Nigel Farrage saves Boris

Nigel Farrage, Head of the Brexit Party, has made an about-turn and has announced that his party will not stand in 316 Conservative-held seats in the upcoming election.  This means that they will not compete for Conservative seats, ensuring a larger Conservative majority.

Last week Farrage attacked PM Boris Johnson’s agreement with the EU and said it was not good enough. But, many people pointed out to him that running against the Conservatives would result in diluting the Conservative’s ability to form a Government. It would have split the Brexit vote and been a  gift to the opponents of Brexit, the remainers.  This includes the Lib-Dems, the Scottish SNP, the Welsh Plaid Cymru and the Irish DUP (that are not strictly remainers but who don’t like Johnson’s Irish arrangement with the EU).  So Farrage’s decision practically ensures a Conservative majority and that Boris will remain PM.

The remainers are split between several parties and the Labour Party is so confused that practically no-one supports Corbyn’s latest plan.  That is to reject Johnson’s plan, renegotiate another plan  (not specified) with the EU (that have said they will not negotiate any more) and then have another referendum on the outcome.  What a ridiculous plan, especially after over 3 years of haggling after the previous referendum.  There are many Labour candidates who are not supporting Corbyn’s Brexit policy, particularly since the British public has Brexit-exhaustion and want it to be over already.

Labour had a nasty surprise when Corbyn’s deputy Tom Watson, seen as a more moderate leader, suddenly resigned.  Also a veteran Labour MP Ian Austin resigned over Corbyn’s anti-Semitism and bullying tactics.  Meanwhile 10 of the Conservative members that Boris had ejected from the Party were reinstated.  So it looks as if Boris might be saved.

Israel Under Rocket Attack

Last night the IDF carried out a targeted killing in Gaza and eliminated Baha Abu al-Ata, the Chief of the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) al Quds force.  This force is supported and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the military wing of the Iranian Government.  Although the PIJ is Sunni, nevertheless they accept the control of Shia Iran.

Why did Israel want to remove the Head of Islamic jihad in Gaza?  Simply because PIJ did not recognize the ceasefire arrived at between Israel and Hamas with Egyptian mediation, and at Iran’s behest they continued firing rockets into Israel and digging tunnels to attack Israel.  Over time PIJ has become more powerful with Iranian support, and Hamas apparently is unable to stop them breaking the ceasefire. Although Israel usually blames the party that controls the territory from where attacks occur, in this case it was clear who was responsible.

Later the IDF also destroyed a house in Damscus near the Lebanese Embassy, that was the home of Akram al-Azouri, the Deputy Head of PIJ in Syria.  Several people were killed, but it is not known at this point whether Azouri was among them.  The Syrian regime in alliance with Iran, allows PIJ free activity in Syria. This was a warning from Israel that Syria is not immune from attack if it hosts an active terrorist organization that targets Israel.  These counter-attacks were recommended by the Chief of Staff of the IDF and approved at the highest level by the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel,

Following the attack, volleys of unguided rockets were shot at Israel from Gaza, up to now 50 rockets have been fired.  Of these some 95% were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, but several got through and a house was hit in Sderot and damage was also done in Ashdod up the coast.  Places as far away as Tel Aviv and Rishon-le-Zion were also targeted. As a result of the attacks, all schools and businesses in southern Israel were closed.  I received a call at 8 am telling me not to go for my scheduled blood test this morning.  Also, the University was closed and public transport was interrupted.  Note that the Home Defense Ministry orders these responses in order to avoid civilian casualties.  No rockets have fallen on Beer Sheva as far as I know, but I am writing this from inside my shelter (a reinforced concrete room required in all new houses).  

It is clear that even without an active government Israel will not tolerate continued deadly attacks against its citizens.

Third Time Lucky?

At present it appears that there is no possibility for the formation of a national unity government in Israel between the Likud and Blue&White Parties for several reasons. Even though they have enough seats between them to form a big majority they cannot agree.  Benny Gantz, the leader of B&W, who now has the mandate from Pres. Rivlin to form a  Government, will not agree to having Benjamin Netanyahu in his coalition, at least not until he sees if Netanyahu will be indicted by the Attorney General on various counts.  And Netanyahu will not agree to break his coalition agreement with the smaller right wing parties, that neither Gantz, nor Avigdor Lieberman of the Israel Beitanu Party, will accept. So there is currently a stalemate.  Which means that Israel might be forced to have a third election in a year.  What a waste of time and money.  Meanwhile Israel is being run by a caretaker Government that is doing nothing.

Nevertheless, there appear to be some stirrings.  The right wing party New Right, that itself was the combination of two smaller parties, has merged with Likud, thus raising Likud’s total to 35 seats, more than B&W at 33.  The price for this from Netanyahu was that New Right’s leader Naftali Bennett will become Defense Minister if he forms a Government.  Lieberman has reiterated his and Gantz’s requirement for a coalition that Netanyahu drop his agreement with the “messianic right parties” namely Shas and United Torah Judaism.  So if Netanyahu did just that, there might be a last chance for a coalition of Likud (merged with New Right), B&W and Israel Beitanu.

