The IG’s Report

I have not personally read the Inspector General (IG) of the Dept. of Justice’s Report on the conduct of the FBI and the DOJ’s actions during the previous election campaign.  After all, it runs to 600 pages and is quite comprehensive.  But, the general conclusions based on its findings are widely known.

  1. There was undoubtedly a politically motivated campaign in the FBI against Republican candidate Trump led by FBI officials, who openly declared their hatred for Trump in numerous e-mails and stated that they would do whatever they could to deny him the Presidency.  This included Peter Strzok, who was appointed by FBI Director James Comey to investigate the supposed collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government.
  2. After 9 months of this investigation Peter Strzok was fired by Comey because the e-mails declaring his bias against Trump were leaked.  But, at this time Strzok admitted that he had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
  3. The  FBI knew about the cache of e-mails from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton held illegally on a lap-top by Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was married to Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin, but did nothing about it.  Director Comey and other FBI officials acted on the assumption that Clinton would win the election and so failed to investigate her wrong-doings.
  4. Director Comey acted improperly when he went public with his supposed finding that there was no case to be answered by Clinton regarding her private e-mail server when she was Secty. of State.  It was not his role to make this decision, it was for the DOJ to do so, but by making this public decision he preempted further investigation.
  5. When he later reversed himself, it was presumably because he realized Trump might win and he would be found guilty of improper conduct.  In fact his actions were based more on political considerations than on strict investigative  conclusions.
  6. The decisions by the FBI to pursue the investigation against the Trump campaign for collusion with the Russians based on a questionable report from a British agent paid for by the DNC and to exonerate Clinton for her e-mail crimes were clearly politically motivated.
  7. The meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch was highly inappropriate under the circumstances.

Conclusions: How the IG could conclude on the basis of the evidence that there was no evidence of FBI bias is beyond my understanding.  These findings, as Pres. Trump has claimed, “exonerate” him in this whole messy affair.  Comey, Strozk and other FBI officials should be tried for improper conduct and Clinton should be tried with crimes against US law in improperly using a private server while Secty. of State and sharing private and secret e-mails with others.  The Mueller Investigation into the Trump collusion with the Russians should be terminated.

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Michael Oren at AACI

I went with my daughter Miriam and son-in-law Jeff to a brunch in Jerusalem in honor of her and the 5 other members of the staff of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) who are advisers for English-speaking immigrants to Israel.  It was a lovely event and the ladies were justifiably praised for their dedicated service.  But, what I want to write about is the presentation given by Michael Oren, currently a Deputy Minster in the Israeli Government and previously the Israeli Ambassador to the US. Oren is a very talented individual, a practising historian whose books have won great acclaim.

His talk was without notes, breezy and energetic.  He spoke about his favorite subject, Israel and America.  He pointed out that when he was first appointed an official of the Israeli Government, he was required by US law to give up his American citizenship.  He had to go to the US Embassy, then in Tel Aviv, and swear that he understood the rights he was giving up, then they took his passport and punched a big hole right thru it.

But, he pointed out that much of what he was and had learned as an American went with him into his Israeli Government service.  Including a commitment to truth, democracy and civil rights.  He pointed out the dilemma that in Israel, which does not have a written constitution, like the British, there are members of the Knesset representing the Arab sector of the population, which make us ca. 20% of the total, who are completely committed to the destruction of the State that they are supposed to serve.  Some Arab MKs have committed downright treasonous acts, for example one member has applied to the UN thru the Palestinian Authority for Israel to be censured for its actions in Gaza.

In the US Constitution, Article 5, there is a specific requirement that any treasonous act by a Member of Congress would be followed by a hearing and the expulsion of that Member.  But, no such law exists in Israel.  He has introduced a Bill in the Knesset to expel any Member who acts treasonously to the State, and that would have to be proven.

But, at the same time, he recognizes that the 20% of the population who are Arabs need to be integrated into the fabric of Israeli life.  In this respect, his experiences in the civil rights movement in the USA have helped him a lot.  When he was Ambassador in Washington he introduced the celebration of the Id al Fitr feast that ends Ramadan there, and that is continued still.

