|Israel Resource Review
||5th January, 2007
Commentary: Teddy Kollek, Rumors, and more
Teddy Kollek, whose name was synonymous with Jerusalem for over 25 years, died on Tuesday at 95; he was laid to rest today in the Mount Herzl cemetery. Jerusalem's mayor from 1965 to 1993, he built the modern city and maintained that it had to remain unified, while all of its citizens were attended to. Teddy's son, Amos, at the funeral said, "I do not feel the need to say much about what my father did all his life, as this city speaks for itself and calls his name. Wherever you look, he's there."
The rumors are never-ending: Shalit will be released soon; no that's not so; maybe he'll be released soon; well, it's close but there are snags. Depends on who is reporting and the hour of the day.
What disturbed me the most was a report, attributed to "senior government officials," who said the other day that Israel is prepared to release a "very very large number" of prisoners in return for Shalit, to Abbas but not to Hamas.
This is scary on a couple of levels. First releasing a "very very large number" (how many is THAT?) of prisoners is to invite repercussions -- either more kidnappings to secure more of same, and/or terrorists attacks perpetrated by those released. A very very large number of prisoners would include a very very large number of very very bad people.
But there is also another factor. It's this ludicrous game-playing to "strengthen" Abbas. What does it mean to release prisoners "to" Abbas? They're all going to go home and live with him? He's going to keep tabs on each one? When they're released, they're released. And no matter the attempt to make it seem like a coup for Abbas, the fact is that Hamas was involved in the kidnapping and will claim credit for this.
The release of Shalit is being held up by issues regarding how many prisoners, who will be included (the name Marwan Barghouti is always on Palestinian tongues), and the sequence of events (Israel would like to put time between Shalit's release and the release of prisoners, so it's less obvious that it's a straight trade).
Olmert is scheduled to fly today to Sharm-el-Sheikh to meet with Egyptian president Mubarak. Projections are that discussions will center on Shalit and encouragement of a moderate Arab coalition; no great revelations are expected.
A letter was sent to Olmert by eight members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee -- many of these members of the coalition -- expressing concern about the asymmetry in our relations with Egypt. The letter, initiated by MK Yuval Steinitz, alluded to the fact that while his predecessor Sadat visited Israel regularly, Mubarak has boycotted Israel for all his years in office, even though there is a peace treaty between the countries. This is a mark of disrespect and encourages other Arab nations to behave similarly. The signatories were hoping for promise of a reciprocal visit from Mubarak as a condition to Olmert's visit. They feel, and I concur, that Olmert is demeaning us if he ignores disrespect to the nation.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Kofi Annan is out as Secretary General of the UN and his replacement, Ban Ki-Moon, has taken over and, it seems is adopting a similar skewed worldview. The English website of a South Korean paper, Hankyoreh, ran an interview with Ki-Moon, in which he said: "If the issues with the conflicts between Israel and Palestine go well, [resolutions of] other issues in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Syria, are likely to follow suit."
That nonsense again? Come on!
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, irked by this, sent off a letter to Ki-Moon: "I have never heard Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad call for territorial compromises from Israel, but rather for the total and unconditional annihilation of the Jewish state . . . Ahmadinejad's vision for a 'new Middle East' is one void of a Jewish state or any Jews at all."
It's a "shanda," a "bousha" -- an embarrassment, a source of shame for our country. (I hate writing about these things, but must.) This is big stuff: Tax Authority Director Jacky Matza and his predecessor, Eitan Rub, have been arrested on suspicion of taking bribes. In all 22 people in government and business were called in for questioning regarding the allegation that businessmen influenced the appointment of senior officials and tax assessors at the Tax Authority. This case was investigated for 10 months before it broke.
What makes matters more troublesome still is that one Shula Zaken is suspected of being the coordinator between the tax office and businessmen. Who is Shula Zaken? She has been with Olmert for almost 30 years. Now she is gate-keeper for the prime minister's office; in years past, wherever Olmert served, this is where she was found. Law enforcement officials insist there are no charges pending against Olmert himself, and no evidence that he was aware of this, but it isn't looking terribly good.
All of this leads to another, related question: Why, with all of the embarrassment and all of the incompetency and all of the corruption (he's up to his ears in other charges), hasn't the Olmert gov't fallen. So many of us are waiting for this. Polls show that something like 70% of the nation thinks he is not competent.
For a while there I was convinced that members of the coalition would default, causing the coalition to implode. I thought -- and was advised from several quarters, one that I deemed particularly reliable -- that they would do this because they saw the discontent of the public and would hope to disassociate themselves from Olmert now so that they might receive public endorsement in the future. Now I'm hearing precisely the opposite: that they're taking a look at the situation and saying that the public will never vote for them again because of their association with this coalition, and so they might as well hold on and keep the power as long as they can. Not a pretty picture.
The one thing I am observing now is that Binyamin Netanyahu has suddenly become a very vocal critic of the gov't, as the head of opposition should be. This is welcome -- whatever my doubts about Netanyahu -- after a period in which he was silent. I will say quite simply, whether he might be my first choice for prime minister or not, I would rejoice for Netanyahu to be prime minister now instead of Olmert.
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info
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