Israeli News: A Daily Analysis
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Major Events in Israel and the Middle East
An Analysis
By Marc Schulman

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Israel's problems came into stark clarity today when today's column in the New York Times by Thomas Freidman and an investigative piece on Israeli Channel 10 are combined. Friedman's entire column, Outsource the Cabinet was devoted to the question I asked earlier this week-how could Israel's economy be doing so well and yet corruption is rampart? How can a country be successful when its citizens have no faith in its government?

Friedman began the column by referring to a photo showing Minister of Defense Peretz supposedly surveying the Golan Heights with the new Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi (Israel Minister in vision gaffe) but Peretz's binoculars are shown with the lens caps on. It was a vision that can be summed up by Friedman by writing, "that picture is so evocative not only because Mr. Peretz-a former labor organizerÑhas already been savagely criticized for being out of his depth as defense minister. It's also because much of Israel's leadership seems to have blinded itself lately with all sorts of bizarre and criminal behavior."

Friedman gives no answers, but the investigative piece on Israel Channel 10 tonight does. The segment uncovered a memo written by Prime Minister Olmert's office that lists over 120 times Olmert, as Trade Minister and Finance Minister, intervened and facilitated members of the Likud central committee get jobs and additional assistance.

That catalogue of corruption explains in clear detail how the system works, and when that is understood, it is clear what ails Israel. While corruption exists in almost every country and in almost every system, in Israel it is systematically different. Most corruption starts with honest politicians who feel they are working hard and not being paid very well so what is wrong with getting a little extra money for an assortment of "extras".

On the other hand, in Israel today one goes into politics to get a job and if already a politician, one gets ahead by making sure that other members of his/her party get good jobs. It does not really matter if a person is capable of doing their job well. If he or she is needed for a political coalition, even if it is a most important job of defense minister, it is not important whether the post will be done well; the goal is getting the job, not working for the betterment of Israel.

In 1976 I was a young man in the army and supported Dash, a movement that sprang up after the Yom Kippur War to reform the political system. It failed. It is 31 years later, and my daughter, who lives in Israel and is now older then I was then. Her generation needs to come together and demand a complete change in the system and the people running the system.

If Israel's neighbors were Denmark and Norway, it could afford to continue to have a strong economy and hapless government. But Norway and Denmark are located in Europe and not in the Middle East and do not share IsraelÕs existential threats, neither physically nor emotionally. Teva pharmaceuticals and a Microsoft development center are not going to protect Israel from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other "friends".

Tuesday February 27, 2007

Another mini scandal overwhelmed Israel today. This one surrounded the appointment of MK Esterina Tartman as the new Minister of Tourism. Tartman, who was appointed to be the new minister from the Israel Beteinu party, has come under tremendous media scrutiny. In the course of the last 24 hours, the outrage surrounding the selection of Tartman, who had been against the appointment of an Arab to be a minister, went from bad to worse. First, it was discovered she had received a substantial insurance settlement from an automobile accident she was injured in eight years ago and claimed a serious disability, which she received payments from the National Insurance Agency (IsraelÕs Social Security). The news reports claimed that the accident had not slowed her down in any way. She claimed to suffer from both short and long term memory loss that have not gone away, but she has been coping with the problem. The early story was met with a level of sympathy. Maybe it is her memory problems that got Tartman into the second part of her troubles as the news reporters dug further. She claimed on her CV and when interviewed that she was well trained for her new job, having received a masterÕs degree from Hebrew University. It was determined by late today that not only does Tartman not have an MA but also she does not even have a bachelor's degree. It will be up to the Minister of Strategic Affairs and Israel Beteinu party leader, Avigdor Lieberman, to decide whether to cancel Tartman"s appointment.

Reports in the Israeli media suggest that the new Chief-of-Staff is planning to undo all of the reforms in the IDF structure instituted by his predecessor. Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi has been doing this based partly on an internal report prepared by Major General (res.) Herzl Sapir. That report blamed many of the problems of the war on the reorganization. When Sapir was asked what he thought about having an Air Force general as head of the IDF, he quoted what he told former Israeli President and commander of the Air Force, Ezer Weizman, years ago: "Under the circumstances in which the State of Israel exists, one who has not commanded a division, who has not served as sector commander, and did not serve in two posts with the rank of major general in the General Staff, cannot be a chief-of-staff. It is not a personal problem. You can be a defense minister and maybe even prime minister, but not chief-of-staff". Sapir said that his view has not changed. I agree with much of what Sapir wrote and said but fear that the problem is a little deeper then just rearranging the organizational chart.

