Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Why Israel Deserves Support

This point can't be made often enough.Pictures from yesterday's election make the point pretty well. Turnout -- at 68.5%! -- was the lowest in Israeli history. The highest turnout here, in the last 42 years, was 42 years ago, when we got a whopping 63.1% in the Kennedy-Nixon election. In recent years, 1996 and 2000, we got 49.1% and 51.3%, respectively. Pathetic.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

A Historic Opportunity in Israel

The exit polls I've seen predict Likud 35 seats, Avodah (Labor) 18, and Shinui 17. That's 70 total, a commanding majority in Israel's 120-seat unicameral Knesset. The real key is Shinui, an avowedly secular party, doubling its mandate in the Knesset. It presents the first opportunity in a generation to destroy the perverse influence of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel politics. I have no beef with how the ultra-Orthodox interpret and live the faith -- that's their choice. But I reject the notion that they should dictate to the rest of Israel how the country should be run, as they have in recent years. Their influence is behind the "settlement" movement, based on a claim that the West Bank was part of the land given by God to the Jews. I don't necessarily disagree with that claim, but I'm content to wait for the Messiah to get it back. Have you ever been to the West Bank? It may be "promised," but it's also desolate beyond description. Why the peace and security of all of Israel should be risked for a few zealots' outposts I just don't know (note, I am not referring to the expansion of Jerusalem, which is a sort of Jewish penninsula in an Arab sea; the settlements in the Jerusalem area have a practical strategic significance). Inside Israel, the ultra-Orthodox also have a perverse influence on policy. The public till already has to finance a national self-preservation effort that dwarfs, on a per capita basis, the defense needs of any other nation. And yet millions are siphoned off every year to support the religious institutions of the ultra-Orthodox (who are exempt from service in the military that defends them). By the way, my impending marriage would not be recognized in Israel, again due to the influence of the ultra-Orthodox, because it will (iy"h) be performed by a Conservative rabbi. And my uncle, though a survivor of the holocaust, who was raised as a Jew and has lived his whole life as a Jew, and has raised Jewish children and grandchildren, is to these people not a Jew, because his birth mother was not Jewish. They should be banished to the political wilderness, and today's results offer the chance to send them there. Mitzna, Labor's new leader, has said repeatedly he would not serve in a Likud dominated coalition. If he is too stiff-necked to go back on that policy, he would drive Sharon into the arms of the ultra-Orthodox, and an historic opportunity will be lost. Here's hoping he sees the light.

UPDATE: Seems I'm just echoing the thoughts of Tommy Lapid, Shinui's leader, who has just publicly made the same plea I have. He says:

I call on the Labor party to forget its promise not to join a unity government. It is irresponsible! Does Mitzna want to leave Israel in the extreme right wing, with its endless wars, and its fallen economy? Is the Labor party more important than the State of Israel?.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Day Job

Yes, I have one. And this week will, like last week, be particularly busy. So I'll be out of touch until the weekend. Unless our fearless (and, I fear, clueless) leader provokes me too much tomorrow night. I'm on board for the war, but that doesn't mean I sign up for what's going at John Ashcroft's place (although now the INS is under Tom Ridge at the ominously named department of homeland security, so I'll have to redirect some of that ire) or for Bush's spectacularly misguided stewardship of the economy.