Friday, June 12, 2015

The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict or how Sara Netanyahu household recycling fund can bring improve the Israeli GNPout

The Rand Corporation recently released a report called The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

It has been making the rounds from Forward to the Jewish Press. I decided to take a quick read, and got half way through it and was struck by air of ‘lost in wonderland’ which haunts the writers of this report for most of its 273 pages. The question of ‘how much, who pays, and for how long’; is never fully addressed in the study.  It touts ‘end financial benefits’ to both the Israeli and Palestinian communities if a two-state solution is established while ignoring the one timeless fact of state sovereignty; nothing is free.

In 2005, the Rand Group released a study on the viability of a Palestinian State and estimated that the International community would need to invest over $33 billion USD over 10 years before a Palestinian State could potentially be a viable, rather than, just another failed mid-east state.  Who knows, what the price tag would bottom-line costs would be ten years later? 
When the 2005 study was released, the Gaza Strip was not Hamastan  nor had infrastructure had  been ravaged by three military engagements with the IDf.  Relations with the Egyptians had not  deteriorated to their current state with no signs of rapprochement in sight. Who pays, and how much is never fully explored. Maybe we can make the Greeks pay!

The recent Rand study makes a number or erroneous assumptions which bear little resemblance to the current facts on the ground. Such as, the Rand Report presumes there will be a full reconciliation between West Bank and Hamas leadership.  Currently, there has been a seven year separation with no true reconciliation for the foreseeable future. Just as recently as last summer, West Bank Palestinian dictator, Mahmoud Abbas, had to circumvent an attempt against his rule by Hamas members.  Nor is there any accounting for the greater infrastructure spending needed to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip from its current dilapidated state. 

This airy-fairy magical reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is vital for the Rand report’s most positive scenarios; two-statement peace agreement solution, a coordinated or unilateral withdrawal by the Israelis. In all Rand’s ‘best-case’ scenarios the report assumes that there will be magical territory congruity between the West Bank and Hamastan with no thought given to the practicalities of ‘how this is to be achieved’. I am sure, Fatah would really like to know.

The search and development for natural gas outside of the Gaza Strip, and the development of a deep sea port is absolutely vital and necessary to making Palestinian state viable, without this, the Palestinian state will be just another failed mid-East state in the community of nations. 

The Rand report does not, for even a moment, entertain the possibility, in the event of a unilateral uncoordinated withdrawal from the West Bank that the Israelis may chose not to carry on economic trade with their Palestinian neighbors. It would not be the first experience Israelis have had with undesirable neighbors... Even with a ‘peace’ agreement duly signed by all parties does not mean Israelis would chose to participate with closer ties, either economic or social with their neighbors. The Israelis will continue to thrive in the event of a divorce, but the Palestinian economy would collapse. And the Rand rolls the dice heavily on a complete reconciliation rather a divorce absolute.  

Another presumption of the Rand report is that the Allenby- King Hussein  border bridge between Jordan and the West Bank will be under full Palestinian control, which given the history of PLO in Jordan, I would suggest runs completely contrary to Jordanian security needs – or even taking into account the recent ‘coldness’ that has entered into Jordanian-Palestinian relationship. 

 And let’s talk about the settlements. The Rand report suggests anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 Israeli-Jews would have to be evicted from their homes and relocated. It suggests the International community, in the interests of peace, should pick up at least 75% of the tab for evicting Israeli Jews from their homes.

The report never mentions the ‘actual’ cost or what that figure would look like but there is baseline to start.  The estimates for the disengagement from the Gaza Strip were around US$2 Billion for just under 9,000 Jews. So if we do the math, and take the lowest baseline figures for eviction that makes around 60,000 Jews, and it will cost approximately US$34 Billion. According to the Rand formula, the international community should be on the hook for approximately 75% to the tune of around US$25.5 Billion. Where the Israelis are going to up with an extra US$8.5 Billion is beyond my ability to project. Who knows, maybe Rand is counting on hitting up Sara Netanyahu's household fund for recycling of plastics and bottles for the Israeli contribution. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Jew and a Democrat

 At the Jerusalem Post Annual conference in New York City, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew got heckled, boo’d, and in a less civilized era and place, he might have run the risk of being tarred, feathered and  run-off the stage.  

The Jerusalem Post carried an editorial moaning the less than positive reception Lew met in the audience and attempted to build a case for by listing Lew’s record as a tireless advocate for Israelis in his long public service career, but seriously, when you come before Kol Yisrael, as the Court Jew for one of the mostly openly anti-Israeli American Administrations; what do you expect would happen? 

 Unfortunately some are unable to distinguish between a close friend of Israel and the temporary impasse over the Iran issue. The animosity and anger directed toward Lew by a minority of the conference audience reflected not only the passion raised by the issue, but the blindness and misguided hatred that rigid ideology can bring to the table.

To trivialize and characterize the division between Kol Yisrael and the Obama White house as just a difference of opinion regarding the handling of the Iranian Nuclear program is to deny reality. The last six years of Obama Administration has been one of the most openly hostile US Administrations in the history of American relations to Israel.  

The real issue facing the American Diaspora, is that there will soon come a time, when they will forced to choose between being a Jew or a Democrat. And when that day comes, it will have nothing to do with the Republicans or the Palestinians. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

About that bump in the road on the way to Damacus

The Times of Israel carried an article written by a Christian Gay Palestinian who claims to come from one of the more prominent Hamas families in the West Bank. He calls himself John Calvin now and has been studying at a bible college in Alberta. He wants to stay in Canada, but the government has ruled he is inadmissible.

What I think is rather fascinating about John Calvin's is not his 'personal narrative. After all Son of Hamas has been rather well publicized and Calvin's narrative mirrors Mosab Yousef's remarkably so. What fascinates me is his conversion to Christianity. In his own words.
From as early as I can remember, I was taught that Islam was the one true faith, that violence was the only answer, and that the Jews were our enemies. These were facts, as real and obvious as the fact that the sky is blue. These were “facts” and deep down I wasn’t sure if I believed them.

I know that lots of people lose their faith and change their minds when and where they least expect it. In Christianity, we talk about “the road to Damascus,” referencing Saul’s conversion in a part of the world that for much of my life was almost on my doorstep. My moment arrived in an Israeli jail, after I was arrested for illegally crossing the border, escaping from yet another argument with my family and the violence of my father. I was looking for answers to questions when and where I least expected them.

It was in an Israeli jail where the doubts I had about everything I had ever been taught were finally silenced. Another man, a Palestinian man, hurt me in a way I could never have imagined, in a way that just isn’t talked about in our society. If that was unexpected, that was nothing compared to what came next. The Israelis who worked in the prison – “the Jews” – looked after me and took care of me, making sure the story never got out to those who would use it against me. The Palestinians I had been taught to die for had hurt and abandoned me while the Israelis I had been taught to kill acted with compassion and helped me heal.

Shortly after this I began my journey of conversion, opening my eyes and heart to a religion that denounced violence and hatred.
This is the first time I read this, I showed it to a number of my work collegues and asked if they didn't notice something extraordinary about his conversion. They did not get what I thought was obviously outrageous and bizarre but their were Christians, and its a 'feel good' story about 'Christians'. None of the commenters at The Times of Israel have brought it up in the comments either, but then again, more than half were written by Christians who were having issues with the 'gay' part of his Christian narrative and could see little beyond that. 

Why I find his 'conversion' so bizarre is that it came about because Israelis - Jews treated him with compassion and empathy, so consequently, he decided to become a Christian. What's next? If a Muslim treats a Jew kindly, the Jew becomes a Hindu? This doesn't make any psychological sense, and it has to be the first public conversion to Christianity, which on the surface, came about because of acts of chesed performed by Jews.  And to honour the Christians, he takes the name of a man who was no friend to the Jews of his time.

I suspect, if this Son of Hamas (2) narrative wins a reprieve from deportation from Canada, it will become an increasingly common narrative heard in immigration hearings throughout the West.

Tallit Tales

Yair Lapid, leader of the Israeli party, Yesh Atid, came to a New York Conservative synagogue to give a speech. All of which isn't that remarkable or even unusual. Israelis, whether- religious, political, academics, come all the  time to synagogues in North America to give speeches.I have sat through many of these speeches.

What got me was the picture of Lapid  in the synagogue - I mean, really who wears a tallit like this?

I have never seen anyone wear a tallit like this.  I have been in Orthodox, Charedim, Yemenite, Perian and Conservative shuls, and no one, not even even the few women in Conservative shul who do wear a tallit would wear it like Lapid does.

I am tempted to say he must have thought he was talking to Reform Jews, except I am not even sure they put on tallit...but if they do, do they really wear it like this?

Monday, June 1, 2015

How Bruce Jenner taught my daughter to accept her hebrew name.

I owe Bruce Jenner.

My daughter has always hated her hebrew name and favoured her 'Angleet' name.  As of today, she will now only be known as Tzipporah or Tzippy for short.

 Todah Bruce, I mean Caitlyn.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The once and future war

 This is one of those posts which is more, for my reference, rather than any reader.  I suspect, when the next Lebanon-Israeli  war happens, these reported circumstances will play a much larger role in shaping the nature of the conflict as well as the acceptance of any resolution after hostilities has ceased.  

 In the aftermath of the Lebanon-Israel war of 2006, I started to refer to Hezbollah as the Iranian Foreign Legion.  At the time, I did not fully realize that Hezbollah’s new position would not be confined strictly within the borders of Lebanon.  NY Times
TEL AVIV — Viewed from the air, Muhaybib looks like a typical southern Lebanese village — a cluster of about 90 houses and buildings punctuated by the minaret of a mosque and surrounded by fields. But when the Israeli military trains its lens on that hilltop Shiite village close to the border, it sees nine arms depots, five rocket-launching sites, four infantry positions, signs of three underground tunnels, three antitank positions and, in the very center of the village, a Hezbollah command post. 

