Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The Council for Higher Education was created in 1958 to administer the official national institutes for higher education and facilitate the administration of all matters concerning higher education in Israel. In 1992 Ariel Academic Center, located in the West Bank, submitted a request to the Council to become an accredited institution. The Council refused, stating its jurisdiction did not extend to the territory of Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The fact that Israel accepted UN Resolution Two-Four-Two is the basis for this denial.
The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Defense in coordination with the Attorney General came up with the creative idea of creating a new council. After 34 years a new organization was established by military order – The Council for Higher Education: Judea and Samaria. The new Council incorporated former and present members of the accepted council. Two different educational boards now existed, with some members sitting on both and others not participating altogether. The IDF reigned over the situation; the regional commander has the sole authority to approve any decisions by the newly formed council.
On January 2010, Israel's Minister of Defense lent this confusing situation new meaning by approving-- via the commanding officer of the West Bank-- the recognition of Ariel College as a University. A decision that should be based on academic considerations was vulgarly promulgated by a military fiat promoted by Labor Party leader Ehud Barak.
In addition to the controversy surrounding the recognition of Ariel as a university, the new decision will grant the institute a heftier budget, improving its research activity and bringing an old argument back to life. Ariel University supporters are pushing for greater Israeli control over Judea and Samaria, while opponents argue for budgetary increases for the currently accredited universities who are already suffering from large deficits. The threat of an international boycott of Israeli academia is raising its head again, adding more distress to the situation.
We can all agree that a decision to accredit a new university should be made by academics, not generals.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tzipi Livni, the current Israeli opposition leader, spoke at a convention regarding economic crimes and political corruption at the Beit Berl College not long ago. She made clear that the Attorney General of Israel must be devoid of any link to public affairs.
As Yehuda Weinstein prepares to enter his position as Attorney General on February 1, 2010, the subject of governmental decency becomes more controversial than ever. Weinstein is the first attorney coming to the position from the private sector. He is known as a successful criminal defense lawyer, specializing in white-collar crimes. He has been involved in cases against politicians and businessmen such as Ezer Weizman, Aryeh Deri, Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yossi Beilin and others.
Livni opposes the governmental appointment system of the Attorney General and advocates splitting the position into two posts, a suggestion offered by Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman. At the convention, she said:
"The man that needs to determine… whether a case will be opened against a public official or against a member of the government can not be the Attorney General. The decision needs to be made by a man, a judge or a retired judge that was chosen by a board free of politicians, retired politicians, or anyone that is part of the political arena".
Livni claims that personal involvement on behalf of the Attorney General prevents his ability to suppress political corruption adequately. It seems that the public thinks differently. A survey by the research institute, Teleseker, found that the current Attorney General, Meni Mazuz, received an above average score of 3.2 from 1-5 in the question about his ability to efficiently deal with political corruption.
The concerning question that remains is, how relevant will these numbers be after Weinstein, a man involved in political public affairs, enters his new position next month?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Ahmed Tibi is an essential part of the Israeli political arena. Looking at his role in both Israeli foreign and domestic affairs, it is clear that Tibi’s work often bears few fruits for his constituents. If there is such thing as a “lose-lose” situation, Tibi may have struck the lottery more often than not.
As one of the few elected parliamentarians representing the Israeli Arab sector, he is definitely its most recognizable spokesman. In order to reflect the opinions of his constituents, Tibi must voice his thoughts on both foreign and domestic politics . Internally, he is the voice of the under represented (on many levels) Arab minority, while externally, he must take a stand against what many see as Israel’s unfavorable policies in the region.
Tibi’s latest spat came today when he encouraged the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] to reject Israel’s request at becoming a member of the 32 nation IGO due to what he called “state-led discrimination” against Israel’s Arab sector.
Clearly, there is a lack of balance within the white collar representation of Arabs in the work force. We could argue for hours about at whom to point fingers and ways to fix these inequalities. Yes it is a problem and yes it needs to be fixed, as the Arab population is growing at rapid rates while not showing much progress in its economic success and sustainability.
However, that is not the point of this memo – nor is it the point that Tibi is correct in his overall message about getting ourselves to look in the mirror as we skate on thin ice with many policies affecting the Israeli Arabs.
One thing Tibi must realize however is that he is a citizen of Israel, and no matter what, he should lay a firm hand behind actions that will contribute to the overall improvement of the state - an improvement that will trickle down in theory to the general Israeli population - not just the Jews.
Mr. Tibi must understand the necessity for Israel to be a member of this organization. Not only would Israel be able to demonstrate its far-reaching technological and scientific capabilities, but it could also serve as a stepping-stone for the opening of new inroads within the region. Being in an organization that looks to spread its achievements across the globe is a fine way to exhibit a type of "quiet diplomacy" with its neighbors.
