|Israel Resource Review
||21st September, 2006
A Message of Accounting for Israel in the New Year
Tomorrow night begins Rosh Hashana. This is a time of accounting. We are bidden to do a heshbon nefesh -- a spiritual accounting. As a people, as well, we must do that accounting.
Now especially, as world events have become so incomprehensible and so immorally farcical, do we need to turn to Heaven. Would it be that with Hashem's help we Jews might, as a people, come to understand our role on this earth and to carry it through. Would that we would find the strength to understand the great gifts that have been given us, to treasure them, to protect them and to have inner integrity as a people. May the Almighty protect us and vanquish the enemies who seek to destroy us. I pray.
Following this will be no further postings until after Rosh Hashana.
To everyone reading this I send my heartfelt prayers for you to have a life of fulfillment, inner peace, personal growth and deep love.
I speak above of world events that have become an "immoral farce," and day after day, with a heavy heart I have been writing about this. The world is so upside down. A distraught friend asked me today why, when Annan addressed the General Assembly regarding the turmoil the whole world will find itself in if Israel and the Palestinians don't make peace, someone didn't stand up and tell him, "You are without moral authority, you let hundreds of thousands die in Rwanda and so have nothing to say to us now." Of course her question was rhetorical, but it was totally on the mark, none the less. That the man who indeed did let hundreds of thousands die in Rwanda (by pulling out the UN forces when he got wind of a possible genocide) should have the honor and accoutrements of leadership is mind-boggling. Our leaders in the main are without moral compasses. The world requires a heshbon nefesh, not just the Jewish people.
Today in New York Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a press conference. Could there be greater farce than this? He spoke about the sweetness and light that his nation represents: "We love everyone." This the western world needs to provide him with a platform to say?
But yesterday -- in a meeting that had generated fierce opposition and dissension -- he spoke with some senior US government officials at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The conclusion American officials came away with is that a major confrontation with Iran is inevitable. As much as taking him on militarily is a terrible thing to contemplate because of inevitable consequences, I await such a decision eagerly: the alternative -- doing nothing -- will result in consequences that are far more terrible still.
See Krauthammer on precisely this point: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/14/AR2006091401413.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns
In a wonderful report two days ago, JINSA (whose reports are often wonderful) addressed an issue I have been referring to frequently: The insistence by the western world that Israel and the Palestinians have to be negotiating "peace" before a coalition against Iran can be put together. Says JINSA:
"So Israel, victimized by attacks across her borders from terrorist, non-state actors ideologically committed to its destruction, is required to engage in a 'peace process' with them in order to secure the Administration's attention to a state actor ideologically committed to its destruction and ours? And the Arab states, concerned as they should be with Persian Iran's hegemonic designs on the region, are telling the Administration that they won't cooperate in the defense of their own interests unless Israel makes new promises to the Palestinian 'push-me-pull-you'?
"The crux of this is that no one, repeat no one - not the United States, not the Arab states, not the Europeans, not Israel - no one is ready to deal directly with Iran's quest for a nuclear capability that includes weapons. They are hiding behind the 'peace process' to avoid facing their nakedness in the mirror. Israel is too small a country to cover them."
It strikes me still that among world leaders, George Bush remains one of the few with some clarity of vision and genuine moral compass where the Middle East is concerned. In fact, JINSA just praised him for "leaving Israel out." That is, at the UN he emphasized Palestinian responsibilities:
"It is not 'settlements,' not checkpoints, not the Security Fence - not Israel - that prevents the evolution of a more peaceful Middle East or even the establishment of a Palestinian State. It is Palestinian behavior and the President quite rightly focused his attention on that point and left Israel out."
But having said that, I would suggest that the presidential compass is more than a bit askew here. JINSA touched on matters that President Bush got wrong and brushed them aside as fairly minor. I do not believe they are minor at all and would like to address them.
The president is still calling Mahmoud Abbas a "man committed to peace," a leader who will act on behalf of his people and with whom there can be negotiations. This is imaginary. It is pie in the sky. It is pretend for the sake of political appearances. But to suggest this and propose Israel act on it -- so that Arab states can be mollified -- is highly dangerous.
Abbas never was a man of peace. He has solid terrorist credentials. He's just an incredibly smooth and smart operator. But we don't have to go back to his history to determine his attitude toward genuine peace. It will suffice here to consider some simple facts:
-- Abbas's Fatah party still calls for the destruction of Israel in its charter.
-- Abbas actively courted Hamas from the day he became president in January 2005.
-- Fatah and Hamas recently struck a deal based on the "Prisoners' Document" (actually a version edited to be more to the liking of Hamas): It does not recognize Israel's right to exist and sanctions terrorism everywhere.
