Thursday, December 29, 2005

KICless... for now

In light of my heavy commitments to study for the law exams of the Israeli Bar Association, I am taking an extended break from the KICblog and will not be running further sessions in Israel for groups until April 30th 2006.

It has been a busy week. On Sunday night I drove to and from Tiberias to run a session with Philadelphian teenagers on Israeli Current Affairs and the upcoming elections. On Tuesday night, I provided Israel Advocacy Training to the Bnei Akiva MTA group of Australians and South Africans in Jerusalem. There are also still two upcoming units as part of the advocacy course that I will be teaching to the Ambassador students in the USA.

My last two lectures before this study leave will be for two AUJS groups (one in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem) where we will discuss the Israel-World Media Relationship. For the first time in 3 years, I will not be facilitating this semester's weekly Current Affairs evening at Ulpan Etzion for new immigrants.

In the meantime, it is my hope that a KICcolleague will be maintaining and contributing to the KICblog. He will continue to provide a means of keeping yourself current and I encourage you to continue the online debate of the issues at hand in Israel. Only through talking can we learn from each other and build bridges and he is likely to provide plenty of food for thought.

I look forward to working with your groups again from April 30th and I do hope that we will continue the KICing together here too at that time.

Have a great start to 2006 and keep it current!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rocket Attack on IDF base

In the last 20 minutes or so, we are receiving reports of a Qassam rocket that has injured IDF troops at a base outside Gaza. Among those injured are senior officers from the Givati Brigade. (This is not the first time this week that an IDF base has been hit).

We'll have to wait and see the extent of the injuries caused but at this stage one would have to assume (to no surprise) that the government's fascination with using diplomatic pressure on the Palestinian Authority is not causing any reduction in Qassam fire.

I am well aware of Abbas' apparent 'weakness' within in his own people at this time. None of this however should encourage us to overlook the clear and present dangers that exist. We were promised that Disengagement would bring separation from these people who wish to harm us. In fact, it appears to have brought us ever closer to them, or them to us. (I distinctly remember that the orange anti-D team predicted that removing the Gaza Jewish communities would bring the terrorists to those abandoned areas and hence make the distance between launching pad and Israeli centers even smaller - and more enticing).

As the rockets fly ever closer to causing death and disaster in Ashkelon (and in other towns nearby), the question must be asked - when oh when is enough in fact enough? Are we truly determined to completely destroy the IDF deterrent factor? Must we wait for death to come knocking?

I'm not in for wide-scale bombings of Palestinian towns but the terrorists do in fact fire from within dense populated areas - they fire from their homes into Israeli homes and IDF bases. Something in our response doesn't add up.

Maybe it is time for some regrettable but notably non-violent communal punishment. If your home and business were without electricity or water for a few hours a day, wouldn't you demand that your cousin stop launching attacks? In a normal society this unfortunate means might bring this end. In the Palestinian areas... you tell me!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

KICing the BBC (and others)

Last night (Tuesday) I led a live Web Conference online with a class at the American Hebrew Academy in North Carolina, USA. As well as learning about Israel's current political landscape and reviewing the online Ambassador Course that we are involved in at this time, I gave them the opportunity to analyze and respond to several pieces of cruel media magic.

In this post, you can see one of the misleading cartoons that I presented online. It was published in Brazil after Sheik Ahmed Yassin's death. He was the founder and spiritual leader of the Hamas terror group that still maintains its rocket fire and homicide bombings against Israel to this day.

At the time of Israel's removal of Yassin, world leaders did their very best to defend this arch-terrorist. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw went as far as to question how Israel's assassination of an old man in a wheel chair would benefit Israel and called it unlawful. Ironically, his assassination and that of his replacement Rantisi provided a new deterrent factor in the conflict and was the main cause of a great reduction in terror that followed for months afterwards.
Like many world leaders, Jack Straw had the chutzpah to back Israel's right to defend herself while expressing outrage at Israel's doing so. Very very strange indeed. (Still, you can't blame them when our own Shimon Peres called it a "misguided decision").