There are about 10 days left before Gantz’s mandate time runs out.  He is apparently considering forming a minority government that would depend on the Arab Joint List for support.  This would be the first time in Israel that an Arab non=Zionist (and anti-Zionist) party would hold the balance of power in a government in Israel. If it comes to that it will be a sad day for the State and the people of Israel.  How much longer can this stalemate go on because politicians won’t do their job and compromise in the country’s interest?

 

The Beginning of the End of Political Islam in the Region?

What is happening in the region-from the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia to the current anti-corruption demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon -should leave us asking: Will political Islam gradually disappear from our region? Egyptians are still traumatized by the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, under which financial mismanagement and political violence reached unprecedented levels. The fall of Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi sent shock waves across the Arab world, particularly among proponents of political Islam such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party.

Just as the Egyptian people confronted political Islam in Egypt, so did the people of Algeria and Sudan in their own countries. The Algerian people endured hundreds of thousands of deaths during the 1990’s at the hands of Islamist militias, but did not lose hope. Eventually, sanity prevailed, and the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was forced to disarm and disband. In Sudan, demonstrators were able to sack their president, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, a sympathizer and ally of the National Islamic Front, after 30 years in power.

There was also the secession of South Sudan. Even in Iraq, after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime and his Baath Party, demonstrations have revolved around opposition to a government backed by political parties of Islam.

Even in Lebanon, for the first time, the Lebanese people realized that their main enemy was the enemy from within, which did not provide them with a decent life and minimal well-being. Protesters have shown a high degree of unity regardless of sectarian and political affiliation.

For the first time since the formation of Hezbollah in the 1980s, Lebanese Shi’ites have turned against it. In Nabatiya, a Hezbollah stronghold, Shi’ite protesters burned the offices of Hezbollah leaders. In Tunisia, too, the recent elections reflected the decline of political Islam. In the first round of the presidential election, the candidate endorsed by the Ennahda movement, the local Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, came in third, making him ineligible for the final round. Tunisians have grown deeply distrustful of Ennahda, especially after revelations of the party’s involvement in the establishment of a spy network targeting citizens, politicians and security personnel.

The end of political Islam depends on the adoption of an alternative project by national leaders. Leaders of the Arab world must promote policies that meet the needs of their people and provide them with basic services jobs and anti-corruption measures. They must also invest in economic development, especially among youth. The era of empty slogans is nearing its end. The time has come for real political accountability in the Middle East.

[Note: I did not write this, but I could have.  Incredibly it was an editorial in the UAE Newspaper Al-Etihad, reproduced in the “Voices from the Arab Press,” section in the Jerusalem Post. The times they are achanging.]

Najat al-Saeed
Al-Etihad, UAE, October 31
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.

Why I Support Boris

I like Boris, he has enthusiasm, political acumen, and although he engages in bluster, he has the personality to make it seem earnest. That’s why he is where he is, he certainly is a lot more aggressive that Theresa May, even though his Brexit agreement with the EU is about 95% the same as hers.  Nevertheless he got his agreement with the EU thru in time and it passed at least one reading in the House. But, since his timetable was rejected and  he could not afford to have it amended out of existence, he did the next best thing, he suspended Parliament and called a new election for December 12. He hopes this time to get an outright Conservative majority so that he can finalize the passage of his Brexit deal.  This is what the UK needs.

The majority of the country voted in 2016 to leave the EU, the problem is that the Parliament kept reconsidering the decision and became stalemated. Parties like the Scottish National Party (SNP) that sit in the UK Parliament, and the Liberal Democrats, are remainer parties and the Labour Party has been all over the place. Under Corbyn they had supported the leave decision, then they rejected all agreements (except the last one) and now they have called for making another agreement (which the EU has said is impossible) and another referendum (to make sure). As far as I am concerned Corbyn is a dangerous far-left anti-semite, with dangerous socialist policies, such as open immigration and take from the rich to give to the poor (like Bernie Sanders in the US).

The current phrase in fashion in the UK is “tactical voting.” This means that if you strongly support Brexit, but don’t think Boris is good enough (OK, that’s a joke about Boris Gudenov), you might vote for the Brexit Party that opposes Boris’s deal with the EU. And if you are a remainer, and voted against the referendum in 2016, then you might vote for the Lib Dems or the SNP, rather than the Conservatives or even Labour. In other words it’s all about Brexit and nothing else. Those die-hard Labour Party supporters who are more concerned about social issues than Brexit will still support Labour and those died-in-the-wool Tories who may or may not support Brexit, but always vote Conservative, will do so anyway. The problem as I have been informed is that an amazing 40% of the electorate haven’t made up their mind at the moment, so all bets are off.