He is concerned about the peace plan that the Trump Administration is working on.  Trump and his team are very pro-Israel in many respects, but as Trump likes to make a deal, this requires hard concessions from both sides.  Maybe the Palestinians will not cooperate with Trump, but if they do then Israel might have to make concessions that the current Government is not prepared to do.  But, how could they deny anything to such a friend as Trump.  This remains to be seen.

In conclusion, some people have asked him about the difference in being an American and an Israeli.  He said that no Government functionary could put a hole thru his Israeli passport and deny his essential right to be Jewish in his Homeland, Israel.

Israel is a Welfare State

In Israel there are Government based subsidies for all health and welfare issues.  The medical system works on the basis of Sick Funds (Kupat Holim) that each citizen can join and pay for thru his/her employer.  They are private but are subsidized by the Government thru the Ministry of Health (Misrad Habriut).  The General Sick Fund (Clalit) is required to provide health care for anyone who is indigent or cannot afford to belong. Most of the larger hospitals are owned by Clalit, but Tel Hashomer is owned by the Min. of Health directly and Hadassah is of course private.  We belong to the Maccabi Sick Fund that is smaller than Clalit and we find it is very efficient.  When you make an appointment at a clinic and arrive, you pass your magnetic card thru a monitor out front and it tells you where to go.  If you want to see a nurse or administrator you get a number instead.

All systems are subsidized, for example the employment of a foreign worker (usually Philippino, Indian or Chinese) as a carer for a sick person is subsidized, up to the extent of 40% of the cost.  My wife is now in an Alzheimer’s Ward and we have just applied for a subsidy for the high cost thru the Ministry of Health.  The process is complex yet straightforward.  There are forms that have to be filled out (in Hebrew of course) by the doctor, the nurse, the social worker, the gerontologist, etc.  With my daughter Miriam’s help (her Hebrew is very much better than mine) we visited the local office of the Ministry of Health and we submitted our forms, with appropriate identity information.  The people we met with there were very pleasant and helpful. Once they have processed them then we have to submit forms on our financial information, and eventually they will give us a code that tells how much they will subsidize.  Depending on the “means test” it may be nothing or all of the cost. Even if nothing it is worthwhile to be registered with them.

For people who cannot speak or read Hebrew there are private immigrant organizations, like the ones for English speakers, namely the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) and the British Immigrants Association (HOB), as well as Russian, Spanish, Ethiopian and French equivalents, that give advice in each language and guide immigrants thru the necessary bureaucratic processes.

It goes without saying that these subsidies in all aspects are for all citizens, irrespective of religion and country of origin.  Needless to say there are many patients, clerks and doctors who are Arabs, and all signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian, and if you are lucky also in English and French. Of course, the Arab citizens are expected to speak Hebrew, the language of the country, as are all immigrants.  The idea that Israel is an “apartheid state” is totally ludicrous and false.  You have only to visit any clinic or hospital in Israel to disabuse anyone of this propagandistic falsehood.   It so happens that the Chief Nurse at my wife’s Home is a Beduin Arab, the doctor is of Russian origin, and many of the nurses are Russian and Beduin.  The excellent social worker at our previous Maccabi Clinic in Netanya was an Arab woman.  They all work together without any problems.

 

The US-N. Korea Summit

Most analysts agree that the summit between Pres. Trump and Kim Jong-Un in Singapore was more style than substance. Yet it was undoubtedly a historic occasion.  Previous Presidents of the US have shied away from meeting with the dictators of N. Korea for fear of giving them credibility and legitimacy.  But, Pres. Trump is characteristically both more impetuous and more canny.  He and his advisers realized that the kind of brinkmanship practised by the rulers of N. Korea was designed to gain them media coverage and status on the world stage.  To deal with them means accepting that this is their goal.  Letting them “strut their hour upon the stage.” was a necessary part of getting a deal, as Trump would see it.  They want to be taken seriously as major players and having a one-on-one meeting with the President of the US was their price for any further agreement.

