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A time to relax?

 

Jews are primed to worry.

 
The reasons are good.
 
Central to the faith is the notion of being a Chosen People. That self-ascribed status has not generated a great number of Likes on the historical Facebook, yet it has helped us survive, more intact culturally than many others. 
 
We've suffered along the way, and worrying is never far from our thoughts.
 
Currently those of us in Israel are probably worrying less than our cousins in Ukraine, and perhaps France. French speaking immigrants are talking about unpleasantness from Muslims, and officials dealing with absorption are expecting more from Ukraine.
 
Israel's own headlines suggest that we might relax for a bit.  
 
Most of the news is about pedestrian domestic issues, and we have slipped out of the international spotlight.
 
John Kerry's State Department has put us on the back burner in order to seek solutions for South Sudan and Ukraine.
 
Religion is off the front pages.
 
Israel as a Jewish state did its job of testing the Palestinians, bringing about their predictable failure, and putting an end to the Kerry farce.
 
The Haredim and Yair Lapid have moved into a recess. A Lapid heralded reform about drafting Haredi young men won't go into effect for a couple of years. Ultra-Orthodox politicians may be back in the government by then, with the ability to keep their boys studying holy books. Optimists are saying that changes in procedures will induce more of the Haredim to leave the academies and start supporting their families. Getting their kids to study something useful is a more daunting assignment. A recent analysis is that the contributions to the yeshivot from overseas are declining, and that more of the locals recognize that a free ride for all along with unlimited births cannot continue.
 
The messiest politics focus on the selection of a president. Events are more pathetic or comic than profound, but not especially important. No doubt we'll have a new president by the designated date next month. We can hope that the winning candidate will keep his hands off the secretaries, and know how to express all the appropriate words for those deserving to meet the head of state. Hopefully our president will be brighter than Prince Charles, currently in the headlines due to his comparison of Putin and Hitler.
 
Most of the discussion has been about which candidate may get the go-ahead from Bibi. Reports are that one had to drop out because of problems between his wife and Sara. A solution that appeared and declined in recent days is a pensioner who last served in the Knesset eight years ago, known for his pomposity and problems with English. If those traits did not disqualify him, he demanded assurance of victory before he would announce his candidacy. The Prime Minister may have remembered his problems with this candidate when he had been an active politician.
 
There are two distinguished women running, but neither is associated with a major party, and they may be taking votes from one another among the MKs who think it's time for a First Lady.
 
The major battle being waged by the IDF is with the Finance Ministry.
 
The Defense Minister and Commanding General are threatening to cut the training exercises of reservists if they do not get more money.
 
The appropriate link is to the late Aaron Wildavsky's classic text, The Politics of the Budgetary Process. A lead tactic in budget disputes is for an agency feeling itself underfunded to cut the programs likely to generate pressure as indispensable.
 
Whether the IDF's tactic works to get more money or not, Israel's survival is not on the line. Our principal enemies are killing one another in a bloody standoff between the Syrian regime and Islamic extremists. Hezbollah fighters are dying for the sake of Assad, and causing their leader more problems with the Saudis and other Sunnis. 
 
It may be part of the IDF's budget campaign to produce headlines that Hezbollah troops are close to the Golan border. It's something to think about, along with how deep the Lebanese are involved in Syria's civil war, and the casualties they have taken.
 
We pity the deaths, now approaching 200,000 and several million refugees, but we are not sitting Shiva. Only the most mad are urging the IDF into Syria in order to protect civilians.
 
It's enough that we treat those wounded who manage to get to an aide station on the border.
 
There may be spillovers of the fighting in Syria to the Golan, but nothing that should require calling up reserves.
 
The Obama administration worries about the democracy of the al-Sisi government in Egypt, but for us they are allies against Muslim extremists. 
 
Individuals must be concerned about lone Palestinians enraged at Jews, and Islamists of Gaza who compete by shooting something at Israel. However, none of this brings the level of danger to that in large American cities.
 
Some think it appropriate for Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, but that is unlikely while the US and the EU are pursuing a political solution.
 
West Bank Palestinians are confused. They have done an especially poor job of fabricating a scene said by one of its leaders to be the murder of young men by the Israeli military. The case of Muhammad al-Durrah showed that it may take years to investigate charges and counter charges, with the results remaining disputable. Among the possibilities are that Palestinians killed al-Durrah, either by intention or not. Then and in the most recent instance, there is lots of movement, noise, and confusion. We know that two Palestinians died during a Nakba Day demonstration that reached a moderate level of violence, but nothing more is certain.
 
The US State Department is coming closer to blessing Fatah's deal with Hamas, but anyone betting on a lasting accord ought to put as little on the table as possible.
 
The future may be problematic, but it's too early to know what to worry about.
 
Our biggest immediate worry is the Pope's visit on May 25-26. The security services have acted against Jews likely to cause the nation embarrassment. 
 
We'll hope that the man and his entourage come and leave peacefully. It seems best to avoid parsing the political implications of every nod and handshake, and to stay away from the commotion and traffic.
 
When Mahmoud Abbas meets with the Pope in Bethlehem, he will pose as a friend of Christianity. Overlooked will be the outflow of Christians from Palestinian and other Muslim areas, due to harassment or violence, now most obvious in Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria. 
 
Francis will relate to Abbas as head of a state, but we know how many troops answer to the Pope.

 

 
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