Amir Mizroch

Amir Mizroch

Amir Mizroch

Israel / South Africa

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Politics

Hello, I’m Amir Mizroch. Welcome to my blog, Forecast Highs. Born in Israel, raised in South Africa, and back in Israel since 2000, I’ve lived and worked in two countries constantly grappling with existential issues affecting not just their own populations, but the regions they inhabit too. I am currently the editor of the English Newsletter Edition of Israel Hayom, Israel’s most widely-read Hebrew daily newspaper. Until February 2011 I worked at The Jerusalem Post, the largest English-language newspaper and website in Israel. I managed jpost.com during the rough and tumble of the Al Aksa Intifadah, and I was head of the paper’s news operation for five years. In April 2010 I became Executive Editor, managing all of the paper’s departments. During my eight years at The Jerusalem Post I won an international journalism award, and covered stories for the paper around the world. I chose the name Forecast Highs, taken from weather report jargon, because it gives a sense of looking ahead at trends, which is what I like to do. Thanks for visiting, and feel free to leave comments. All opinions expressed here are my own. You can email me at amir.mizroch@gmail.com


Israel, Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

What started in Tunisia and Egypt, spread to Libya and Syria, and its aftershocks are being felt in Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Political Islam is strengthening.

The Middle East is going to look vastly different in the mid to long-term future. In political Islam, there is scant regard for what we in the West call universal human rights and the supreme value of human life. Peace agreements with non-Muslims are only honored when it is politically expedient to do so, women’s rights are not respected, and homosexuals are hunted down.

What started as a democratic movement for socioeconomic rights is turning into an Islamic political takeover which is going to look far different than a Western democracy: will there be respect for a free and independent press, civil society – will NGOs be allowed to work, will there be policies to strengthen the middle class, and perhaps most importantly, will there be a strong, independent judiciary in the countries ruled by Islamic parties?

The region is in flux, and could stay that way for quite some time. The Muslim Brotherhood do not recognize borders. They are a religious order, a cultural, religious, and political movement with branches across the region whose aim is to establish a Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East under Sharia Law. And they have time and patience. READ MORE

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Israel’s former spymasters double cross their former masters

It’s hush-hush no more. Former spymasters are coming out of the woodworks to spook the current government into not attacking Iran.

First it was Meir Dagan, the “superhero” Spymaster from the Mossad, who, as soon as he left the service, launched a campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – over the issue of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. In his own words, Dagan says that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is the “stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” He also says that he has no faith in Netanyahu and Barak’s ability to lead the country into such a fateful decision.

And now comes Yuval Diskin, the former head of the internal spy service, the Shin Bet. In YouTube videos released over the weekend, the former security chief goes one up on even Dagan’s scathing criticism of the Israeli leadership.

In the videos, Diskin makes the following main points:

1. The current Israeli government has no interest in negotiating with the Palestinian Authority because PM Netanyahu knows that if he makes even the slightest compromise or move toward the Palestinians that his erstwhile stable coalition will implode.

2. Anything else the government says about this issue is rubbish. Don’t believe the spin coming from Jerusalem that there is no partner on the Palestinian side. It’s true, says Diskin, I’ve been there and I’ve seen this government up close. READ MORE

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What you need to know about Israel @ 64

On Thursday we celebrate Israel’s 64th Independence Day.

I will leave it to others to expound on Israel’s wonderful achievements over the past 64 years. There are plenty of examples, and many people are doing great things to shore up our morale and show our positive side. We indeed have a wonderful country, a miracle really, a dynamo which thrives on adversity and intensity. We are unique in the world, and I love my country very much. It is because of this love, and because I believe that my job as a journalist is to point out the cracks in the system, the things that need fixing, I will rather give you my analysis of some of the important things that I think you need to know if you are to make informed decisions regarding your life here. Furthermore, it is quite likely that we will have general elections here before next year’s 65th Independence Day, and if elections are to be held, and you plan on voting, which I hope you do, you should make an informed choice.