Whether or not Kim Jong-un can be trusted or whether or not Trump can insist on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as well as realistic verification of missile and nuclear programs remains to be seen, but this summit was the first essential step.  In doing so Trump exceeded the expectations of all previous Presidents who refused to actually deal with the dictators of N. Korea.

Apart from the future prospects for peace and stability in Korea, with the active support of China, the  world has learnt a lesson.  That is that Trump is both unpredictable and can threaten to use the superpower force of the US with evident success, but is always prepared to deal.  The rest of the world is now waiting to see what happens with Iran.  The Iranians are similar to N. Korea in that they are an absolute dictatorship with expansive goals, yet their primary interest is to ensure the continuity of their regime.  If Trump were to likewise threaten them with the power of the US military unless they change their ways,  they will likely cave like N. Korea, and come into the fold and do a deal, this time a real deal that is in US interests.  How backing down and dealing with the US will affect their credibility and the long-term stability of their regime is another issue.

Many people have been concerned by the apparent rift between the G6 and the US as revealed at the G7 summit in Canada.  Some have likened this to the preference by Pres,. Obama to engage with America’s enemies (Iran, Russia, China) rather than cultivate America’s allies.  However, there is fundamental difference between Obama and Trump in this regard.  Obama was trying to act like a European nation, using persuasion and diplomacy, while Trump emphasizes American exceptionalism, using power and threats.  In that respect Trump is more American and eschews the European approach to trying to deal with enemies, rather than treating them as enemies.  Which approach will produce more results for the US remains to be seen, but the Summit with N. Korea seems to point the way to future progress.

Incendiary kites

The Hamas terrorist organization that controls Gaza has tried everything, rockets, attack tunnels, mobs attacking the border, but none of their attempts have brought them any nearer to destroying Israel.  That is their clear and stated aim, not to build a State, but to destroy one.  Now they have resorted to incendiary kites or explosive balloons.

At least Fatah, the major component of the PLO, that controls the Palestine Authority (PA) on the West Bank have gone through the motions of dealing with Israel.  They pretended to recognize Israel some years ago, although they never actually changed their Charter that calls for Israel’s destruction.  But, at least they also try civil means to undermine Israel, thru international agencies like the UN.  But, Hamas don’t even make this pretense.

Their latest tactic is to fly incendiary kites and balloons rigged with explosives over the Gaza border into Israel. These devices are of course deliberately made to cause fires and explosions to kill people.  A group of children found an exploding balloon, as described in the Jerusalem Post today, but luckily they had been warned not to touch them, and a sapper team was called to defuse it.  Numerous fires have been caused by the incendiary devices, because it is very hot and dry in Israel at this time.

The IDF fired warning shots at teams of men preparing to launch these devices.  But, they avoided killing them.  The Israeli Cabinet met yesterday to discuss the latest tactic, but came to no decision.  It would be easy to wipe out the terrorists launching these weapons of war, but at every turn Israel has to consider world public opinion that is entirely against whatever Israel does to defend itself.  Make no mistake these are weapons of war,  they have burnt many acres of food crops, and are intended to kill.  Israel will defend itself effectively, and in the end this latest tactic will be no more than a pinprick against Israel,  Neither Hamas no the PA, nor their Iranian and Western backers will achieve their main aim of harming Israel.

Ritualized murder

Don’t think of tennis as a game between gentlemen and ladies, but rather as ritualized murder.  The gladiators descend into the arena where they then have at each other with the weapon of choice, a racket, but with a  ball between them to keep them from murdering each other.

I just watched an incredible tennis match in the fourth round of the French Open at Rolland Garros between Kevin Anderson (South Africa) and Diego Schwartzman (Argentina and Jewish).  Kevin Anderson is 6 ft 6 in tall and Diego S. is 5 ft 7 in, the one towers over the other.  I watched the beginning of the match and Anderson was hitting many aces, as he always does, and he won the first two sets easily 6-1 and 6-2.  In the third set he was up 5-4 and had match points and it looked like it would soon be over and I went to lie down.

