There is a lot of news hereabouts. The items may be threatening to individuals, but not, apparently, to the society. Indeed, some of them may help us clean a bit of the dirt that accumulates here, not all that different from other places.
We're still dealing with the soldier who killed a wounded and inert Palestinian who had tried to kill Jews. The IDF's prosecutors have reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter, and the military court--against the wishes of the prosecutor--has at least temporarily released him from a jail cell and confined him to base.
The Prime Minister telephoned the soldier's father, and told him that he should rely on military justice.
Opposition politicians and others are criticizing the Prime Minister for the action, saying that he was weighing in on the side of right wing supporters of the soldier, and should have left the family to rely on military justice without the PM's encouragement.
Bibi and Sara are again in the news, now for a suit of defamation against a journalist who reported that during a spat, while driving on a major highway in a motorcade, the First Lady caused the First Gentleman to leave the official number #1 car and find other transportation.
We don't know how true the story, but it fits what we have been hearing for years.
Two other politicians are in the news for suspicion of wrong doing. Each is the head of a political party, and the case of one has been elevated from a police inquiry to a police investigation. This involves Ariyeh Deri, head of SHAS, graduate of the Israeli Prison System, and perhaps destined for more time on the inside. Seemingly at issue is where the money came from that was used to buy a number of family homes. Suspicions are that it came from similar activities as put Deri in the slammer from 2000 to 2002.
Deri's supporters are playing the ethnic card, claiming that only a Sephardi politician must prove that he acquired money legally.
Labor Party (currently labeled Zionist Union) leader Yitzhak Herzog has so far been a subject of a police inquiry and not the higher level of police investigation. At issue with him is the management of campaign contributions used for his candidacy in a party primary. The suspicion is less incendiary than that about Deri. Israel's laws about political contribution are as complex and evaded as those of other countries. However, Herzog also has a history of less than good citizenship. He once took advantage of the right of silence rather than testify about another case of political mismanagement. His party is in an uproar over the possibility that one of his rivals for leadership leaked something to the police.
Labor once was the unchallenged leader of Israeli politics, but that ended in 1977. The party has not named the Prime Minister since 2001. Under its present formulation as Zionist Union, it has 24 MKs and has remained outside of the government coalition, led by Likud with as 30.MKs. A recent survey shows Likud declining to 26, seats, while Zionist Union declining more to 17.
A major weakness of Labor/Zionist Union, along with every other party to the left of center, is their commitment to dealing with the Palestinians, while too many Israelis see the idea as leading nowhere.
We're hoping that someone is working on the issue of Israel's natural gas, which may be kept under the Mediterranean until the government, the US energy company that drilled for it, and prominent Israeli investors agree on how to refashion their agreement after the Supreme Court ruled their existing agreement traif.
A youngish general, with a heroic war record, and thought of as a future Chief of Staff, is seeing his career on hold, and perhaps tanking, due to accusations of rape, with sounds of similar charges being made by others. He is claiming complete innocence, but reports from lie detector exams do not sound good.
Former President and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav has had a hearing before the parole board. His three hour presentation included assertions that he hurt no one, or at least did not intend to hurt anyone, and remains convinced of his innocence. There are petitions against granting a parole, as well as some who say that he has suffered enough, and is an ill and broken 70-year old. Conventions are that only people who admit to their crimes and promise to reform are granted parole. The board has put this hot potato on hold, with a decision due today, or maybe not.
We shouldn't forget Ehud Olmert, currently living at the state's expense in a secular VIP wing, due to requirements that former Prime Ministers are entitled to lifetime security protection, and out of concern for the secrets he knows. His companions are men also accused of making money illegally on the Holyland housing complex. Israeli prisons provide for the needs of religious prisoners, including jail house converts. Moshe Katsav is in a religious wing, where he and roommates spend much of their time studying Torah.
Things are looking a bit better on the Palestinian front. Knife attacks have declined, and a number of tunnels being prepared by Hamas in Gaza, meant to bring fighters into Israeli towns, have collapsed on those digging them. Suspicion is that the IDF has something to do with the tunnel collapses, but mum's the word. The IDF as well as other security forces have something to do with the decline in knifings coming mostly from Palestinian towns in the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem. There are no guarantees. If this wave is coming to an end, it may only be a matter of months or years till the next one. There has seldom been a lull in the efforts of Palestinians to kill Jews. Most of them end up hurting Palestinians.
Israeli officials are thinking about the chaos likely when Mahmoud Abbas ends his tenure as President of the Palestinian Authority (West Bank). His term formally ended in 2009, and he's not recognize as anything more than an interloper in Gaza. So it may be that the level of Palestinian chaos only increases marginally when he no longer pretends to rule. Whatever chaos occurs is likely to impact mostly on Palestinians, but spillover is likely. It's a small neighborhood, and the borders are indistinct.
Israelis generally seem unimpressed with both likely candidates in the US. It looks like a choice between flaky Hillary and who can guess what he's gonna do Donald. One of them will come after the twosome of GWB and BO, who have done as much as anyone to harm the Middle East. Something more than a million Iraqis and half a million Syrians have died during their presidencies, at least partly on account of their actions or inactions.
Some think that it's blasphemy to criticize the US. It's also useless.
There is great chaos over the border to the north in Syria and to the south in Sinai. Israel is trying to stay out of both, but working to assure intelligence and prepare contingency plans. Likewise with respect to the noise that hasn't abated from Iran. But all of that is for the inner circles, and not for a retired professor to know and publish.
The record of 70 years suggests that Israel will survive all of the above, and may even prosper. We know that history does not repeat itself, so caution is appropriate.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem