It is "after the holidays." They begin with Rosh Hashana and end three weeks later with Simcha Torah.
Last evening we stood on our balcony and saw the congregants of a nearby synagogue dancing with the Torah scrolls. We also saw a line of cars inching their way along the road from Eilat, the Dead Sea, and the Jordan Valley, as families returned from vacation.
It is time to stop postponing unpleasant things, and go back to work.
Tzipi Livni has two more weeks to form a government. It is unheard of for a person designated by the president to create a coalition to fail in the task. It is also unheard of for potential members of the coalition to make it easy.
The Labor Party agreed in principle to a coalition agreement, but its Knesset members are still quarreling about the details and threatening that nothing is final. The Pensioners' Party is saying that the provision in the Kadima-Labor agreement concerning pensions is ridiculous, and will not get them into the coalition.
The ultra-Orthodox party, SHAS, is saying "no deal" due to Livni's lack of generosity with respect to payments for families with numerous children, and her refusal to promise not to negotiate with the Palestinians about the division of Jerusalem. Commentators say it is not entirely about those issues, but reflects a power struggle at the summit of SHAS. The Knesset member currently holding the title of party head is doing everything he can to torpedo the efforts of a rival, who is likely to be more flexible about joining the coalition.
Lacking enough votes without SHAS, Kadima is making overtures toward the left-of-center Meretz party. If it joins, Labor stays in, and the Pensioners come on board, Livni will have a enough votes to win Knesset approval, if she has the support or at least the abstention of Arab parties. With Meretz in the coalition they are likely to cooperate.
However, Shaul Mofaz, who barely lost the leadership contest to Livni, is threatening to jump if the coalition includes Meretz. Mofaz is more hawkish than Livni, and has spoken about attacking Iran. Meretz would work to make Livni more accommodating with just about everybody who may be threatening Israel.
Some problems seem to be waiting for Israel to return from its holidays. Reports are that Hamas is interested in a continuation of the cease fire that has kept the southern front quiet. Syrian officials say that there has been progress in indirect talks with Israel, and they are waiting for a new prime minister. Mahmoud Abbas wants more progress, but he has not threatened anything lately.
However, nerve-wracking sharp drops and gains in various stock exchanges provoke worry about a world recession. Economists are talking about a wave of bankrupcies and worker dismissals reaching Israel.
Right-wing American Jews have not given up on their campaign against Barack Obama. A lengthy letter written by Anne Bayefsky, of the Hudson Institute, is circulating, sent on by individuals no closer to the political center. Bayefsky sees Iran's nuclear program assuring another Holocaust if voters neglect to choose John McCain.
Wake up. There is a genocidal maniac on the verge of reaching the point of
no return in his ability to make a nuclear weapon. A fanatic with the stated
ambition to murder five million Jews living in Israel -- to start. A villain
who has already funded and armed a terrorist war against the Jewish state
that in 2006 forced one-third of Israel's population to live underground for
almost a month. . . .
So when you cast your ballot this election, make no mistake: you are voting
for or against a nuclear holocaust. Not because Barack Obama wants such a
horror, but because he will not prevent it. He will still be talking when
the point of no return in Iran's nuclear program is reached. And the balance
of power in the world will -- with terrible consequences -- have changed
The prominent weakness in Bayefsky's argument is Sarah Palin. Palin has more than the average Vice President's chances of becoming president. She wants to stop Iran, but may not know how to do it without causing more problems than she prevents. A few more wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, and the American empire may go the way of the Soviet, British, French, Ottoman, and Roman.
Where will that leave Israel?
It would be great if the holidays would last forever. The problems are not simple. Someone has to work, sometime.
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Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Home tel: 972-2-532-2725
Cell phone: 054-683-5325