This damage to Israel's image is of course multiplied a thousand times over by the intentional misleading of viewers by media organizations like the BBC. I think this recent revelation that has sprung up from within internal BBC staff mailings gives us full insight into why BBC reports are so terribly bias and prone to explain away the carnage and cruelty that is Palestinian terrorism - oops I mean Palestinian armed protest. It explains why anti-Semitic and dishonest cartoons like this appear worldwide as soon as Israel seeks to defend herself.

If you did not find the courage to click on the link above, I do encourage you to do so. The BBC editorial instructions there reflect a deeply cemented desire to placate Islamic terror and I ask you to direct people to this KICpost so that they can also be made aware. Tom Gross gives us some further insight into the BBC trail of misdemeanors here.

Through its current instructions to staff and its subsequent reports to viewers, the BBC has succeeded in losing all semblance of moral bearing and in attempting to keep the Moslem world and justifiers of terror sitting happily in front of the box, they have proven themselves to be an unreliable, extremely unjust reporter of news.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Fork in the Road

Exit polls are indicating a large victory for former PM Benyamin Netanyahu in today's contest for the Likud leadership. It's not too unexpected of course but for some time, there has been a hint of optimism in the Silvan Shalom camp.

The two men represent two very different faces of the Likud. Foreign Minister Shalom focused on demonizing Netanyahu, Feiglin and Landau as too right-wing for the electorate and as extreme elements that will cause further shrinking of Likud support. He knows too well that unless the Palestinians kill too many Jews in the next three months, the majority of Israelis will go forward with Kadima (excuse the very intentional play on words) and re-embrace Sharon's "there is noone to talk to on the other side" policies which are bound to bring us a sequel to Disengagement #1.

Having been Foreign Minister for some time now and having played in the office corridors of the most powerful world leaders, Silvan Shalom feels nice, warm and fuzzy about the apparent shift in opinion and 'support' of Israel since Disengagement. He wants this to continue and sees it very much Sharon's way - that is, "we are not giving in to the Palestinians - we're giving up on them". In simplier terms, we can't live with them so we're separating ourselves from them - with or without a bilateral peace agreement.

He's not wrong is he? And is Sharon? Probably not. We do need to separate from those who wish to harm us and without a doubt, we gain nothing by overseeing the lives of others. I've lived here the entire brutal length of this Palestinian campaign of terror and frankly I've had enough of their crying games packaged together with steel bolts and nails strapped to the chest. We don't need to host them anymore and they could do with some scope to make lives for themselves.

OK, so you call me weak? Has Sharon turned soft? Or maybe, just maybe, the reality is that much of the country no longer wants to gift Hamas and co with the honor of controlling our lives - our every move, fear and emotion. Maybe, unilaterally, Kadima and the Shalom side of the Likud (among others) wish to take back Jewish destiny into their own hands. Nothing wrong with that now is there?!!

There being nothing wrong with wanting to keep the Palestinians away from us, why did the Likud choose Netanyahu? Simply, as I see it, because Bibi represents a little bit of something that is illustrated by the Uzi Landau approach. Sure, the former Finance Minister waited till time was right for him (only!) before he stood up against Disengagement but yet he still projects this confidence and this ability to convince the crowds that we must stand tough against terror and refuse to give ourselves over to the whim of a world that would happily allow a militarized terrorist Palestinian state to be developed next to Israel.

The crowds he has convinced so far are the Likud ticket holders. He will have to sit with the greatest strategists in the world now to decipher how to convince the Israeli people that this is not the time for further concessions and for the desired (far from perfect) default option - unilateral separation. How indeed can Netanyahu project the scraps of the Likud as responsible and correct in demanding reciprocity and an end to terror before any consideration of land-based compromise?

Personally, I'm a big advocate of reciprocity and of our demands for quiet. I'm constantly amazed that the world does not demand the same from the Palestinians. Yet, I'm conscious that Israelis (myself included) are fed up with guards on cafe entries and guards roaming bus stops. I've given up on the idea that Palestinians will use our concessions to build a fresh life for themselves and I'm convinved they'll continue to use goodwill work permits and hospital treatment as a means to carry out terror attacks. No doubt, they will also waste food and clothing money on trying to extend rocket range toward power plants and the like in Ashkelon.

