A headline in The Economist: "One side gets even lonelier . . . Binyamin Netanyahu gets brickbats from Palestinians and Israelis" http://www.economist.com/node/21536644
Visiting American relatives told us that their rabbi was saying "Israel is on a precipice," and that members of the congregation must increase their political and economic support.
Those who snipe at Israel, or worry about it, are focusing on the vote in UNESCO to accept Palestine as a full member, and the current uptick in discussions about Iran's nuclear program and Israel's pondering a pre-emptive strike.
However, a poll released a week ago, in the aftermath of Gilad Shalit's release from captivity, makes one wonder about The Economist's claims about Netanyahu's isolation. The survey showed Netanyahu's Likud party gaining 10 Knesset seats in the event of an early Knesset election, while the leader of the major opposition party, Kadima, would lose 11 seats. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/149120
A former head of the Mossad has said that while Iran should be prevented from becoming a nuclear power, its capabilities are still "far from posing an existential threat to Israel." He created a small storm with the comment, "The growing haredi radicalization poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad. . . . the ultra-Orthodox extremism has darkened our lives."
One religious politician responded by urging the police to take action against incitement. A SHAS Knesset Member and Minister in the government said that such statements "divide the people of Israel at a time when it needs unity more than ever." He wondered "how a Jewish man, who was the head of the Mossad, expresses himself in such a shameful, untruthful and provocative manner against the Jewish public, whose only sin is keeping the Jewish people's heritage alive without enforcing it upon anyone." http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2011/11/former-mossad-head-says-haredim-biggger-threat-to-israel-than-iran-789.html
This weekend the IDF showed once again that it had learned how to maintain its blockade on Gaza without bloodshed. It seized and brought to the Port of Ashdod two ships loaded with Canadians, Irish, and a few others. It found neither munitions nor humanitarian supplies on the boats.
It is hard to define a country's well-being with precision. Israel's economic indicators show 5.5 percent unemployment, and inflation a bit less than 3 percent. The major stock market index is 15 percent lower than its 2011 high, but still 73 percent above the low point reached during the 2009 international crisis. Comparable indicators for the US are unemployment at 9 percent, inflation a bit under 4 percent, and the S&P 500 88 percent above the 2009 low and 4 percent below its 2011 high. Germany is widely seen as having Europe's strongest economy. Its latest figures show unemployment at 5.9 percent, inflation at 2.5 percent, and the DAX stock indicator 63 percent above its 2009 low and 21 percent below its 2011 high.
Israel's Labor Federation is threatening a general strike for the purpose of pressuring the government to stop what it terms the "slave labor" of menial workers employed by government and other public sector bodies indirectly, via contracts with employment companies. http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=244487
Is the sky really falling? And if so, where?
As ever, Israelis have reason to worry. The big reason are those nuclear weapons Iranians are working to create. Also threatening is a bombardment of missiles in response to an Israeli attack. If Israel chooses to keep its own missiles in their silos, its second-strike capacities should deter Iran from using whatever weapons it creates. One can hope for the sake of Iranians as well as Israelis that sanity prevails.
Less profound dangers lurk in the constant possibility of missile attacks from Gaza and Hizollah, and the ever present threat of an Arab not associated with a terrorist movement, but led by personal rage to use a kitchen knife or a bulldozer against the nearest Jew.
In the range of major annoyances is that general strike. If not detered by a last-minute agreement or an injuction by the Labor Court, it will stop all public transportation--including the international airport--and lots of other services for hours if not days. The irony is that the Labor Federation--now standing up for contract workers--is among the principal reasons that so many people working for government, public sector agencies, and private firms are employed by contracting companies and not by the organizations in which they work. The work rules created over the years for the sake of powerful unions have spurred the industry of contracting by making it virtually impossible to dismiss organized workers for underperforming, or to reassign them from one duty to another, or to shift hours.
Media commentators are talking about the low wages and poor working conditions of cleaners, guards, and maintenance workers employed via contractors. They are also asking why it took so long for the Labor Federation to worry about these workers, and saying that the strike has less to do with the plight of those people than an upcoming election within the Labor Federation that is prodding incumbent office-holders to declare an all-out effort for the downtrodden.
That American rabbi who spoke about Israel on the precipice also has reason for worry closer to home. An unemployment rate almost twice Israel's is cause for concern among students at high-tuition colleges, as well as their parents. The long simmering issue of intermarriage worries some American Jews, even while others have accommodated themselves to the prospect of children and grandchildren who are not Jews. We hear of tensions within congregations between those who identify with J-Street and those adhering to AIPAC, as well as between those who remain loyal Democrats and those who think of Barack Obama as pro-Palestinian or worse. There are worries, too, about anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic preaching at the elite campuses favored by Jews. Israeli campuses have no shortage of anti-establishment lecturers, but they have to put up with students recently graduated from the IDF, who have heard most of the same arguments since childhood.
Jews here and there can argue long into the night about who has the greater reason to worry. Crime, drugs, personal safety, weather, health, and the furies caused by national politics should enter into the balance. If the bottom line is life expectacy, Israelis can claim almost five years longer for Israeli Jewish males than enjoyed by white American males, and almost three years longer than for Israeli Jewish females than white American females. http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/, Table 3.24; http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/births_deaths_marriages_divorces/life_expectancy.html
The upscale health insurance purchased by an American couple in our family may provide for them a private room and a hotel-quality menu should they need to be hospitalized. We would find ourselves sharing a room with one or more others, or even be relegated to a bed in a corridor, but our annual cost for medical services is about 10 percent of theirs. The time spent on paperwork, entitlements and co-pays is virtually nothing here, and a great deal there.
Telling Jews not to worry is like Canute trying to hold back the tide. My sense of history tells me that things have never been this good since the death of King Solomon, but my late father-in-law thought something similar while still a young man in Dusseldorf.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at November 06, 2011 05:08 AM