Monday February 26, 2007

Two very different scenes played out around Hebron over the last 24 hours. In one, an Israeli settler was murdered and in another, a settler gave the Palestinian correspondent to Reuters a MishloÕach Manot (Purim) basket as an expression of gratitude for finding and returning his lost daughter. The Palestinian even publicly accepted the gift. A glimpse of what is and what could be. The Arab affairs correspondent for Israel Channel 10 stated that "the killing of the settler shows how crazy things are in the territories now". Those responsible for the killings have been caught and it turns out they were not from any Palestinian organization, rather two brothers who were having some sort of feud with this particular settler, and decided to kill him.

The new Minister of Justice, Daniel Friedmann, is planning to introduce a new law that would allow the Knesset to overrule a ruling of the Supreme Court and invalidates any law passed by the Knesset. The Knesset could overrule the Supreme Court by a simple majority. It would seem that all the concerns regarding the appointment are justified. Currently, if the Supreme Court believes that a law passed by the Knesset violates Israel's Basic Laws (a series of key laws that serve as a de-facto Constitution), the court can strike it down. Many leading Israeli public figures and jurists are outraged by the plan that is considered a method of emasculating the Supreme Court.

Minister Meir Sheetrit, who served twice as Minister of Justice and now serves as the Minister of Housing and Construction, was particularly acerbic in his criticism. He stated that the Supreme Court was the last potential barrier protecting Israelis citizens, and by effectively eliminating its ability to strike down any law that violates the principles of the country, there would not be protection from the tyranny of the majority. Sheetrit also questioned why there could possibly be a need for this law since there have only been six or seven cases in the past 15 years since the Basic Laws have been passed that the Supreme Court has overturned any part of a law passed by the Knesset.

Sunday February 25, 2007

Today the government had very long cabinet meeting that included an annual strategic review. Some of the cabinet members found it boring as no top-secret material was included in the review, but it was far reaching and seemed to underlie some differences of opinion. One of those was the question of Syrian intentions. The Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan, stated that Syrian President Assad is committed to the projectionist front. On the other hand, the Chief of Military Intelligence believes that Assad could be induced away from the rejectionist front and therefore should be pursued.

Both intelligence experts agree on one thing: Israel would be more and more the target of the worldwide Islamist movement. They also claim that the chances of war this year are low. One of the members of the cabinet asked how accurate the previous predictions of the intelligence agencies had been. Olmert leapt to their defense claiming they had been very accurate.

Although the Americans seem to be holding the line on not working with the new Palestinian government until it meets the Quartets conditions, the Europeans led by France, seem eager to end the boycott. It is most likely that this will happen in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile in a bizarre set of events, Iran first announced that they have successfully launched a rocket into outer space. A few hours later they announced that they did not. Israelis sources believe the latter is true.Ê Iran clearly has the goal of doing so. There was an interesting discussion on the state of the Chetz (Arrow Missile) on television. A former designer of the system who is considered the father of Chetz was concerned that Israel was not doing enough to prepare for future generations of Iranian weapons. He stated that the Chetz is excellent for the current generation, but was concerned that a future generation would have the throw weight (the payload it can launch) to carry decoys. The decoys can only be detected for sure once they start reentry (they do not reenter due to their lower weight) and thus his concern was that the Chetz might hit a decoy instead of the real missile.Ê He stated that Israel needs to have a system ready to hit a warhead in the final stage of flight. The Chetz could do that, but that is not what it was designed for. It would seem to me that for the moment Israel is ahead of the game, but its needs to keep in mind the constant changes in technology.

Last week the numbers were out on the Israeli economy. A stellar performance with growth at 8% and inflation it would seem too low. Israeli scientists seem to have hit their stride with new discoveries being made all the time, and Israelis are finally receiving and being considered for noble prizes. What a change that has been in the last 30 years. Then Israel was asked how could a Jewish state have such a poor economy and no great scientists? At the same time we had an army and leaders who were held in high regard. How did this reverse happen? Some of it has to do with the education of an earlier generation that was committed to Mamlachuyut (the good of the nation) How did Israel lose that and how can they get it back? Food for thought.

Friday February 16, 2007

Today was a day of threats. First, Sheikh Raed Salah called once again for another intifadah to save the Temple Mount from the Jews who want to build a New Temple and destroy the mosques. In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah stated that he was openly moving arms to the South to prepare for another confrontation with Israel.

