Israel / South Africa
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
In a video message posted on YouTube from an undisclosed location, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Israeli nation hours after Israeli Air Force warplanes launched an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Sitting at a desk beside a flag of Israel, and in front of a volumes of Talmud and the Old Testament, Netanyahu, whose words were subtitled into Arabic at the bottom of the screen, said the following:
The fact that 30 attackers could break into an IDF base in a military zone in Palestinian areas without the IDF having any prior intelligence, vandalize the base, damage IDF equipment, knock a few soldiers around, and walk out scot free, as if they had just won a battle, is not a scandal. That's already happened before. Two attackers were arrested in the Epfraim Brigade attack. Only two. And one of them 'escaped.' That's the scandal. The fact that Jewish attackers can ambush an IDF vehicle carrying a Brigade Commander and a Deputy Brigade Commander, open the vehicle door, and throw a concrete block at the Deputy Commander's head, is not a scandal. That's also happened before. What's a scandal is that these Israel Defense Forces officers didn't put a bullet between the eyes of the man who dared to open the door of their armored car. What's a scandal is that the soldiers at the Efraim Brigade didn't defend their base from infiltration by enemy elements. They were not vigilant and they were overrun, assaulted and humiliated. What goes through the mind of a young Israeli soldier serving in the West Bank when confronted by a Jewish attacker? The incident goes much deeper than that: it shows that Israeli soldiers serving in the West Bank are not in the mindset to confront other Israelis in the West Bank - especially aggressive, lawless, cunning, hilltop youth. It means that, for years, these hilltop youth have carried out attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and the army didn't stop them - so they grew bolder, and they are not afraid of the IDF. But the IDF is afraid of them: the dark cloud of an Israeli civil war always hangs over us. The government has let this go on for too long, and now it faces a mammoth task of facing down thousands of hard-core Jewish extremists and their spiritual and ideological leadership. As Amos Oz once said: <blockquote>"The Jewish people has a great talent for self-destruction. We may be the world champions in self-destruction... [caused by] our characteristic demand for perfection, for totality, for squeezing our ideal to its last dregs or to die trying. [Look at] the history of the ancient Hebrews – they were suicidal by being extremely extremist and fanatical, by not compromising with reality."</blockquote> So this is how things stand now: The tax-paying, army-serving, law-abiding secular and national religious middle class is stuck in the middle between two groups of extremist populations: In the left corner: a group of hundreds of extremist rabbis leading a population of one million ultra-Orthodox men, women and children who do not work, do not serve in the army, and have no intention of changing any of that; do not identify with the State, but live off its welfare; and who have one of the highest birthrates in the world. In less than 50 years from now, all things staying equal, this population will constitute 30% of the country's overall population, and less than 0.001% of the workforce. Significant parts of this population are becoming more extreme, and the extremism is spreading across the country. The number of gender-segregated buses in Israel is increasing; zealots spill over from their neighborhoods into non-haredi neighborhoods and hurl soiled diapers at modest national-religious girls, calling them whores. None of these stalkers has been arrested. Their version of reality is completely, utterly different from that of the majority of Israelis. In the far-right corner: thousands of extremist, religious, settler youth and their charismatic rabbis, who do very little work, whose religious study institutions are funded by the state, who attack and undermine the army, attack the Palestinians, and try their darndest to start a religious war between the Jews and the world's Muslims by burning mosques in the middle of the Arab Spring/ Islamic Winter. They care not for the rulings of the Supreme Court. Some of them serve in the army, but they do not submit to the authority of the state, and the state is fearful of imposing its authority on them. They don't listen to their commanders. The leak army plans to their friends. They don't listen to the settler leadership. They listen only to their rabbis, and their rabbis, God only knows who they listen to. Their version of reality is completely, utterly different from that of the majority of Israelis. The settler community, who is the first victim of these radical extremist rabbis and hilltop youth, must cough these criminals out. There are two things these groups have in common with each other: they are both led by extremist, insular rabbis who answer to no higher authority but their own; and they both call representatives of the government and its security services "Nazis". The only thing that these two groups have in common with the majority of the country is that they too will be put to the sword by Israel's enemies, should an Israeli civil war damage the country's defenses to such an extent that we are overrun. And in the middle between these two groups of zealots: the apathetic, silent majority, who, sadly, has no charismatic and effective leadership. Leaders who can stand up to the religious zealots. As always, it comes down to leadership. They have bad leaders. We have none. This fire will consume us all if we don't put it out now.