Which leaves me where I was before the results of the Likud leadership race arrived. As Freddie Mercury once famously sang: "I want it all and I want it now". Unfortunately that's not an option in Israel. Sitting as I do, straddled across the sharp and painful Israeli-made political fence is becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

If I Have Said It Once...

Well, if I've said it once, I've said it a million times. (I've posted it several times here recently)... Three months is a very very very long time in Israeli politics. Ask those Labor and Likud MKs who fled their parties to jump on the Sharon party boat. For some time now, commentators have been talking about what would happen to Kadima if King Arik was unable to compete in the next election. And here we are. Figures like Mofaz, Peres and Ramon (just to name a few!) sweating on the unknown results of Sharon's MRI after his sudden health scare tonight.

The road to Elections 2006 could not get any longer, could it? With Sharon hospitalized (even for a minor stroke), Gazan rockets now within a stone's throw of Ashkelon's vital industrial zone and countless attempted and successful terror attacks, you should set your watches to Israel time and get ready for a most uncomfortable but fascinating ride through modern Jewish history.

If you're feeling lost already, consider joining this brand new online Israel Elections 2006 course hosted by the eAcademy of the Jewish Agency for Israel. We all need the best preparation we can get!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Jewish & Israel Blog Awards 2005

Time to have some voting practice before the more daunting decisions of March 2006. Have a look here and nominate your favorite blogs under different categories - including 'Best Israel Advocacy Blog' and 'Best Politics and Current Affairs Blog'.

Meantime, have you thought of adding a link to the KICblog from your site/blog? Always appreciated!

KICing Ahead & Writing Back

Over the past week, I have been up to my ears in KICsessions. I can't complain - it's a sure sign that the KICinitiative has an important role to play in Israel education.

As well as currently teaching an online Israel Advocacy course for the American Hebrew Academy in North Carolina, I have also provided three sessions of Israel Advocacy Training for the AUJS Academy groups from Australia and New Zealand. Next week I am off to a Tiberias hotel for a session with Philedelphian teenagers and then a further two sessions in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

It's an exciting time for me and has cemented my belief that this KICblog and KICsessions can provide a forum for helping Jews and other Zionists who face tremendous anti-Israel or provocative challenges from overseas media or on campus and the like. For this reason and to help keep themselves current, many KICparticipants are signing up to this blog and receive an email each time I post. (You can register above, on the top right-hand corner).

I would like to use some of my posts as an opportunity to provide advice and appropriate responses to criticisms of Israel. In the coming months, my colleague Ashley Perry and I will be establishing a new branch of KIC which will operate around-the-clock online support to those who support Israel. We will keep you updated with progress in that regard.

In the meantime, you will notice the new live comments area on the right side of the KICblog. A man called Hugh Steadman has been raising some questions about Israeli policy and I feel it is appropriate to respond to him in this space.

I would welcome other's comments on Hugh's questions and I encourage readers who wish to raise issues to do so in that live comments area or in the regular comments section below.

Hugh's comments can be read in the live comments area on the right side of the KICblog. Here is my response at this point:

Hugh - the security barrier is indeed an unfortunate invention
which became necessary after countless horrific terror attacks in
restaurants, buses, nightclubs and on roads around Israel. In a
perfect world, we would enjoy peace that actually meant peace. Walls are not a perfect
peaceful answer. Noone denies that.
However, where possible the fence has been built on
the 'green line' and only dips into West Bank disputed territory for security
needs (as a result of terror) and to include large Jewish areas which will remain under Israeli

The Israeli High Court of Justice has proven Israel's solid
democracy and justice system in passing decisions that back Israel's right to
build the fence but has ruled that in certain areas the fence must be shifted in
order to lessen the detrimental effect on Palestinian life. Israel has followed these
orders and there are great delays in building the life-saving fence while we await deliberation over further applications to the Court.