-- During the Lebanon war, the PA (including Abbas) supported Hezbollah.
This is the "peaceful man Bush thinks we should negotiate with?
To make matters more complicated and more "pretend": Bush is warning that any new PA government would have to adhere to the basic conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing terrorism, and accepting previous agreements. These conditions are being referred to as the "Quartet" conditions and actually the Quartet released a statement with regard to this yesterday: "The Quartet welcomes the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form a government of national unity, in the hope that the platform of such a government would reflect Quartet principles ."
But Haniyeh, the PA prime minister, has just reiterated his staunch refusal to recognize Israel or renounce terrorism. So what does it mean?
MK Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP) gave an interview on army radio yesterday in which he touched on the issue of Arab emigration. He continues to be a breath of fresh air. May he go from strength to strength in the coming year. Said Eitam:
"Look, in the wake of this war, the people of Israel need to begin to say the truth. The deceptive myths must end. The myth that we can abandon territory without it becoming a launching ground for attacks on us and the myth that this struggle is over the outcome of the Six Day War [i.e., the Palestinians only want Judea-Samaria].
"The days of viewing our territory as a check book - through which we can buy off the rejection of our existence here - have ended. We therefore must be honest with ourselves - if we can't give the land away and we can't keep the land with this hostile nation upon it - we must encourage them to emigrate."
How splendidly put: "The days of viewing our territory as a check book - through which we can buy off the rejection of our existence here - have ended." This was the failing of the land for peace concept of Oslo, because we have been ready to give land but they want our total elimination.
Eitam reported that on recent trip to the US, he discussed his ideas with Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was very receptive, because of the lessons of September 11th. "The assertion that the world will not allow transfer to occur is another deception," Eitam said.
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info
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WARREN BUFFET COMES TO SEE HIS INVESTMENT IN ISRAEL:
A HANDS ON REPORT
When Israelis think of business people from the USA, they often conjure up images of fast talking ambitious go-getters from New York or Los Angeles.
Indeed, during this reporter's 36 years in Israel, it has been hard to find Israelis with any exposure whatsoever to a successful, soft spoken American mid west businessman, let alone an entrepreneur who has turned over billions of dollars.
Ofer Petersberg, economics correspondent for the most widely read Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, was one of the first Israeli reporters to meet Warren Buffet when he was flown to Omaha last May, shortly after the deal was made for Buffet to buy the controlling 80% interest in the ISSCHAR conglomerate in the Galilee region which had been pioneered by Stef Wertheimer in 1952.
ISSCHAR, based in the Tefen Industrial Park in northern Israel, a few miles from the border with Lebanon, exports technological products to no less than sixty nations, not all of whom are on the best of terms with Israel. However, business is business.
Petersberg remarked that when the other four Israeli reporters knew that they were flying to the USA on a private plane to witness a major business deal, the details of which were kept secret from them, they imagined that they would be landing in some kind of Rockefeller Center or Wall Street,
"So imagine the surprise that we had in store for us when we looked out the windows of the plane and saw the cornfields of Nebraska".
What Petersberg did see was a an investment of billions of dollars, yet something which he described as " simple, clear and business like": - How a businessman who had never stepped foot in Israel would give the Israeli economy an unexpected vote of confidence by evaluating the profitability and the potential of a leading Israeli enterprise, which would lead him to invest $4 billion and an 80% controlling shares of the company.
Petersberg and the other Israeli reporters wanted to understand why Warren Buffet would invest in Israel, and they were impressed by the fact that Buffet gave them time and paid attention even more time than he paid to the US reporters.
During his short visit, Buffet spent a few hours with the media, reviewing his principles with the Israeli reporters: That the firm that he was buying was making a profit, that there was no government interference, and that the firm would have staying power.
All that fit the reputation of Buffet's future business partner - Stef Wertheimer, whose industrial park complex has been the shining light of business success in Israel, simply because Wertheimer has defied the modus operandi of almost every business in Israel, since almost every business in Israel is somehow tied to the umbilical cord of the Israeli government, or dependent on some kind of Israeli government contract, subsidy or market assistance.
Instead, Wertheimer's mantra has always been that he wants the government to leave him alone while he is making his international business arrangements.
What Buffet was surprised to learn upon his arrival was that "The Buffet Method" has been made into a household word by a young Israeli investment analyst, Udi Aloni, who has compiled and translated everything that he could get a hold of from Warren Buffet's lectures and writings into Hebrew.
For almost ten years, Aloni, at 34, has been giving lectures based on "The Buffet Method" for aspiring business students in Israel's leading academic institutions.