Our governments – and here I’m talking about all our past governments not just the current one – are unable to plan and execute long-term strategic national projects. About 70% of the government’s decisions are not carried through and implemented. There is a huge amount of populist legislation, tons of bureaucracy, foot-dragging, empty promises, lack of accountability, lack of oversight, nepotism and corruption. Year after year, our State Comptroller publishes reports showing vast amounts of incompetence, corruption and waste; and worst of all, non-implementation of previous reports. We, the citizens of Israel, continue to not hold our authorities responsible. This is our political culture; these are the men and women who staff our halls of power. We put them there, and we must demand more of them. As you look at the political parties on offer for the next elections, look for parties and politicians who have a record of getting things done, of honest, hard legislative work, and stay away from politicians who are just full of hot air. READ MORE

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Analysis: Don’t panic over Egypt, yet

What does the future hold for the Israel-Egypt relationship? Will Egypt become increasingly, openly hostile? Will the Camp David Peace Accords between the two neighbors hold? Will Egypt provide diplomatic and security cover for Hamas in Gaza? How will the central government in Cairo, whoever it turns out to be, handle the growing lawlessness of the Sinai Peninsula?

These are just some of the important questions people are asking themselves regarding the important relationship between Israel and Egypt since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. They are coming up again today as the Egyptian national gas company unilaterally terminated its contract with Israel.

The first, most pressing issue is the constant stream of terror from the Sinai, and its strategic implications for both countries. Sinai is three times the size of Israel. It is a vast badlands that is becoming a serious strategic headache for Israel. The central government in Cairo has lost control of the territory, which is now rife with armed Bedouin groups and Islamic fundamentalist cells. The two are mixing and influencing each other for the first time, and the result is noxious. The Bedouins have traditionally not been Islamic fundamentalists, and that could be changing. Israeli military intelligence has revealed that the IDF has thwarted about 10 terror plots being hatched in the Sinai. That’s a lot. Israel will find it increasingly difficult not to enter the Sinai in force and take care of the problem. But if Cairo doesn’t take care of the problem, we might have to. And that could lead to the dreaded confrontation between Israel and Egypt. This might even be what the various terror groups in Gaza and the Sinai are aiming for.

The peace treaty with Israel will not likely be abrogated, but the border will not be quiet. There are those who believe that it is inevitable that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists take control over all Egypt. I wouldn’t rush into this conclusion. The Egyptian military has in its hands all of the powers of the Presidency, and the Parliament is not in control of the country yet. One of the main bones of contention now in Egypt between the military and the Islamists is over who will write the country’s new constitution. So far, the military has not allowed the Parliament to determine the nature of the new constitution, and it is unlikely that they will allow this in the future. In the impossible economic and diplomatic situation that Egypt finds itself in today, the military cannot allow the Islamists to create the conditions for an Islamic state governed by Sharia Law, devoid of tourism, development, international investment, and antagonistic to the West. READ MORE

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An officer, not a gentleman

Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner is a soldier’s soldier. The guy is a deputy commander of the Jordan Valley brigade in the Israeli army, an armored brigade trained to fight other armies, head to head, face to face. His whole life he’s been preparing to take on Syrian and Iraqi armored formations, not Danish peace activists.

The blow that Eisner delivered to the ISM activist is a Krav Maga blow that recruits are taught in their first week of basic training. It’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re face to face with your enemy; it’s what you’re trained to do if you find yourself in hand to hand combat, when the bullets are out, or you’re too close to your enemy to shoot, if the enemy and you are at each other’s throats, on death ground, and there is nothing left to do but fight for your life. It’s a last-ditch move you perform on Syrian troops, Hezbollah guerrillas, Hamas gunmen. It’s not a move you pull against unarmed activists, no matter how provocative they are. Eisner’s life was not in danger. At most, his fingers were fractured. He was pissed off and he lost his cool. But he shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. READ MORE

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Israel 2030: A hard look at the hard numbers

If demographic trends remain the same, the percentage of Israelis participating in the workforce is expected to decline by 6 percent in the next 20 years, according to a new report titled “Changes in the structure and composition of the Israeli population according to cultural – religious sectors in the coming twenty years and their consequences on the labor market.”