It should be remembered at all times, that while the anti-terror fence may indeed cause distress and inconvenience to some Palestinians, this does not even begin to compare with the death and destruction which would unfold daily on Israeli streets should the fence still not exist at all.

As for your other point, a blanket condemnation of house and
orchard destruction overlooks the fact that houses are destroyed when
they are used for terror bases or locations from which to launch attacks.
The same is said for destruction of olive groves and the like from which
Palestinians have shot at civilian vehicles and then escaped. Wanton
destruction without reason however is unacceptable and I could not condone

I hope this clarifies these issues.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Likud Burning?

In the midst of my scanning the internet for reports on the London dramas, Shaul Mofaz has suddenly announced that he is off to Kadima too. This is a big blow for the Likud, as if they weren't already down for the count after the first rounds of this painful election contest.

This almost predictable and yet somewhat pathetic move by the Defence Minister sums up my respect for Uzi Landau you see. How can Mofaz stand a few days a go and say publicly: "I'm committed to the Likud. I'm staying where my home is and I'm going to lead the Likud to victory".

Where is the loyalty, the fight and the dedication? Is it possible to really know where any Israeli politician stands on any issue right now?

Here was Mofaz, considered a strong proponent of security and a Sephardi Jew from a working class background. He was said to have the only real chance of beating Bibi to the head of the Likud. Only he might have been able to attract mainstream Israelis, working class, Sephardim and even some religious folk back to the Likud.

Now Mofaz is gone too.

I can't decide whether the right-wing of the Likud is alienating its brothers (like Mofaz, Hanegbi etc) or whether Sharon and friends have simply changed their minds about the road to peace. Without a doubt, Kadima's policies are not in line with the traditional Likud and certainly not in line with what Sharon promised the electorate in 2001 and 2003. So maybe it was and is best that those who are truly 'rebels' find a new home to call their own.

As I see it though, I wouldn't worry about the Likud yet. (If their demise doesn't bother you then no need to worry anyway...)
There is a lot of dirty filthy water to pass under the bridge yet and probably some nasty Palestinian terror gangs will have a go at sending the electorate back rightwards. That's almost a ridiculous certainty!

For now then, a KICprediction. Of all the friends of Sharon that remain at the helm of Likud (and in the leadership battle), I predict that Silvan Shalom, the current Foreign Minister, will be the next to jump headfirst into the Kadima melting pot of a million ideologies. The Likud "needs someone who can return the Likud to the nation and I can do it," Shalom said. "The Likud is my home and it's a way of life for me. I'm sorry about anyone who leaves the Likud." (Jerusalem Post)

Shalom stood by Sharon throughout the Disengagement and no Mofaz-like words of dedication of "my home is in the Likud" will convince me that he'll stay around to fight for his home if he can't see himself winning that home for himself.

It is just such a shame that there is no consistency in what one Israeli leader says from week to week. How can we even begin to think about which party to support in the March elections when there is so much ship-hopping?

Democracy is a wonderful thing, but there has to be some semblance of leadership shown and some earnest commitment to the voter. Sadly, in Israel's party list system, there is little scope for voters to 'reward' or 'repay' individual Knesset members for their honesty and integrity or lack thereof.

London Burning

Initial reports are of 200 feet high flames at oil terminals and fuel depots. Reports that I have read include witnesses who saw a plane fly into one of the structures. Another London terror attack? A pilot's error? Aeroplane malfunction? (Shaking my head in disbelief at the state of this planet).

I will update this posting as details become clearer.
UPDATE: Reports of 8 dead. UK police saying there's nothing more sinister than an accident involved here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Uzi Misfires

With funerals taking place in various Israeli towns and as the Iranian military rehearses for 9/11: The Sequel, it's likely that Uzi Landau's decision to quit the race for the Likud leadership will be swept under the proverbial carpet. He was never expected to win but I believe he stood for something peculiarly rare today in world politics.

Here was (still is) a man with real and honest intentions. Throughout the planning and execution of Disengagement, he led the battle against the Sharon-led plan to take the IDF and Jewish communities out of the Strip and Northern Samaria. He led what was cynically named "The Likud Rebels" against all odds and in the face of a career threatening loss and embarrassment. That may yet unfold as we witness Likud's slip in the polls.