To most of us, Salah's claims seem so unbelievable that we almost ignore them. Ignoring Salah would be a mistake. However illogical his claims are, a large part of the Muslim world seems only too ready to believe them. There were large protests today in Kashmir against Israel's actions at the Western Wall. It is hard to imagine that in distant Kashmir, which has been racked with violence for almost 60 years, people would care about these preposterous claims. Unfortunately, when it comes to claiming that Jews have done or are planning to do something, there are too many people, especially in the Muslim world who will believe anything.

As for Nasrallah... if anyone had any thoughts that we succeeded in accomplishing anything last summer (other than learning how much the IDF is in need of reform), his remarks today should remove that question. Nasrallah's statements directly contradict the ceasefire agreement which ended the fighting this summer.

Israeli channel 10 ran another segment on the Darfur refugees in Israeli prisons. It was hard to watch this segment and understand. Some of these refugees have been in prison for over a year. According to the anchor of the Friday evening News magazine- Avi Drucher, he could not find anyone in the government who would take responsibility to resolve the refugee problem. Drucher stated, that despite all the corruption and other problems that Israel faces at the moment, this (the refugee situation) was the one story which made him feel embarrassed to be an Israeli.


Thursday February 15, 2007

Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh met today in Gaza to work out the difficulties in the Mecca agreement. The meeting produced limited results. The news from the meeting was that Haniyeh and the Hamas government, officially resigned and Abbas officially gave the responsibility for the creation of the new coalition government to Haniyah. Israeli commentators remain very skeptical as to the chances of the agreement holding. Most of the outstanding issues are yet to be resolved.

In the meantime Abbas is scheduled to meet with Olmert and Rice in Jerusalem on Monday. Whether that meeting will take place or not has been put into question by Abbas insistence in discussion final status questions such as Jerusalem and refugees. Olmert is insisting on limiting the discussions to the road map, which to this day has not been implemented by either side. Abbas seems to be trying to pull a reverse Barak-knowing that Olmert is not in a position politically and the Israeli people are not ready psychologically, or in any other way to make the sort of concession that Barak was ready to make, he wants to put the onus of any failure on Israel. Luckily the idea of final status talks now seems so absurd, that no one expects Israel to enter into such talks now.

Prime Minister Olmert was in Turkey meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan. Erdogan has been highly critical of Israel in the past year. Olmert hoped to strengthen IsraelÕs ties to Turkey and enlist Turkey's aid, in restraining Iran from obtaining the bomb. He was not prepared for the level of concern he met regarding the construction at the West Wall. He quickly agreed to allow a Turkish mission go to inspect the work. He has taken a risk, if they report back that the work has nothing to do with the Temple Mount and the mosques then it will be a major PR victory for Israel. But what if the come back voicing concerns that it was somehow impacting the mosque or Islam in some way?

There was a segment on tonight's news in Israel on refugees from Darfur that managed to cross into Israel through Egypt and are being held at Israel's huge prison at Ketziot. Some have been held in prison for more then a year. It's true they violated Israeli law by entering illegally, but I cannot begin to understand how we can be imprisoning refugees from what the UN has defined as genocide. What have we learned and what are we teaching the world only 62 years after the holocaust. Instead of Jews being involved in the overall terrible tragedy in Darfur were little it would seem is likely to happen, how about pressuring the Israeli government to do right by those who escaped the horror and are now in an Israeli prison built for terrorists?

Finally if you want to be depressed read the article in today's Salon called Israel's Surge of Despair. There is nothing that I can disagree with, other then that we have been here before- in 1973 after the Yom Kippur War. I have to believe that we will overcome despair once again.

Wednesday February 14, 2007

Israeli news today was dominated by the change of the command in the Israeli Defense Forces. Outgoing Chief-of-Staff Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz is clearly bitter at the lack of support he received in the IDF from both below and above. Both yesterday, when he testified in the Knesset, and today at the exchange of command ceremony, Halutz referred to that lack of support that he has received.

There is a great deal of disagreement among the experts as to what the most important direction for Ashkenazi to pursue is and whether Ashkenazi is the one to accomplish it. The problem is more complicated because no one has any confidence in Amir Peretz as Defense Minister. To further complicate the matter is a forgotten piece of information that Ashkenazi was until today the Director General of the Defense Ministry. According to reports, Peretz has been unable to find a replacement for Ashkenazi. It would seem none of the serious candidates want to serve as Peretz’s Director General. So now Israel has an incompetent Defense Minister without a Director General in the Defense ministry.

