Two items that seem much different have in common a capacity to teach us something about politics.
Politics, and the government associated with it is a messy business, even while essential to civilization. It ain't easy to serve numerous and contrasting purposes at the same time, and a common result is static.
The static associated with the bus stabbing may be more painful for those injured, but the screeches from the White House suggest a bit of pain from that direction as well.
To summarize for those who don't notice what really is important in their world.
1. On Wednesday a Palestinian, illegally in Israel, sought his revenge for Israel's recent operation in Gaza and insults by Jews against al-Aqsa mosque by getting on a local bus in Tel Aviv with the crowd at rush hour, then began by stabbing the driver and other passengers, left the bus along with panicked passengers and stabbed a few more before being shot and subdued by prison guards who happened to be in the area. Twelve people were injured, four of them seriously, but none is likely to die.
2. Also on Wednesday, the US Congress announced that Benyamin Netanyahu would be addressing a Joint sessino of House and Senate two weeks before the Israeli election, in the context of disagreement between the Republican majority and the White House on sanctions/negotiations/
concessions to Iran on the subject of its nuclear program. The White House and State Department expressed upset about an improper protocol, even while saying that the Israeli Prime Minister was always welcome to speak in the United States.
Israeli media devoted much of a day to the bus stabbing with its well established routine of interviewing individuals who were injured, had to flee amidst the panic, or happened to be near. Politicians expressed themselves, with the Prime Minister going beyond others and saying that it was the fault of incitement from Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas, and extremist Israeli Islamic preachers, with hints of accusation at naive Americans, Europeans, and Israelis who think that Abbas is anything but a leader of terrorists who could be a partner for peace.
The stabber's uncle said that he was a nice, quiet man, who is not likely to have said what investigators say that he said about revenge.
The problem associated with the stabbing derives from the perpetrator's ease in coming into Israel illegally from the West Bank. The borders are supposed to be closed to all except those with permits, presumably given only to individuals who are not security risks.
But there are Palestinians who find a way to get here, most of whom only to work. Employers risk charges for taking on those without the appropriate papers, but it's a way to get cheap work where there is a shortage of legal applicants. Americans are in a similar situation when they insist on halting illegal immigration, but don't pay attention who is cutting their grass, washing their car, or cleaning dishes in the restaurants they patronize.
Israelis demand safety, but they also want someone to do the dirty work, as cheaply as possible.
Now they are having another lesson about competing wants.
Involved in the issue are the checkerboard nature of Jewish settlements and Arab land in the West Bank, and court cases brought by Palestinians and Israeli civil rights activists against planned sections of the physical barrier. Officials have praised individuals who acted against the Palestinian in the most recent violence, and have urged greater vigilance by civilians, police, and other security personnel.
There is not likely to be a hermetically sealed border, with patrols complete enough to keep out individuals intent on violence.
Israeli commentators are wondering about Netanyahu's speech before a Joint Session of Congress. Will he stick his finger in Obama's eye as another tit for tat in their intense disagreements about Iran's nuclear intentions and a peace process? Will the timing give him a bump up in the Israeli polls prior the election? Will it contribute tangibly to Israel's safety with respect to Iran, or hurt Israel with respect to security cooperation with the United States?
Those who think that the speech will be an offense to domestic American politics have not noticed that there hasn't been any solely domestic American politics, at least since the end of World War II. If the US asserts itself as a world leader, then it opens its institutions of government, media, and pressure groups to figures from the world who seek to influence what is likely to affect them. Especially eligible is a leader like Netanyahu, whose English is as good as most Members of Congress, whose supporters include several million Americans, and whose personality and national problems appear frequently in American media.
Call it another element of globalization. The phenomena of US domestic politics, fortress America, and politics stopping at the water's edge ended long before 9-11, the global reach of the President's agenda, and 24 hour coverage of the world by US media.
Still hanging is what Netanyahu will say in Congress and associated interviews with media personalities, and how he will say it. How sharp will his focus be on the nuclear threat of Iran, the naivete of the Democratic White House and State Department about international issues, and how much will the speech be tailored to his Israeli election campaign?
The White House tats for Bibi's tit were to announce that neither the President nor the Secretary of State would meet with him during his visit to Washington (ostensibly to avoid involvement in the Israeli election campaign), and to release a report that a ranking Mossad official urged Senators not to harden sanctions against Iran, in order to keep the Americans' diplomatic efforts on course.
Then the an Israeli tat was to announce that the White House had misquoted the Mossad official. The official had indicated that organization supported strict sanctions on Iran.
Bibi's opponents in the Israeli election campaign began to squawk minutes after they heard about the planned speech.
There'll be lots of talk between the Prime Minister and his advisers, and a good deal of consultation with Americans about the details. We'll all hear leaked portions of the speech before it is delivered.
A lot can happen until the speech. The IDF is beefing up its forces in the north and positioning anti-missile batteries in anticipation of something from Lebanon, Syria, and/or Iran. Jewish institutions in the Diaspora ought to be checking their own security. Yemen is boiling along with continuing chaos in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and Nigeria, each with their own problems, but with implications for Israel and the US.
Wonder of wonders-- even Thomas Friedman is chastising (coming close to ridiculing) the Obama administration for its reluctance to identify extremism with Islam.
The US Government ordered all of its employees to avoid venturing within two kilometers of Israel's borders with Lebanon or Syria, and to avoid riding on buses within Israel.
That'll keep 'em safer than Israeli civilians, provided that they also stay away from the Damascus Gate after nightfall, Isaweea and a few other neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and don't have too many drinks before they drive.
It'll be easy to ignore it all, but it's stuff like that which affects our politics. And with all its mess, like it or not, politics and governing are the heart of our civilization. Recognizing the mess, and coping with it, is what separates us from barbarians who kill those who depart from their holy writ.