He often advocated his views quietly and other times with vigor. But whenever Uzi wore orange, he did it with forthright courage, pure intention and without consideration for personal gain. I was impressed.

Here is a man who will probably never appear at the peaks of the Israeli political command because he in fact represents the qualities I have mentioned. Often politics is not the place for the soft spoken, intelligent and honest human being. Uzi Landau probably doesn't have that arrogant, self-serving streak in him that might make him a winner on the election campaign. It is a damn shame that this is so often required in order to be a political force, in Israel and the world over.

Landau's decision to step back from the fray and back the confident Netanyahu might well please the righter end of the Likud. His decision might also be a further illustration of his willing self-sacrifice for the perceived greater good. In my view however, it does put a little chink in the Landau armor. A Matan Vilna'i attempt to steer Shimon Peres over the finishing line in the Labor primary did similar damage to Vilna'i's image and did nothing for the man he hoped to help.

It's a great disappointment for me that Uzi chose to give in and back a man who could not find the courage to stand up for orange when it mattered. Netanyahu's policies have wavered in the past and he straddled painfully across the fence until his resignation from the Government meant nothing to anyone but himself.

I only hope that should Likud have any place in the next governing coalition, that Uzi Landau is welcomed to the Cabinet table with his straightforward, honest and brave beliefs and approach to public life.

You don't have to agree with the man nor paint your pets orange. The way I see it, Uzi Landau did not reject Disengagement for arguments sake only. I believe that Uzi Landau in fact represents all Israelis, all of us who desire peace with our neighbors and I believe that he can lead the way for many of us who desire reciprocity and courage from the Arab side.

Landau has what to offer this country and I hope he will be given a realistic spot on the Likud list and a role in future Israeli policy making.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Netanya Terror Attack

Not just Qassams from Gaza but back to hitting major Israeli cities and shoppers with human wrecking machines. The Netanya terror attack that occurred just minutes ago is another reminder that 'strength through restraint' can only work if Israel Intelligence networks can stop each and every attempted attack. With tens of warnings every day, we do well but it's impossible to stop everything.

Similar to Mofaz' return to targetted killings in Gaza, so now we can expect a renewed anti-terror campaign in the West Bank. It is clear however that election campaigns play a part in such policies and Sharon will now have to prove to the average centrist Israeli that he can still engage with terrorists as well as he disengages from land. When I said yesterday that there's a long, long way to go before we vote, I wasn't kidding. The insane Palestinian efforts to lose another opportunity for a peaceful solution have them lining up with Hezbollah, Iran and others to make this election even more vital for Israel.

Shame isn't it, that just weeks out from PA elections, terrorists (even those who come from Abbas' Fatah who are claiming this attack as their own), are doing their best to force Israel to close territories, restore checkpoints and restrict the ability of Abbas and crew to organize a democratic and efficient electoral system.

At least 4 dead at this time. Sadly, as we know too well here in Israel, the numbers always rise steadily as the minutes pass.

Shame, shame, shame.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

We're Just Starting

Just when you thought we could loosen the belt a little, relax and get stuck into some horrifically fattening sufganiyot sold all over the country for weeks leading up to Chanukah, our nearest and dearest politicians have given us plenty of other food for thought (and heartburn!)

But then, never count your chickens till they're kashered because as well as fighting of calories we might well be dragged into strong retaliation for what is fast becoming a ridiculous expression of weakness as our leaders allow Israelis (not settlers even!) live in fear of injury and death.

Sharon has 'always' claimed that restraint is a sign of strength. Good on him! At times, it can be the safer, wiser tactic. Frankly now, it's looking like insanity. We should not have to wait to funeral time before the IDF is given a greener light to defend Israeli citizens. I'm not advocating willy-nilly missile fire into crowded Palestinian cities but if that's where terrorists cynically choose to fire them from, the difficult questions must indeed be posed. I've asked before and I'll plead for an answer again - where is the harsh response promised should Palestinians launch attacks from Gaza after Disengagement? On this basis of this promise, many hesitant Israelis backed Disengagement.

