The media in Israel is full of the news that the police have recommended to indict PM Netanyahu on bribery charges in two cases. Note that these recommendations are not binding. State Attorney General Mandelblit can ignore them, consider them and/or act on them as he sees fit. The PM in his statement in response to the police recommendations emphasized this. After more than a year of investigations the police decision is merely a recommendation, no more.
But, it is certainly embarrassing to Netanyahu that this is their decision. He would certainly have preferred that they simply drop the cases. However, sufficient evidence was discovered to proceed. In Case 1000, also called “the gifts affair,” Netanyahu is accused of accepting bribes totalling ca. NIS 1 million in the form of cigars, jewellery and other luxury goods, from two businessmen, Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In exchange Netanyahu is accused of carrying out several actions to promote the business interests of these men. One includes assisting Milchan to extend his visa to the US.
The other instance, Case 2000, involves alleged actions by Netanyahu to aid publisher Arnon Mozes that would have helped his newspaper Yediot Aharonot (latest news), against his main competitor Israel Hayom (Israel today), that supports Netanyahu. Supposedly in exchange for better treatment in his newspaper, Netanyahu is supposed to have supported a bill to restrict the circulation of Israel Hayom, that is owned by his friend US billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Netanyahu adamantly denies this charge. In Case 3000, the so-called “submarine affair” Netanyahu was found not to be directly involved in any bribery.
Since these police recommendations do not have the force of law, actually nothing has happened yet to change the situation. If Mandelblit does decide there is enough evidence to indict him then things will change significantly. However, Netanyahu is correct when he points out that during his term in office there have been 15 recommendations brought against him by the police and none have resulted in any indictments. Netanyahu concludes that the police are “out to get him” but on the other hand, attempts to indict the elected leaders are a feature of some democracies. Look at what is happening against Pres. Trump in the US over the so-called “Russian collusion” affair, that seems to have not a shred of real evidence. As far as I am concerned, let Netanyahu enjoy his cigars and whisky, as long as he keeps Israel safe, strong and prosperous.
Lying on the table next to the white pills, the black pills look strange and somehow incongruous. Yet they are therapeutic. They are pure carbon, actually activated charcoal. How did I come to be taking black pills?
I have suffered from digestive problems for many years, and have been on a limited diet (no milk products, no fat or oily food, no meat, no cabbage or waxy skinned vegetables). A few months ago I had a chronic cough, that did not seem to be due to a cold. I went to my GP and he diagnosed acid reflux as the cause and switched me from the antacid Ompradex to Lanton, which cured that problem. However, a few months later I was again stricken with problems of acidity and went to my GP who sent me to a gastroenterologist. He diagnosed hyper-acidity and switched me back to Ompradex. That solved that problem.
But I still suffered from lower abdominal pain and occasional bouts (every three months or so) of throwing up, usually after a large rich meal. The gastro had no cure for that. At night I would often lie awake with pain, discomfort and bloating. Should I go back to the gastroenterologist? I decided to ask my friendly pharmacist (who happens to be an Arab). He recommended carbon tablets as the best way to get rid of trapped gas (methane). Carbon in the form of charcoal (not diamonds) is one of the best adsorbents. It absorbs organic substances but also is excellent at adsorbing gas. Previously I had used Maalox anti-gas tablets, but I had never before thought of taking carbon tablets. Now I am taking them regularly, and they seem to be working. The lesson is take the advice of a pharmacist before going to see a specialist.
An Israeli F15 jet fighter was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire yesterday. Luckily it crashed within Israeli territory on the Golan Heights. The two pilots bailed out, and were rescued, but one was seriously injured. The situation arose because an Iranian drone over-flew Israeli territory and was brought down by Israeli fire. Although the Iranians deny this, Israel has published photos of the drone with Farsi writing on it. In retaliation the IAF attacked the Iranian military facility from where the drone originated and then the plane was downed. Why is this a significant event?
Israel feels it must have freedom of action to over-fly parts of Syria, because Iran and its proxy Hezbollah are building up their forces in Syria close to the Israeli border, and Iran has made no secret of its intention to destroy Israel in the near future. Statements from Iranian leaders have been quite explicit, talking about the coming end of Israel and of Jewish control over Jerusalem. In order to prevent Israeli jets over-flying the areas where Iran is building up its forces and its military supplies and production facilities, Syria has installed both Iranian and Russian anti-aircraft batteries. Israel cannot tolerate not being able to both control the skies and also being able to see what advances Iran is making in its plans to attack Israel.
