March 24 2011 More Missiles in South, New Scandal This Time Netanyahu, Syria on the Brink?

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

March 24 2011 More Missiles in South, New Scandal This Time Netanyahu, Syria on the Brink?

The situation in the South continues to be dangerous, with missiles landing again today in Ashdod and in S'derot. The open question remains, whether the crisis is going to get worse or not. At this point the Islamic Jihad firing the rockets. They could be stopped by Hamas, if they really wanted, but Hamas is reluctant to do so. In the last year the Islamic Jihad has been heavily armed by the Iranians, who have been concerened that Hamas might not always do their bidding. Therefore, they wanted a counter force in Gaza. On the Israeli side, there is alot of pressure within parts of the government for Israel to respond more forcefully. Of course, what is to be achieved by a more forceful response remains the open question. Regardless, weather conditions today were such that it was not an optimal day for any sustained response.

The Air Force is under increased pressure to declare "Iron dome" operational and deploy it. Expectations are that they will do so within the next 10 days. Of course then the problem comes down to the Solomonic decision where to deploy it. The IDF only bought two systems, which means only two cities can be defended. If the system deploys and works as promised it will be one Israel greatest scandals if the IDF does not immediately order how ever many are needed to defend both the South and North. The IDF and the local mayors are at loggerheads. The mayors of Beersheva, Kiryat Gat and Ashdod have all suspended school (the school buildings are not reinforced in those towns), while the army has asked them to continue normal life. The mayors have effectively all said the same thing: nothing will happen if kids miss a few days of school, but God forbid a missile lands in the wrong place, the damage could be irreplaceable. Having schools closed, of course, puts greater pressure on the army or the political echelons to find a solution.

Just when you thought Israel had enough scandals, an investigative report on Israeli Channel 10 has brought to light a new scandal this time involving Prime Minister Netanyahu. It seems that he worked very hard, during his years out of office, at developing ties with wealthy Jews all over the world. No real surprise there, and it is certainly not illegal. However, once he returned to political life, both as a member of Knesset and as Finance Minister, he continued to rely on those ties to pay for his many expensive trips abroad, as well as to pay for the traveling of his family. Unfortunately, once he returned to political life he required approval before taking any trips paid for anybody else- approval that there could be no conflict of interest tied to the payments. It was also a violation for outside bodies to pay for the travel of his wife. As of today his actions are now being investigated by the state comptroller.

For the last few days Israel Channel 10's Arab Affairs correspondent, Tzvi Yechzkeli, has been saying that the demontrations in Syria marks the beginning of the end of the Assad regime. He may be right. A total of 100 demonstrators have been killed this week by forces supporting the regime. Unfortunately for Assad, the son, his father could get away with killing 5,000 opponents in his time and world new very little of it, the dead Southern Syria are ow appearing on YouTube and all the newsmedia thanks to cell phones. Initially, Arab TV stations, like Al Jazeera, were playing down the events, since the Syrians were the "good guys" part of the circle of opponenets to Israel and the US, but with 100 dead, they are beginning to ask difficult question, questions that the Syrians cannot answer.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Israel today. He held a Joint Press Conference with Israel Defense Minister Barak today. Here is the transcript as provided by the US Defense Department

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