As Israel prepares for what it sees as an almost inevitable next battle withHezbollah, the Shiite Lebanese organization that fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006, Israeli military officials and experts are warning that the group has done more than significantly build up its firepower since then. Without knowing when the next war will break out, or what might precipitate it, the Israelis are blunt about the implications: They will not hesitate to strike at those targets, so southern Lebanon will most likely be the scene of widespread destruction. 

Effectively, the Israelis are warning that in the event of another conflict with Hezbollah, many Lebanese civilians will probably be killed, and that it should not be considered Israel’s fault.“The civilians are living in a military compound,” a senior Israeli military official said at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing delicate intelligence matters.“We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can,” the official said, but “we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.”

The Israeli military says that a few miles northwest of Muhaybib, in the larger village of Shaqra, with a population of about 4,000, it has identified about 400 military sites and facilities belonging to Hezbollah, which Israel says has been armed by Iran and Syria. Zooming out over a wider section of southern Lebanon, the Israeli military says the number of potential targets for Israel in and around villages runs into the thousands.

Israeli military officials said they were publicizing the Hezbollah buildup to put the problem on the international agenda in case there is another conflict — and to possibly decrease the chances of one breaking out. 

The Israeli claims could not be independently verified. 

 Unlike the NY Times, I do not doubt the Israeli military claims. It should be a relatively easy thing to verify the Israeli military claims.  What I find hard to believe is that the NY Times could not come up with Lebanese stringer on the ground that could collaborate or deny the Israeli military claims…. Or how about contacting the UNIFIL Command, passing along the information and asking for them to confirm, deny or just comment? 

After all, since an integral part of UNIFIL’s mandate of UN Resolution 1701 is to ensure that Hezbollah does not continue to militarize any area south of the Litany River…it looks like job one is an utter and complete failure, and if so, the UN and the world needs to know that.But then again, I am not a journalist for the NY Times. 

In other news, the Jerusalem Post reports; Lebanon turns to UNIFIL to end air, sea and land border violations…gee, I wonder why?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dear MP for York Centre

My federal Member of Parliament, Mark Adler for York Centre, sent me a letter asking my opinion on the job the current government has been doing for Canada, and wanting to know what is important to me as a Canadian. So here goes....

I don’t want to eat Raisin Bran or Corn Flakes made and packaged in Thailand

I want to know when I buy pickles that I am buying are pickles from Canadian farmers and/or Canadian food processors.  I want to see all food sold in Canada labeled clearly so I easily understand the origin of all ingredients used to produce or make any given food product.   

I want to be able to buy an electric kettle, coffee pot or a television made in Canada, so if it falls apart in than a year, I can hold a local manufacturer responsible for the lack of quality control. I want to drive a car that is entirely made in Canada and was produced by my fellow Canadians rather than Mexico or Brazil.  I want clothes made in Canada and sewn to Canadian sizing standards. I want a t-shirt that will not fall apart  or lose its' colour in a few washings.  

When I call my bank, insurance company, telephone, or cable/internet provider, I want to speak to a fellow Canadian; someone who understands Canadian law, accounting practices and language. I want to be able to buy winter boots that are made for our winters and won’t fall apart half-way through the winter season. Don’t even mention shoes.

 I don’t want to buy pet food made in China – enough said. I can live without the dollar stores and cheap products that fall apart shortly after purchasing. I can live quite nicely knowing that no manufacturer or producer selling products in Canada is beyond the jurisdiction of the Canadian legal system. 
I can live without the Government of Canada giving Volkswagen a loan to produce cars manufactured outside of Canada. I can live without ‘Canadian in name only’ companies whose production facilities are located outside the country being promoted by the Canadian government.

I can live without free trade agreements quite nicely, in fact, before NAFTA and hundreds of other Free Trade Agreements; the quality of goods and services produced was far superior to what is routinely offered for sale today in Canada. The pricing deferential, when compared to the quality and health risk, just isn’t worth it.  

I want to live in a country which is economically self-reliant and who has a Prime Minister who has the interests of all Canadian citizens at heart rather than the shareholder stock price of  a select few corporations. I want to have a Prime Minister who safeguards Canadian sovereignty, rather than giving it away, just so he can sign another free trade pact for his corporate cronies.

I can live easily with the idea that one needs citizenship to buy property in this country.  I can live with the idea that Canadian companies have to look after their own labour supply, as opposed to the current practice of lobbying the government to import a constant stream of cheap labour to meet their business labour needs. I can live with a Canadian high school student serving me coffee or asking me - 'if I want fries with that?'  And if you cannot afford to pay a Canadian caregiver/nanny minimum wage; either raise your own children or don’t have any.  

I can live with potentially lower tax rates caused by a surplus of full-time jobs available for the working poor that pay a living wage rather than minimum one. And, I can live with a Prime Minister who cuddles dogs rather than kittens. Ironically, I was a 'Conservative' longer than Stephen Harper has been leader of the Conservative Party, but don't think for a second you can count on me during the next election.