The report, dated November 2011, was issued this week [April 9] by the Research & Economics Administration of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and predicts Israel’s demographic composition for the next 20 years and its expected impact on the workforce.

The findings were based on new demographic statistics compiled by Dr. Eliyahu Ben Moshe for the Research & Economics Administration.
The report shows that:

•Israel’s population growth is expected to decline in the coming 20 years, but will remain high relative to many other countries in the world.
•By 2030 Israel is projected to have 11 million people, and the population density will increase to 450 souls per km, the highest ratio for any developed nation in the world. [This obviously shows the imperative of planning building and zoning new land for housing, as well as long-term planning for transportation and services - AM].
•There will be a steady decrease in the number of people of working-age [15-64] from its current 62% [in 2010] to 59% in 2030.
•This decrease will bring with it serious ramifications for the dependency ratio. Increasingly, every working person will have to support more people through his/her labors.
•The number of Israelis of the primary working age [25-54] is currently at 38%. That’s just over one-third of Israelis who are ‘eligible’ to work by dint of their being within this age group.
•Of the overall percentage of general working age Israelis [15-64], the Haredim currently represent 8.5% and are projected to make up 15.1% of working-age Israelis in 2030.
•Only a drastic decline in the fertility rate can stop this trend.
•The secular sector’s percentage of working age people will drop from its current 36% to 29% in 2030. In 2030, there will be an increase of 1.8 million people in the 15-64 age group, from its current 4.8 million, up to 6.6 million.
•In the primary working age group of [25 - 54], another 900,000 souls will be added – obviously in an unequal proportion between the various religious-cultural sectors of Israeli society. A full one-third of these 900,000 people of working age will come from the Haredi sector, and 38% will come from the Arab sector.

Therefore, if current workforce participation trends continue [especially amongst Haredi men and Arab women] there will be significant consequences for the Israeli economy and the welfare of all of its citizens.

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Don’t step on Grass

I think it was a stupid decision to ban Gunter Grass from entering Israel, but I’m not surprised at Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s decision to do it. Our interior minister is a man who sees things in black and white only.

This week, Yishai issued an order making the German writer Persona non Grata in Israel, effectively barring him from the country, for Grass’ poem in a German newspaper, in which the Nobel laureate said Israel’s nuclear program was a danger to world peace.

Grass wrote that he feared a nuclear-armed Israel “could wipe out the Iranian people” with a “first strike.” It’s ridiculous. It’s despicable, uninformed, reflexively anti-Israeli, and most likely anti-Semitic. He doesn’t even pretend to see things from our perspective, to walk in our shoes. It’s a load of bull.

But still, banning him from entering the country reminds me very much of Iran’s death fatwa on Salman Rushdie for his Satanic Verses.

Rushdie, who knows a thing or two about being banned for his writings, tweeted this on Monday:

OK to dislike, even be disgusted by #GünterGrass poem, but to ban him is infantile pique. The answer to words must always be other words.
If you were a teenager and a nazi came to conscript you, and refusal meant death, would you choose to die?
To be a conscript in the Waffen-SS is not to be a Nazi. To be the author of The Tin Drum is to merit great honor.
Let’s not forget that #GünterGrass is the author of the greatest literary responses to Nazism, The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, Dog Years.

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Kadima to nowhere

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, what is it? What is it? That’s right; it’s a lame duck political party.

This is the sorry state of Kadima now: On paper, it is the largest political party in the Knesset, but in reality has lost much of its electoral support to a resurgent Labor Party and newcomer Yair Lapid. It is also on the verge of a cataclysmic split which threatens to send the party from its current 28 mandates to single digits, somewhere just above the electoral threshold.