The Israeli public is totally fed up. 62% of it blames both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Peretz for the fact that they do not get along. 63% believe that under these conditions Olmert is responsible for not simply firing him

As the internal problems in the Palestinian Authority persist, the agreement between Hamas and Fatah has run into its expected problems. The agreement was never fully hammered out, but signed under pressure from Saudi Arabia. There are many open questions relating to who will receive what ministry and how power will be shared. Furthermore, the reluctance of the world community to welcome the agreement and open up the money spigot has put a damper on the enthusiasm for the agreement. It is very possible that the agreement will unravel in the next few days. Time will tell.

Tuesday February 13, 2007

Today, the most significant news for Israel came not from the Middle East, but rather from an announcement in Peking. It was announced that an agreement has been reached for North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program. While the agreement is far from perfect, the fact that it was reached at all, and provides a framework for not only freezing the program but potentially ending the program, is encouraging for anyone who hopes it is possible to stop the Iranian program by non-military means. Clearly, North Korea was more susceptible to outside pressure then Iran. When China finally decided that it was not in its interest to allow Korea to continue its program it exerted enough pressure to finally stop them.

Time will only tell if the agreement will hold, and it is not clear what effect it will have on Iran. It is clearly a positive precedent and shows the world that with enough pressure even the most hard line rulers can change course.

Tomorrow General Gabi Ashkenazi will take over as the new Chief-of-Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces. There are great expectations of what Ashkenazi needs to accomplish. While the results of the Winograd Commission are have yet to be completed, the IDF’s internal investigations supplied a long list of changes that need to be implemented in order to be prepared for a possible war.

The challenges are great, with the potential Iranian threat in the background and regional instability very high due to the Iraq War. Ashkenazi needs to have the IDF ready for a full range of possibilities. In the coming years the IDF may be forced to fight another war in Lebanon, face a war with Syria or deal with a third Intifada. It may have to implement a preemptive strike against Iran, or it may have to be prepared to remove settlers from illegal settlements or even implement a peace treaty with one of Israel’s neighbors. That is a very tall order for the incoming IDF Chief, but the country is counting on him.

Monday February 12, 2007

Israeli news today was dominated with last night’s successful test of the Arrow Missile System. The test, which was the first night time launch, was done in a manner to simulate the launch of a nuclear tipped Iranian Missile. Thus, the intercept was done earlier in the flight in order to give the interceptor the possibility of launching a second missile in the chase the first intercept failed. The commander of the Hetz (Arrow) unit that launched the interceptor last night was asked on Israeli television if now Israelis could sleep well at night and his answer was yes. He warned any enemy of Israeli that it would be folly to attempt to attack Israel who now has the only deployed sophisticated missile defense system.

I am strong believer in the Arrow. I was also a believer in President Regan’s system for intercepting Soviet missiles, Star Wars. But, I think that the Arrow makes even more sense than Star Wars ever did. The major criticisms of Star Wars were two fold. The first was that no defense system could be hermetic. In addition, critics pointed out that it was always cheaper to overwhelm the defense system with MIRV Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV), which meant that the Soviets could increase the number of warheads launched on every missile, including decoys, faster then the United States could build anti-missile missiles.

I always believed that the first argument made against Star Wars was overly simplistic. No system needs to be hermetic (we can hope it will be) but the key is to greatly lower the chances of an opponent of getting his missiles through. If one has a much lower chance of succeeding, they are much less likely to chance an expected retaliation. The purpose of a defense system has always been to defend against a decapitating first strike (an attack where an enemy removes your ability to respond). An effective anti missile system makes a successful first strike nearly impossible. Even in a country as small as Israel, that is not a realistic objective. Any attempt to attack an Israel equipped with the Arrow would have to risk a high chance of failure and certitude of a retaliatory strike of the country’s full arsenal.

The second concern regarding Star Wars is not nearly as relevant in Israel’s case. The new generation of Iranian missiles does not have the throw weight in order to include MIRV warheads. Furthermore, the Arrow is designed to intercept the potential missile before there is a chance to MIRV the warhead. Thus, it is no more expensive to build interceptors then it is to build missiles.

It is only by making use of advanced technology that Israel has a chance to remain that safe shelter for the Jewish people.

Meanwhile demonstrations continued against the building of the bridge near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, has halted the building, for the simple reason that a full permit was never issued for the work. The major materials have been removed from the site, and it is expected that archeologist will work at the site for the next eight months before giving the ok for the building of the disputed bridge.