I got up an hour later to find that Schwartzman had fought back and won the third set 7-5 staving off two match points.  I watched it from then on and is was obvious that Anderson lacked the stamina of Schwartzman.  Anderson’s unforced error count went from 8-12-25-32 per set and S. won the fourth set by 7-6 in a tie break and the last 6-2.  It was amazing.  So Schwartzman is in the last eight, only the second time in his career.  As my Dad said a good little ‘un will beat a good big ‘un every time.

The following day I watched the epic struggle between Maria Sharapova (Rus) and Garbine Muguruza (Spain).  Both women are tall (6 ft 2 in and 6 ft respectively) and  impressive, Sharapova (aged 30) is blonde and Muguruza (aged 24) is raven haired.  Sharapova was ranked no.30, but that was because she missed a year recently due to her being banned for taking an illegal substance.  Muguruza was ranked no. 3 and on that basis one might expect her to win.  But, these women did not wear frilly pink shorts, they came dressed in dark blue and black respectively and their aim was to destroy the other.  During each point Sharapova’s shrill primal scream was off-putting to say the least. They fired cannons at each other at every opportunity, this was power tennis.  But Sharapova’s serve let her down, she made many double faults and unforced errors and Muguruza hit hard serves and made many winners.  In the end Muguruza won easily 6-2 6-1.  Although Sharapova won their previous three matches, the tables are now turned and Muguruza is a female player to watch.  Unfortunately she was then defeated by Simona Halep (Romania) in the semi-final 6-1 6-4.

Diego Schwartzman played Rafa Nadal in the quarter-final.  Since Nadal is ranked no. 1 and has won the French Open 10 times he was obviously the favorite.  But, Schwartzman took the first set off Nadal 6-4, the first person to win a set against him at Rolland Garros in 35 matches.  However, it was not enough, after the rain-break Nadal came out determined and won the next three sets.  And we haven’t even got to the finals yet.

Recipe for Inaction

I watched the press conference of PM Netanyahu and French Pres. Macron from Paris yesterday.  What astounded me, and what garnered more news coverage, was Macron’s statement that the US decision to move its Embassy to Jerusalem was wrong because it cost lives.  He said he would not make any move that might cost lives.  What a nonsensical statement for a leader and supposed decision-maker to state.  In other words, of someone threatened to kill someone else if he makes a decision, such as protecting French interests against terrorism for example, he won’t make the decision.  What a recipe for stalemate and failure.

Let’s be clear, it was not the decision of the US to move their Embassy to Jerusalem that caused the deaths, it was the decision taken knowingly that lives would be lost by the Gazan rulers Hamas, who sent women and children, as well as armed Hamas activists, to the  Israeli border, where they had been amply warned they would be stopped by live fire.  It was the Hamas leadership that caused the deaths!  Are we supposed to do nothing for fear of the reaction of the terrorists of the world?  This is a recipe for blackmail and inaction.

Another example, was the decision by Pres. Obama to declare the use by Syrian Pres Assad of chemical weapons against his own people a “red-line” and then refuse to actually take action.  He stepped back and asked the Congress to help him decide, a sure formula for failure, and he accepted the offer of Pres. Putin to intervene with Pres. Assad to stop the use of chemical weapons.  The net result of this failure to take action because of fear of the loss of life that would be blamed on him, was in fact a much greater loss of life, because Assad, who was at that point about to lose the civil war, was then infused with Russian support.  It gave Russia the entry it need to intervene in the Syrian civil war to support Assad, and it led to the loss of hundreds of  thousands more civilian lives due to the continuation of the civil war for many more years, as well as the fact that Assad has resorted to the use of chemical weapons again and again since then.

It is a proven fact of history that failure to act when a decision is needed is the worst course of action.  It can be called “appeasement,” the disastrous policy used by the British and their allies before WWII to try to avoid a war with Germany because they considered Hitler “an honorable man.”  Boy, were they wrong!  Let’s not allow decisions by democratic governments to be based on the threats and blackmail of those who consider life cheap.