Four stories dominated the Israeli press this past week. The first story was the ongoing conflict in Syria; the second, was the visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; third, was the Peri Commission report; and last, the killings in Beersheba and outside the town of Arad,
The events in Syria received a great deal of attention– as there are growing fears of greater Israeli involvement in the war– (following another incident in the Golan, where Syrian soldiers fired on an Israeli vehicle.) This time, the Syrian government took credit for their retaliatory attack. The Israeli response to the Syrian fire came in the form of a threat by Israeli Chief of Staff, Benny Ganz, that if Syria opens a front on the Golan, it will be the end of the Syrian regime. Later in the week, the Commander of the Israeli Air Force further warned that if Assad’s regime suddenly falls, Israel could find itself in “an all out war” in parts of Syria. In addition, this weekend Hezbollah leader Nasrallah announced– for the first time– that his organization is fully committed to winning the war with the Syrian opposition fighters. One thing that every observer in Israel seems to agree on is that there are no good foreseeable outcomes of the Syrian War– just a range of bad ones.
The Peri Commission was given the responsibility to develop a new law for drafting of the Haredim. The plan the Commission presented calls for exempting 1,800 Haredim per year, and requires the rest either to go into the Army or do Civil Service. The plan also gives Haredim an option to delay their service up until the age of 21. There are a number of problems with this draft law, including: the fact that by age 21, Haredim are generally married with children, and the fact that if they do not go into the army, this law does not call for any sanctions to be levied against each Haredi personally (just their yeshivot). Though despite some exceptionally large loopholes in this law, the Haredim are likely to declare war on the new law and last night Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph publically cursed all those who are bringing it about,
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry visited both Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week. It seemed an almost quixotic visit. Kerry is trying to reignite the peace talks with the Palestinians (something that appears almost incomprehensible to most Israelis.) With the Middle East in flames, it seems a strange time to think we could reach a peace agreement. Of course, a contrarian could say that this is the best time to try to reach an agreement. One contrarian is of President Shimon Peres, who spoke in Jordan today, stating that we cannot miss our current opportunity to bring about peace. I wish I could share his optimism.
There were also two sets of terrible killings here this week. The first tragedy was committed by an unemployed “Bank Hapoalim” customer, who came into a branch of the bank in Beersheba and killed 4 people, before killing himself. The second heartbreaking act of violence was committed by a father, who killed his two young daughters. These young deaths were especially tragic– since the Bedouin mother of the children had warned police in Arad just the day before that her ex-husband might commit this act. The police did nothing. In the wake of this travesty the leadership of the Arad police department has been replaced.
Earlier today, “Better Place”, (the Israeli electric car company) declared bankruptcy. In Israel there is no chapter 11, so sadly, the company will be disbanded. This is a sad end for a company that seemed to have so much promise. In the three years it has been trying to sell its car in Israel it only successfully sold 900 vehicles. The reasons they failed are complicated. However, between the high price of their cars, combined with the complete dependency on the company’s charging network, too few Israeli buyers could be convinced to purchase the car.
Lastly, in a recent worldwide poll Israel has been rated the fifth least popular nation in the world, (ahead of North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran). Germany was rated the #1 most popular nation by the same survey. I just have nothing to say.