Some thoughts on the situation 1. Silvan Shalom, the Likud's number 2 man, had no idea that PM Netanyahu was planning to bring forward the Likud primaries date. He was caught completely by surprise. And just for that, he doesn't deserve to be Likud leader. In this profession, and in this neighborhood, if you're not constantly trying to politically or militarily outmaneuver your opponents, chances are they will get you. The wolf and the sheep have not laid down together yet here. If Shalom doesn't know that by now, he'll never know it, and he can't lead the Likud, or this country. 2. In any case, Netanyahu's real political target is not his traditional number two in the Likud, the happless Silvan Shalom, but rather US President Barack Obama, who seems, at this stage of the game, to have a clearer shot at a second Presidential term than any of the Republican candidates. My thinking is that by bringing forward the Likud primaries, and perhaps the next general elections before a possible Obama re-election, Netanyahu hopes to win his own mandate [his third term] and thus be able to easier withstand pressure by Obama by arguing that the nation has spoken, the nation has reelected Bibi, and thus has given the Israeli PM a mandate to stand by his policies. It will be harder for Obama, even in his second term, to pressure Bibi to make concessions to the Palestinians if Netanyahu has acquired a clear second mandate from the Israeli people. By the way, almost all of the Republican candidates seem to me to be rather flimsy. Netanyahu and his circle abhors Obama, and see a second term for America's president as something akin to a catastrophe, a Nakba, if you will. For his first term, Obama served up a slew of comments and policy positions which Netanyahu and his Republican [and Jewish supporters in the US] saw as crossing red lines. These comments culminated in Obama's 'famous' return to negotiations along the 1967 borders [with agreed-upon land swaps] speech. In Netanyahu's circle, Obama is considered just as dangerous to Israel's security, if not more so, than Iran's Ahmadinejad. This is no exaggeration. And now that the Republican contenders are falling by the wayside, one after the other, Bibi must start learning to live with the idea of an Obama second term. In Obama's circle, Bibi is considered dangerous for Israel's long-term security, and even the security and interests of the US. It's not just Gutman, Pannetta and Clinton who have recently voiced their concerns, but before that Obama himself [who told Sarkozy that he has to deal with Bibi more than he probably wanted to] but even before that, Pannetta's predecessor Robert Gates said pretty much the same thing. Obama knows who he's up against in Bibi and his American forward base, so is making huge efforts to connect with American Jewry. So for Obama, the real electoral adversary is not Mitt Romney, it's Bibi Netanyahu. And for Bibi, it's not Silvan Shalom or Tzippi Livni, but Barack Obama. May the best man win, and may both countries win.
3. The other thing Bibi will have to learn to live with, most likely, is a new dispensation in which Iran possesses a military nuclear arsenal. It's sad but true, Israel and the West have failed to thwart Iran's nuclear program. Even a massive military strike will not destroy the program, but only slow it down "for a year at best," as US Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta has said. And he should know. But the Telegraph reports that Iran is getting ready to absorb a military strike. Don't worry Iran. Israel does not want to attack. And it is quite doubtful if Israel can attack effectively. Those tricky Iranians have spread their program too deep and too wide for it to be targeted effectively. Israel and America prefer a covert war, which, as you don't need to be an intelligence expert to see, is very much well under way. Just in the past few weeks, two massive explosions have targeted Iranian nuclear and missile facilities. Iran has managed to shoot down and capture a sophisticated US spy drone. Hezbollah has uncovered a large electronic surveillance array in southern Lebanon belonging to the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence before the IDF managed to destroy it. Over the past several months, somebody infected Iran's nuclear program computers with the world's most sophisticated virus, and last year several Iranian nuclear scientists found violent deaths at the hands of assassins. This is the preferred way for now. We don't even have to wait for the movie to come out, as some of these things are taking place out in the open [think Mabhouh assassination]. This action-packed spy thriller is the best show in town folks.