By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

What to do?


Not much of anything. This is a time for watching and waiting. The biggest crap shoot is in the United States. Currently it seems wisest to bet the nickel on Hillary, and a dime or even a quarter that the stay-at-homes will have more votes than any candidate. 

If the bet on Hillary wins, we can assume more of the same from the government she will be leading. If Donald wins, all bets are off. Picking his direction defies the odds-makers.

There is a lot going on elsewhere. The Israeli government and its security services should continue investing in intelligence, and snaring the bad guys and girls they identify, but probably not gearing up to anything more active.

The arenas attracting the most attention are busy internally, with the nasties killing one another. 

The Islamic State and its wannabees recruits worldwide, and directs the faithful to wreck havoc where they can. In these cases, the reliance on individual actions, linked only vicariously, means that the best defense for individuals is not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In other words, luck.

European governments are talking about closer monitoring of mosques. The Americans haven’t gotten their president to express the I(slam) word in connection with the violence, so Americans may have to be more lucky than the rest of us.

Even monitoring mosques may have limited payoff, given the importance of Internet sites in spreading the evil.

Israel may be the most pro-active in dealing with Islamic violence, and coping with the criticism received as a result. Along with the criticism, it also hosts visiting politicians and security professionals, who want to know how Israel does it. Israeli as well as European authorities have confined local Muslims known to be on their way to join Islamic State forces elsewhere, or who have returned home after serving.

Here the idea of a Palestinian State seems to be dead, while it is still among the favorite mantras of diplomats and politicians in the U.S., France, and a few other places.

Realities are murky. The leadership of the Palestinian National Authority has little support in the West Bank, and less in Gaza. It is possible to find those who want to pre-empt, clean out the West Bank and/or Gaza, and end once and for all the Iranian nuclear threat.

1967 was an ideal of preemption, unless you take the view that it led to Israel’s self-destructive settlements, or the view that it produced the 1973 war with its high casualties, 

It’s easier to attack than to deal with the unintended consequences.

A small country like Israel has some advantage in maneuverability. Moreover, it’s been enhanced with conflict among Muslims. Israel deals with the U.S., European powers, Russia, China, India, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and who knows who else?

Israel’s recent headlines have dealt more with the Olympics (two bronze medals for judo), and several cases of tainted food than anything more violent. The companies found at fault, allowing tainted products to enter the markets and not quick in admitting the need to withdraw them, are some of the most prominent, with a local subsidiary of the international giant Unilever among them.

Competing with the Olympics and tainted food is a police investigation into the prime minister. Reports are that it involves his use of funds collected by the American branch of Likud. One can doubt that many Americans are aware that such an organization exists. And those of us who follow allegations about campaign finance violations are hard pressed to express more than a yawn. We’re yet to hear that police inquiries into Netanyahu approach the level of taking bribes in exchange for allowing anything in the league of large scale and ugly property developments, of the kind that ended the career of Ehud Olmert.

The mini-Intifada that began in September, and was marked by individual knife attacks, using cars as weapons against people at bus stops, and some drive-by shootings has pretty much disappeared. But there are always signs of fervent Palestinians. Last week a young Palestinian man used a screwdriver to stab a young ultra-Orthodox Jew in the area of the Mount of Olives. Israel cooperates with Palestinian security forces against opponents of the Palestinian political establishment inclined to violence against the wrong kind of Palestinians as well as Jews. We often hear gunshots while having our evening meal on the balcony, or later when on the way to sleep. 

Relaxation is relative. You have to know where and when to do it, recognizing that no place is completely safe.

That goes for small towns in America and Europe as well as anywhere in Israel.

Yet it could be a lot worse.

For Jews it has been worse. Our religious friends fasted yesterday in commemoration of the 9th of Av.

Comments welcome,


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