Sunday February 11, 2007

The analysis and repercussion of the agreement between Hamas and Fatah continue today. Within Israel, the views of politicians followed rather predictable patterns. Former Prime Minister Netanyahu coming out with the strongest condemnation of the agreement. He called for no further contact with Abbas now that he was officially associated with Hamas, through the agreement. Deputy Prime Minster Peres had a more nuanced view, saying that the agreement was made on the lowest common denominator and with a great deal of ambiguity. He felt it was unlikely that the agreement would hold. In the meantime Israel's only actions were to make sure the quartet stood by its principles that called on any Palestinian government to explicitly recognize Israel, renounce violence and stand by any previous agreements. Peres believed that so far the members of the quartet (US, Great Britain, France and Russia) had taken a wait and see attitude. He was optimistic that they would come to the right conclusions. Peres former protégé Yossi Beillin also took an all too expected position on an interview this morning on Israeli radio. He thought the agreement was positive and that it was a positive development that the Hamas was willing to sit in a government that "recognized" previous agreements. I must say it was amazed listening to Beillin. Its seems that no actions by the Palestinians can convince him, that their may not be anyone who we can reach an agreement with at the moment.

Today in Teheran President Ahmadinejad gave another threatening speech against Israel. In the speech he promised a major announcement on Iran’s’ capabilities within two months. The Economist in this week’s magazine included a special section on Iran’s potential threat. It had a disturbing article on whether MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) would work in the case of Israel and Iran. Mutual Assured Destruction was the American strategy that kept everyone alive during the cold war. The strategy stated that if the US were attacked it would destroy the Soviet Union. Thus the only result would be both countries would be destroyed. It would therefore be unthinkable for either side to use Nuclear weapons against the other. The Economist wrote in 2001 Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafasanjani Iran’s once and perhaps future President mused ominously in Friday sermon that "an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damage in the Muslim world." The Economist was hopeful that despite this statement MAD would work since Israel the Economist stated reportedly has 200 nuclear warheads enough to destroy the entire Arab world. I am slightly optimistic only because Israel has the Arrow (an anti missile interceptor) and while no system is 100% the Iranians would not know if it would be successful. Its one thing to open yourself up to nuclear retaliation if you succeed -but if you have a high degree of chance of failing do you still attack? Are they that irrational? Let's pray not.

Finally, the cabinet meeting today dominated by the discussion on the work at the Mughrabi Gate near the Kotel. The cabinet voted to continue the work, with the majority making it clear that it was unacceptable to allow outside pressure to stop legitimate work in an area that was part of the Western Wall Plaza and not the Temple Mount. One of the Ministers went, as far to stay if we allow them to stop the work on the Western Wall area now, next they will try to stop work on Jaffa Street. The more interesting part of the meeting was the attacks on Defense Minister Peretz. In a leaked letter he called for the work to stop, and stated that he was not consulted. In a blistering attack at the meeting Olmert described in depth every meeting in which representatives of the Ministry of Defense participated to discuss the work. Other ministers attack Peretz for writing a letter and not talking to Olmert. The Israeli TV had a field day of repeatedly showing a clip of Prime Minster Olmert stating a few months ago that his relations with Peretz were the best between a Prime Minster and a Defense Minister in a generation. How long can a government continue to function with relations between the Prime Minister and Defense Minister this bad?

The news from Israel was dominated with last night successful test of the Arrow Missile System.  The test, which was the first night time launch, was done in a manner to simulate the launch of a nuclear tipped Iranian Missile. Thus the intercept was done earlier in the flight in order to give the interceptor the possibility of launching a second missile in the chase the first intercept failed.  The commander of the Hetz (Arrow) unit that launched the interceptor last night was asked on Israeli television if now Israelis could sleep well at night- His answer – Yes.  He warned any enemy of Israeli that it would be folly to attempt to attack Israel who now has the only deployed sophisticated missile defense system.

 

I am strong believer in the Arrow. I was also a believer in Star Wars, but think that the Arrow makes even more sense then Star War ever did.  The major criticisms of Star Wars were two fold.  One that no defense system could be hermetic.  Second critics pointed out that it was always cheaper to overwhelm the defense system with MIRV (Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles), which meant that the Soviets could increase the number of warheads launched on every missile, including decoys, faster then the US could build anti-missile missiles. 