Should Israel be involved in an organization that will help to eventually bring about better economic policies in the region, than surely it may be able to garner some support for greater relations – at least economically – with various countries in its backyard. Isn’t it these kinds of productive economical pacts that help fortify commonwealth among nations? Isn’t it this kind of growth that allows nations to stop pointing fingers at one another for its own inadequacies?
Ahmed Tibi speaks the truth. We may not like what he has to say as it forces us to grapple with some of the crucial issues that plague our domestic affairs. It demands reexamination of some of the tough questions that come along with having a “Jewish state”. Calling on the OECD to deny membership status to Israel is not an effective way to accomplish those worthy goals.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Piracy runs rampant off the Horn of Africa. Hijacking of cargo ships off the Horn of Africa no longer elicit the same response they once did; people are inured to the ongoing chaos in Somalia. As much as I am a fervent admirer of all things buccaneer (me mateys concur), this is an increasingly troubling situation. The Somalian government controls an area smaller than my neighborhood, poverty is ubiquitous, and famine is on the daily menu. Concerns that pirate ransoms are funding terrorist organizations are growing. Somalia is separated from neighboring Yemen by less than 100 miles of water appropriately named the Bab al-Mandeb, or Gate of Tears. Yemen's deterioration is no coincidence given its geopolitical proximity to Somalia. Adequately defanging Islamic terrorist organizations in Yemen will require severing the links with their Somali partners. Any long term solution to either country's destitution and susceptibility to militant groups will require action in both countries.
- Suetonius, in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, recounts Julius Caesar's capture by pirates as a young man. Upon release, "he did not delay then and there to launch a fleet and pursue the departing pirates, and the moment they were in his power to inflict on them the punishment which he had often threatened when joking with them". That punishment? Crucifixion, and he was considered merciful for cutting their throats first. That might be a step too far in today's day and age, but it demonstrates a principle: bandits must be harshly punished.
- In Nathaniel's Nutmeg, a non-fiction telling the history of the spice trade with the Far East in the 16th and 17th centuries, Giles Milton makes it abundantly clear that ships laden with precious cargo were armed. Whether defending themselves from other nations' navies or corsairs, they most certainly used cannons to keep potential thieves at bay.
- The "Golden Age of Piracy" in the Caribbean, glorified by Hollywood and literature, was a result of abundant, relatively unguarded wealth on the seas and limited governance. European colonists found eking a living on a farm less profitable than raiding Spanish galleons, and so took to the adventurous life. Only once a greater naval presence was paired with more direct governance by the European powers did piracy in the Caribbean decline.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Turkey's PM Erdogan has been using anti-Israel rhetoric since operation Cast Lead in Gaza stopped and damaged the mediation efforts he carried between Israel and Syria. His criticism of Israeli policy stems not only from the personal insult he suffered, but also represents his side in a domestic Turkish political struggle. Since his election in 2002, Mr. Erdogan and the conservative AKP party have been involved in an internal conflict with the secular, Kamalist elite over the control of Turkish politics. Therefore, Mr. Erdogan's anti-Israel rhetoric helps him gain support from the Turkish religious Muslim population, not only for his own prestige, but for his party as well. On the international level, Turkey has no interest in harming its relations with Israel. Turkish foreign policy sees Israel as means to increase its international involvement and prestige by serving as the mediator between Israel and Syria and a possible future mediator between Israel and Palestinian factions.
On the Israeli side, Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon's "humiliation" of Turkish ambassador could also demonstrate a "two level approach" which however was poorly executed. Mr. Ayalon's provocation aimed to satisfy his right wing voters which often see how Israel is bashed by Turkish officials and Turkish TV programs. In addition, Mr. Ayalon intended to disrupt the reconciliation efforts carried by his political opponents from the Labour party: Ehud Barak and Fuad Ben Eliezer. On the international level, the commercial and military cooperation between the countries is highly significant for Israel. Moreover, Turkey currently enjoys a major role in the international arena due to its situation at the crossroads of the West and East-- critically, Iran and Afghanistan. Jeopardizing its relations with Turkey would be contradictory to Israeli national interest.
Looking at the end result, Mr. Ayalon's approach succeeded in bringing the opposite outcome. Not only that most Israeli public was embarrassed from the incident, but Mr. Ayalon managed to alienate the pro-Israeli secular elite in Turkey. It is unclear whether the commercial relations between the countries will be harmed, but diplomatic and political relations have been damaged, and thus Israeli national interest as well.
It is advisable for Israeli decision makers to go back to Putnam's ideas and the basics of international relations before acting in ways that harm Israeli foreign relations and national interest.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Basing foreign policy on the übernationalism propounded by Yisrael Beitaynu can only result in more aggravation of Israeli relations abroad and greater isolation. It is a weak attempt to perpetuate the stalling of the long frozen peace process (remember that?), but it will only compromise international integrity and Israeli security.