If its leader for the past three years, Tzippi Livni, loses to her perennial challenger Shaul Mofaz, she is likely to bolt the party bequeathed to her by former PM Ehud Olmert [who quit the party over corruption allegations]. Even though she hasn’t officially said so, Livni’s central message to party members and her supporters is that “there is no Kadima without Livni.”

This is quite a megalomaniac statement by Livni, but is also a shrewd political strategy on her part. With this scorched-earth strategy, Livni has told Kadima’s members that if they don’t vote for her continued leadership, Kadima will disappear. It’s either her or nothing; a message Mofaz has been hard at work countering.
So if she loses to Mofaz, she won’t see Kadima as her home anymore, and will either leave the party for private life, or take some of her supporters and start a new party. Some pundits have posited a Livni-Lapid unity, but Lapid has all but ruled that out by promising he will not staff any current members of Knesset in his new political party [such is the man's disdain for the current crop of politicos].

The scenario of Livni starting her own party [the 'real Kadima'] is quite unlikely, as Mofaz has reached out to all of Livni’s supporters, telling them that if he wins, he’ll take them into the next government, either with him as Prime Minister [yeah right] or as a senior coalition partner. Livni’s supporters have had quite enough of being out in the barren opposition benches, and most of them can be expected to grab the life buoy thrown out by Mofaz. How much this will help them stay in the Knesset after the next general elections is anyone’s guess, seeing as Kadima has taken a massive hit in the polls.

According to the latest polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud gains strength to 35 Knesset seats [up from its current 27], which allows the PM to cherry pick from amongst the smaller parties across the political spectrum. Since there is virtually no difference between Mofaz and Netanyahu on any substantive issue, the latter should have no problems taking whatever is left of Kadima, with Mofaz at its helm, into his coalition now, or after the next elections.

To Kadima’s left lies a resurgent Labor, with popular Shelly Yechimovich leading a socioeconomic agenda. Occupying the same electoral space as Kadima, Yair Lapid growing political movement [it is not an official party yet] has taken the mantle of ‘clean politics’ away from Livni, the latter being tarnished by months of reports of financial wrongdoing and alleged fraud by her party’s apparatchiks. Both Yechimovich and Lapid have capitalized on the past summer’s socioeconomic protest movement, something which Livni failed to do, to her eternal shame and detriment.

So has Kadima turned the corner? Perhaps, but waiting for it around the corner are two serious rivals that Kadima will have a hard time competing with for new voters. On the other hand, a Mofaz-led Kadima with eight to ten Knesset seats could be a comfortable coalition partner for the Likud.

Either way, Kadima has ceased to be a serious alternative for government, and is no longer a centrist rallying point for the Israeli middle class.

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VIDEO: Mohammed Mehra, profile of the Beast of Toulouse

So what do we know about Mohammed Mehra, the 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian extraction who killed three French paratroopers and four Jews in Toulouse?

According to various reports, here are some interesting bits of information about his psychological profile:

He was arrested 15 times as a youth, and spent a full year in a juvenile penitentiary.

He was prone to serious violence as a youth. As a young adult, he traveled to the most dangerous place on earth, the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be trained in combat by some of the most violent and despicable people in the world.

He said he was a Salafi and a member of al-Qaida. Both of these ‘groupings’ are pretty much as extreme as you can get.

French prosecutors say he had a mental illness as a child.

When French anti-terror police brought his mother to the house he was holed up in, she said she could not talk to him because she “has no influence on him.”

He liked to watch videos of beheadings on the internet. READ MORE

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A poem for our times

On a table, together with all my options,
I sat under a nuclear umbrella and played with a mushroom cloud.
I was in a zone,
Of immunity.
I pitted a nuclear duck against a terrorist octopus.
They crossed each others’ red lines until both reached the point of no return
And spinning, they fell off the table.
I got up to close the window of opportunity,
as it was letting in a cold draft from the Islamic Winter outside.
Spring, all too short, was over.

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