The first argument made against Star Wars I always believed was overly simplistic.  No system needs to be hermetic (we can hope it will be) but the key is to greatly lower the chances of an opponent of getting his missiles through.  If you have a much lower chance of succeeding you have are much less likely to chance an expected retaliation.  The purpose of a defense system has always been to defend against a decapitating first strike (an attack where an enemy removes your ability to respond) an effective anti missile system makes a successful first strike nearly impossible. Even in a country as small as Israel that is not a realistic objective. Any attempt to attack an Israel equipped with Arrow would have to risk a high chance of failure and certitude of a retaliatory strike of Israel’s full arsenal. 

The second concern regarding star wars is not nearly as relevant in Israel’s case.  The new generation of Iranian missiles does not have the throw weight in order to include MIRV warheads.  Furthermore the Arrow is designed to intercept the potential missile before there is a chance to MIRV the warhead.  Thus it is no more expensive to build interceptors then it is to build missiles. 

It is only by making use of advanced technology that Israel has a chance to remain that safe shelter for the Jewish people.

 

Meanwhile demonstrations continued against the building of the bridge near the Kotel.

Jerusalem’s mayor has halted the building, for the simple reason that a full permit was never issued for the work.  The major materials have been removed from the site, and for the next eight months it is expected that archeologist will work on the site before giving the ok for the building of the disputed bridge.

 

Sunday February 11, 2007

The analysis and repercussion of the agreement between Hamas and Fatah continue today. Within Israel, the views of politicians followed rather predictable patterns. Former Prime Minister Netanyahu coming out with the strongest condemnation of the agreement. He called for no further contact with Abbas now that he was officially associated with Hamas, through the agreement. Deputy Prime Minster Peres had a more nuanced view, saying that the agreement was made on the lowest common denominator and with a great deal of ambiguity. He felt it was unlikely that the agreement would hold. In the meantime Israel's only actions were to make sure the quartet stood by its principles that called on any Palestinian government to explicitly recognize Israel, renounce violence and stand by any previous agreements. Peres believed that so far the members of the quartet (US, Great Britain, France and Russia) had taken a wait and see attitude. He was optimistic that they would come to the right conclusions. Peres former protégé Yossi Beillin also took an all too expected position on an interview this morning on Israeli radio. He thought the agreement was positive and that it was a positive development that the Hamas was willing to sit in a government that "recognized" previous agreements. I must say it was amazed listening to Beillin. Its seems that no actions by the Palestinians can convince him, that their may not be anyone who we can reach an agreement with at the moment.

Today in Teheran President Ahmadinejad gave another threatening speech against Israel. In the speech he promised a major announcement on Iran’s’ capabilities within two months. The Economist in this week’s magazine included a special section on Iran’s potential threat. It had a disturbing article on whether MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) would work in the case of Israel and Iran. Mutual Assured Destruction was the American strategy that kept everyone alive during the cold war. The strategy stated that if the US were attacked it would destroy the Soviet Union. Thus the only result would be both countries would be destroyed. It would therefore be unthinkable for either side to use Nuclear weapons against the other. The Economist wrote in 2001 Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafasanjani Iran’s once and perhaps future President mused ominously in Friday sermon that "an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damage in the Muslim world." The Economist was hopeful that despite this statement MAD would work since Israel the Economist stated reportedly has 200 nuclear warheads enough to destroy the entire Arab world. I am slightly optimistic only because Israel has the Arrow (an anti missile interceptor), which coincidentely had its first nightime test tonight and while no system is 100% the Iranians would not know if it would be successful. Its one thing to open yourself up to nuclear retaliation if you succeed -but if you have a high degree of chance of failing do you still attack? Are they that irrational? Let's pray not.

Finally, the cabinet meeting today dominated by the discussion on the work at the Mughrabi Gate near the Kotel. The cabinet voted to continue the work, with the majority making it clear that it was unacceptable to allow outside pressure to stop legitimate work in an area that was part of the Western Wall Plaza and not the Temple Mount. One of the Ministers went, as far to stay if we allow them to stop the work on the Western Wall area now, next they will try to stop work on Jaffa Street. The more interesting part of the meeting was the attacks on Defense Minister Peretz. In a leaked letter he called for the work to stop, and stated that he was not consulted. In a blistering attack at the meeting Olmert described in depth every meeting in which representatives of the Ministry of Defense participated to discuss the work. Other ministers attack Peretz for writing a letter and not talking to Olmert. The Israeli TV had a field day of repeatedly showing a clip of Prime Minster Olmert stating a few months ago that his relations with Peretz were the best between a Prime Minster and a Defense Minister in a generation. How long can a government continue to function with relations between the Prime Minister and Defense Minister this bad?

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