What happened to the likes of Abba Eban? How did this man get into office?!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Turkey is Israel's sole strategic ally in the Muslim world. They are democratic, secular, and antipathetic towards Iran and extremist Islam. They own approximately 137 times more water than Israel, and nearly double the regional runner-up: Iran. Turkey's burgeoning economy has a GDP four and a half times that of Israel's nonetheless respectable $203 billion. That's where Turkey's economy was a decade ago; they're booming.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
The Iron Dome attests to an (albeit delayed) Israeli strategic adaptation to a fluctuating military environment. Whereas for two score years their enemies rode in tanks and planes and pitched battles in the desert sands, the Israeli military has fought guerrilla warfare against unconventional forces for the past two and a half decades. Rather than continue to send soldiers into veritable hornets' nests to fight alley by alley and house to house at great human risk, technology is today's preferred mode of combat. Unmanned drones struck targets in Gaza and Southern Lebanon in the most recent rounds of hostilities. The Iron Dome project is the most recent development designed both to foil enemy tactics and minimize human casualties.
In keeping with this overall strategic overhaul, the Israeli Defense Forces should adopt other unmanned weapon systems to keep soldiers out of harm's way. Since invading Iraq in 2003, the US Army's deployment of robotic fighters and UAVs has increased dramatically. By sending heavily armed and armored, remote-controlled soldiers into combat instead of men, American lives have been saved. Nevertheless, some American field commanders call for more, and more autonomous robotroops in Iraq and Afghanistan to stem the death toll. While the Iron Dome system addresses the rocket problem in the north and south, furthering this tactic to ground operations is key to keeping Israeli soldiers away from bullets when fighting militants.
In short, I would like to see some of these bad boys rolling into the next hotspot decked out with IDF decals:
Monday, January 4, 2010
Michaelson speaks about American Jewry, but I think this article is highly relevant to world Jewry. It's a good read, enjoy.
Exciting? The Israeli audience is less than thrilled.
A professional production team, family, friends, and confused passersby were seen around the block of ice placed in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Questions such as “what is he wearing?”, “how does he go to the bathroom?”, and “what's the trick?” came up frequently from the visitors. Most were not supportive. A conversation between Hezi’s father, who milled about the crowd incognito, and an anonymous bystander triggered the concerned parent’s ire towards the Israeli attitude. In his opinion, Americans are supportive and Israelis are negative. He said:
“Be supportive, be proud, look what is happening abroad. He is giving pride to Israel. In America everyone went crazy when [David Blaine] was there. Here people search for problems, what, why, how, how much, where. What is this? Everyone is so smart... Look, they are telling you, he's not drinking, not eating, the guy is standing, be supportive! Give him props!”
David Blaine entombed himself in ice in Times Square for 62 hours without food or room to move. Our Israeli magician remained in ice for 64 hours and in contrast to Blaine, also deprived himself of water. While the audience was gossiping about Dean’s catheter, wondering if he has a Snickers bar in his pants or if he’s a combat soldier, his family and friends watched over him worriedly. His friends say that he prepared for this stunt months in advance by sleeping in tubes on the balcony and practicing yoga three times a week. They backed him in his craziness, unlike the Israeli public.
Don’t get me wrong, placing yourself inside ice for three days is not the most intelligent thing to do. It is simply an example. Whether you are an Israeli Nobel Prize winner or trying to claim the Guinness world record, the lack of Israeli public support is evident.
Dean’s love for extreme is something we can see but not something we can understand. He came out of the ice 64 hours after he entered; the Israeli winter must have felt like the Caribbean to him. Dean was taken to the hospital to be cured of hypothermia, dehydration and starvation. Now we can only wait and see if the hearts of the Israeli public defrost along with him.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Too much credit is given to democracy alone. Democracy in and of itself is no great thing-- remember Churchill's warning: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all of the others that have been tried." It is but a single cog in the greater machine of Liberalism. Without universal equality for all citizens, an established code of fundamental freedoms, and a separation of religion and state, it is mob rule.
The U.S. recognizes Israel as an ally in the Middle East because it is a bastion of democracy in a sea of dictatorships. America pats Israel on the back, and Israelis applaud themselves, for exhibiting the hallmarks of a vibrant democracy: universal suffrage, open elections, and a slew of parties holding a gamut of views. For this the Israeli political culture deserves commendation. Nevertheless, Israel by no means exercises freedom of religion, nor does it extend equal rights to all of its inhabitants. The only recognized Judaism is Orthodoxy, and those who practice that particular strain are entitled to greater benefits and fewer demands from the state than secular Jews or non-Jews. Israel is at best democrat-ish, in the words of Avi Taranto.
Lest Israel and the West forget, Iran also holds national elections, it too is a form of democracy. Just because the people vote, it does not mean that the government respects the rights of the populace, that the will of the people is executed, or that minorities' rights are protected.
Who cares about democracy?