Indeed, Aloni has summarized "The Buffet's method" to 35 principles, almost all of which have to do with the fundamental human psychology of how to develop modest, capable instincts as a way to assure success in business.
Some of the principles of "The Buffet Method" that Aloni has compiled seem basic and logical:
* Invest only in something that you understand
• Hire administrators who are credible, bright and energetic.
• 12. Only work with people whom you like to work with.
• Circle the investments that you understand.
• Hold on to companies that produce cash assets
• A company's success does not depend on someone's Intelligence.
Aloni, who also writes for the Israeli newspaper HaAretz's business section, covered Buffet's visit and met him this week for the first time in person.
During Buffet's presentation at Isschar, he gave clear reasons for his investment in Issschar and in Israel, noting the brain potential that exists throughout Israel, which Buffet described as "a nation with such a reserve of brains the presents a logical reason for anyone to invest".
Buffet told the media who accompanied him in Tefen that "One of the inherent solutions of the conflict is to encourage Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews to work together productively, so that they would see how much they would have to lose if all this would go under" Stef Wertheimer added that his vision was to "create the infrastructure of peace by creating jobs". In the literature given out at Tefen, Wertheimer outlined his vision of a "Marshall Plan for the Middle East" that would stimulate industrial productivity in the aftermath of the Middle East Conflict.
This reporter asked Buffet as to how to convey the reality of the Galilee to the media after the conflict that had ensued during this past summer, when Tefen was also under bombardment. Buffet responded that he had a "clear message for the media - to see and report first hand a story that no one knows, of the development of the Galilee, of Arabs and Jews working side by side in a billion dollar industry" and in Buffet's words, "a message for Jews" – to see this aspect of Israel, which Buffet called the "unknown story – even to the Jews of America.
Ofer Petersberg asked Buffet if he had reconsidered his investment during the war in the Galilee this summer. "I did not think for one minute of withdrawing or reconsidering or delaying my s investment… I knew that I was investing in a country where not all the folks around her like e you, and that conflict is part of the reality of Israel" Buffet then exclaimed: "We will be here forever and Israel will be here forever".
In all of his appearances during his short visit to Israel, Buffet indicated that this would not be his last investment in Israel and that he waited for people from Israel to contact him, indicating that he would like to repeat his investment, based on Israel's phenomenal economic growth
After all, the Israeli economy has grown at a pace far more rapid than hardly anywhere else, where the GNP in 1990 was 25 billion dollars, The GNP in the year 2000 was $102 billion. The GNP in the year 2005 was $150. – a 600% GNP increase in 15 years,
Buffet described some of the investments that he has made in the recent past -
9% of Gillette - 8% of Coca Cola, to indicate to Israeli business people the kind of blue chip investment that he is pursuing.
When a reporter asked Buffet about the "boycott of Israel" in some international industrial circles, . Buffet's remark was that "this would be like biting your nose to spite your face".
At one point in Buffet's presentation, he indicated hat he combined his own business like sense of human relations in the market place with the struggles of Jewish existence. Indeed, in his final remarks in Jerusalem, at one of the few times that Buffet displayed any emotion whatsoever, Buffet said that he had learned much from the experience of a Jewish woman in Omaha who had survived the Nazi horrors. She had explained to Buffet that "making true friendships is the way that you will find out who will hide you when they come to get you", and he said that this is one reason why Israel needs true friends.
During Buffet's reception in Jerusalem, this reporter observed two Jewish business people from Omaha, Ron and Irv Blumkin, whose furniture supply outfit, Nebraska Furniture Mart, was sold by their grandmother Rose to Buffet back in 1983 for a 80%.share, the same share that Buffet offered Wertheimer. A gentleman in the hall who hailed from Omaha came over to reminisce about their furniture supply store. The man was without any tag, so it was something of a curiosity that an Omahan native happened to be at the King David Hotel that night. Well, that man was Richard Jones, the relatively new US ambassador to Israel, a proud native of Omaha.
While Irv Blumkin had been in Israel once before, this was Ron's first visit. Ron accompanied Buffet in the helicopter that traversed he country, and he remarked that "seeing the proximity of Israel's neighbors" caused him to see the "miracle of Israel's survival" from what he could see from the helicopter, because, to paraphrase Ron's words, it did not dawn on him that hostile neighbors are so close. Ron commented that Nebraska is indeed surrounded on all sides by Iowa, South Dakota, Coloradao and Kansas, and that this did not in any way compare to an Israel that was much smaller than Nebraska - and surrounded by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, each of whom has been at war with Israel at one time or another since the inception of the Jewish state in 1948.
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