently it is quiet. We spent the most recent week bicycling around Leiden. Israel seldom made CNN, and our occasional efforts to catch the news short wave did not reveal much to worry about.
Of course, the big picture is less than rosy. The most recent polls show approval ratings for the prime minister and the defense minister somewhere below comparable figures for George Bush or Tony Blair. Binyamin Netanyahu has the most virtual votes for prime minister, and he is getting only 29 percent. The strength of parties in the Knesset, and the requirements for discharging a prime minister assure that the Olmert government will stay on, at least for a while.
Protests about the prime minister and the defense minister continue. Prominent are reservists who feel they were not well led, and the parents of reservists and regular troops who did not return from battle. Olmert is a well-known collector of fountain pens and real estate, and official inquiries are underway as to whether he received deals too sweet from political supporters who also happen to be involved in real estate. Journalists and the State Comptroller have also looked at gifts of expensive pens, but those have not been in the news lately. Real estate is weightier.
Eight former employees of the president have now made formal charges of sexual harassment or worse. The police say that the growing number of complainants will keep them busy for a month or more before they can report findings to the attorney general, who will decide about an indictment. The president's lawyers are saying that they are all lies. Newspaper cartoonists are not depicting a president who looks confident.
Much of the world remains antagonistic, to say the least. The Pope is also hurting. A simple phrase: There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger, will forgive all. He will be assured a place in a paradise, but may lose a job in the process.
Holland is a great place for bicycling. We saw almost no hills worthy of the name. Lots more peaceful cows than nervous Jews. Friendly help to tourists who could not match the scenery to the maps. Twenty-five years after the most recent peddling, the legs hurt a bit and the behind a great deal. The attached picture may not be appropriate for the season, but does capture the mood of the family.
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