Maybe it's a matter of timing. Right now, the Right is slamming Sharon's Kadima Party as a Peres reincarnation and in fact Shimon himself is so happy with the makeover that he's jumped on board the ship himself. With Kadima perceived by some as a left-swinger, Sharon may well be waiting for the best moment to respond to the Palestinian (and even Hezbollah) provocation and stupidity. If he's going to fulfill the prophecy of the polls, Arik will have to somehow find a way to maintain some semblance of center in his new ideology.

It is felt among many that centrist parties don't do very well in Israel - possibly because the issues we live with here are not quite the "sitting on the fence" model. Yitzchak Mordechai and Amnon Lipman-Shahak tried fence dwelling in the past only to find themselves falling painfully with one leg on each side of the said fence. In a similar mold, it appears that Kadima is a one-man show and its future lies solely at his feet. He's a big man, but there's no hiding the suspision that for good or for bad, this looks like a repeat of Titanic - a one cruise, one election wonder.

Don't be fooled though! One election may be enough. Whether through forced negotiations or desperate unilateralism, Arik intends to draw the final borders of the two states. He intends to separate the cousins and at his age, it's clear one more mandate and 4-year term will have to do the trick.

All said and done then? Kadima will have 40 seats and we'll all watch as Sharon and Peres roll on into the 80s?

Yes the Kadima hype is still pumping and even Amir Peretz is still bathing in the continuous announcements of new candidates and supporters for his Labor party. But it's such early days. Without a doubt, the Likud is more than a step behind, maybe even the length of a football field in the background. Yet, noone knows (let alone the man on the street being polled) who will be the Likud candidate. Only once Bibi or Mofaz or another is selected will we gain a real perspective. Moreover, there's so much jumping ship that only when the party lists are finalized will we all be able to truly look at the options. And we haven't even started considering the smaller parties.

The political spectrum has changed considerably in the last couple of weeks. If you're breathless after two weeks, get some oxygen into you... quickly - there is still so so long till election day.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Royal Rumble

Would someone please tell me what is going on?!! After ten days in the frustrating and KICless fortress of car accidents, hospitals, police stations, junk yards, lawyers and insurance companies, I have finally found these few minutes to return to give you a KIC. And yet, the world of Israeli Current Affairs lacks the familiarity it had last week, or the week before. I am feeling a bit lost.

Ahhh here's some comfort! I am not the only Israeli shaking his/her head in disbelief and unimaginable discomfort. In one week in this magic country, the Knesset and the political system has taken on a new look - what I think I will coin, "The WWF Evolution".
Yes - Hulk Hogan, The Bushwhackers and Hacksaw Jim Duggan once graced the wall of my New Zealand bedroom and it does appear that Israelis enjoy a little display of their very own WWF Wrestling antics.

It was always tremendously exciting to watch a 'bad guy' team up with the good guys and vice-versa. The way someone unexpected (an arch enemy even!) would run in to the ring to 'clothesline' an unexpecting friend and save the enemy from certain defeat. It used to keep us up for hours at night, stacked in front of the TV waiting for the next interview, retirement, accusation, betrayal, reunion and dirty trick. Ahhh those were the days.

Wrong! These are the days! You can watch it all over again. WWF and Israeli politics - don't they just smell the same, look the same and amuse you similarly? Get practicing the rolled Israeli 'R' because we are in for one Royal Rumble to remember!

When I facilitate a KICsession on Israeli Politics or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I always give one piece of advice - in order to succeed in the understanding of Israel's relationship with the Arab nation and the world, you must first delve into inner Israeli politics and society, the electoral system and the political parties. To say that things are forever changing here is to state the obvious. More than that, the last week has changed everything. Nothing I have theorized before makes a great amount of sense right now. Israel is not quite the place it was last week and certainly its rainbow stage of political ideologies and stars is barely recognizable.

Keeping It Current for groups in Israel is bound to present even greater challenges now.

I can't wait!

(Back later with more than a little KIC...)