Why I Oppose Pres. Trump’s Impeachment

Omg, after investigating Pres. Trump for 3 years at the cost of probably well over m$50 the Democratic Party has discovered that Pres. Trump lied, and that he sought to obtain  dirt on his rival Democrat Joe Biden, and that he did so by using a quid pro quo.  Isn’t that terrible!  Well, I have news for you, most politicians lie, and most seek to dig dirt on their rivals and hey, that’s part of the game.  And the Democrats know that, so from the beginning they have sought to dig the dirt on Pres. Trump, because how dare he become President, how dare he defeat their teflon candidate, Queen Hillary, who only did a few things wrong, like using a private e-mail system in contravention of her signed statement as Secty. of State not to do so, thus endangering the country’s secrets (but we can overlook that).

I remember when I was in Israel in 1977 and when for the first time, since the founding of the State in 1948, the perennial leader of the Opposition Likud Party won the election and defeated the incumbent Labour Party that had ruled Israel for all those years, the reaction was more or less the same.  “How dare he win,” “the electors didn’t know what they were doing“, “we’ll be at war within 3 months,” “the people who elected him are riff-raff,”and so on and so on.  They hated PM Menachem Begin , and tried every trick to being him down, but fortunately did not succeed.  Likud has been in power most of the time since then.

In the US case, when two Presidents were being impeached, Nixon and Clinton, it was because they had done something that was clearly recognized as a crime before the impeachment process was started. Nixon had organized a group to break into the Democratic Party HQ and then cover it up, and Clinton had had sex with an intern and then lied about it, “I never had sex with that woman.”  In the case of the Democrats with Pres. Trump they started out (illegally) trying to find a way to bring him down, to impeach him, at all costs.

The unjustified Russian collusion investigation that took over 2 years found nothing incriminating, so they pressed on, and now they have found the Ukrainian quid pro quo case.  But, was it a “high crime”, I doubt it.  Does it rise to the level of impeachable offense?  That seems to be a matter of partisan opinion, when an impeachment is supposed to be so clear that it is altogether non-partisan, when both sides can agree that clearly a high crime has been committed while in office.  It seems so clear to me that the Democrats have been determined to dig the dirt on Trump from the beginning in order to subvert the electoral decision of the American people.  In hearing after hearing, what politician could survive such scrutiny?  Certainly not Kennedy (he was a serial adulterer), certainly not LBJ (he was a foul-mouthed arm-twister and blackmailer), certainly not GW (he started the Iraq war knowing there were probably no WMD’s), certainly not …probably includes all who rise to that position.

This is a  kind of coup, let’s get rid of the hated usurper.  This is a far worse crime than anything found so far that Trump may or may not have done, it is anti-democratic and undermines the fabric of American society.  It is a subversion of American democracy and means that from now on, when any President is elected, the losing Party will have precedent to start investigating from day one in order to bring him or her down. In that  case what is the point of the democratic electoral system at all? 

Riots in Iraq and Lebanon

The current riots in Lebanon and Iraq seem to be different than the usual chaos in the Arab world.  In Iraq the amazing happened when Shia Muslim Iraqis attacked the Iranian Embassy demanding that they stop interfering in Iraqi affairs.  In Lebanon, the protesters are supporting cross-sectarian unity rather than the usual Shia-Sunni-Christian splits.  They have realized that the traditional ethnic divisions have been exploited by politicians for generations to divide the country, one group against another.  At first the Hizbollah Shia militia was against the demonstrators, attacking them and trying to break them up.  But, the demonstrations persisted and PM Hariri resigned and now Sheikh Nasrallah has changed his tune, he says the politicians should listen to the demonstrators. 

This is the first time as far as I know that all sects in Lebanon are combining to protest for major changes that would set sectarian considerations aside on behalf of jobs and social services for everyone.  In these countries there has been major corruption and sectarian preferences, for example in Lebanon the President must be a Christian, the PM a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the Parliament a Shia.  Commentators on Lebanon have said that this was undemocratic and could not last, but until now their adherence to their sect was considered more important than to the country. 

In Iraq, the sectarian split between Shia, Sunni and Kurd was much more important than loyalty to the country Iraq. Since the Shia are a majority, after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein the political leaders have all been Shia, and they have ruthlessly excluded Sunnis from positions of power in Iraq.  This has led to major corruption and discrimination.  The meddling of Iran in Iraqi affairs has become rampant, they control several Iraqi Shia militias.  But, the current demonstrations have been against this kind of sectarian divide.

Iraq and Lebanon are at the two ends of the Shia-controlled Iranian crescent from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean Sea.  According to the analysis of Jonathan Spyer, whose analyses I always find compelling (https://www.meforum.org/59724/revolt-against-irans-system-in-iraq-and-lebanon), these riots in Lebanon and Iraq are revolts against Iran’s “system” of control in these two countries which is based on control of the Shia militias in Iraq and Hizbollah in Lebanon by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, which resembles a colonial Iranian control over these two Arab countries and makes their sovereign and supposedly democratic systems a farce.

In both countries they are now demanding the removal of the whole corrupt sectarian political class and a change in the system to provide jobs and basic social services..  Maybe this is finally the Arab Spring coming to life?  But, unfortunately in Syria, the Assad regime has won, with Russian and Iranian help, and there is no hope for a change in the system there.