Israel has now counter-attacked the Syrian anti-aircraft systems that brought down the Israeli plane and other sites totaling twelve attacks. These systems are of course not actually Syrian, they are either Iranian or Russian. By attacking them Israel risks the danger of an immediate conflict with either Iran and/or Russia. Of course, Israel does not want in any way to come into conflict with Russia. Towards this end PM Netanyahu visited Pres. Putin in Moscow only a week ago, and has visited him before. Netanyahu has expressed to Putin that Israel cannot tolerate Iran building up their forces in Syria, but on the other hand Israel in no way means to challenge Russia’s right to support its ally Pres. Assad of Syria. It is clear that Pres. Putin knows this.
However, the complex situation in Syria has US-backed Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces fighting Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in eastern Syria, in the vacuum left by the defeat of the Islamic State. Also, Russian air force planes are bombing anti-regime forces in Idlib and Ghouta, where many civilians have been killed. Under conditions of war, sometimes, as we well know, mistakes happen. Should an Israeli plane and a Russian plane happen to get into combat, this could erase any discretion that Putin feels about Israel’s role in Syria. We are entering dangerous territory.
Also, any direct Israeli attack on Iranian facilities might cross the line that results in an Iranian counter-attack. This could escalate into a war between Iran and Israel, that has been simmering for some time. This might engage US forces too that are not far away. But, either way, the outcome could be potentially damaging for Israel and the Iranian regime. Whether this incident will be seen as a single event or the first step in a future Middle East war remains to be seen.
In the evenings I often watch movies and most of them are disappointing, especially sequels such as “Blade Runner 2049” and “Jumanji,” both of which I stopped watching. But, a few movies are worth watching, such as “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and the amazing “Loving Vincent.”
I recently watched two movies that have partly a common theme, namely racism in the USA. “Suburbicon,” is a recent movie that shows the hypocrisy of the bland facade that was projected in the 1950’s of the supposed “American dream.” The worst features of racism came violently to the fore and played themselves out until they exploded in the 1960’s. The movie that had most impact on me was “Detroit” a detailed supposedly accurate retelling (in 2017) of the massacre at the Algier’s Hotel that occurred in Detroit during the race riots of 1967.
This strips away the facade off the supposed democratic process that is based on the concept that “all men are created equal.” Even in the vaunted USA, individual policemen and even whole departments, were institutionally racist. Policemen, who are supposed to be the protectors of the public, who pay their salary, become the judges of life and death of people of whatever color, sex or religion they dislike. Even in the courts justice was not done, and even today the beating, shooting and killing of innocent blacks by police is common in America. What a terrible reality. Nevertheless, I oppose such violent movements as “Black Lives Matter.” What really matters is to have more Black attorneys like Thurgood Marshall, as exemplified in the excellent movie “Marshall.”
Two other movies that I watched, “Darkest Hour” and “Dunkirk” each in its own way shows how in May, 1940, the future of mankind dangled from a thin thread. It is the merest coincidences of history that saved us. Yet, in “Churchill” Winston is shown as opposing the D-Day invasion of France because he feared another “Gallipoli,” that he was considered responsible for, another massacre of troops on a beachhead. Yet in “Darkest Hour” he was the mainstay of those who argued for resistance to the Nazi invasion. How he fought Beaverbrook and Chamberlain who wanted to come to terms with Hitler is a stirring story. Gary Oldman is excellent in the role of Churchill in this movie. I thoroughly recommend “Darkest Hour.”
A report in The New York Times has focused attention on the role of Israeli air strikes in the Egyptian Sinai against ISIS terrorist targets. The significance of these strikes, supposedly 100 in the past two years, is that they have been carried out with Egypt’s approval and at their request. Certainly they could not have been carried out without the approval and agreement of the Government of Pres. Al-Sisi.
Such an agreement will not be popular with the so-called “street” in Egypt, since the ordinary people in Egypt are very anti-Israel, as they have been brainwashed to be for so many years. But, the fact is that the Egyptian military have been unable to stop the constant attacks by the ISIS extremists that have killed hundreds of Egyptian police and military as well as civilians despite constant counter-attacks. The fact is that the Egyptian military lack the intelligence and aerial capability to deal a significant blow to the Islamist enemy. As well as helping Egypt, it is in Israel’s own interests to defeat the ISIS extremists on its own borders.
This kind of close cooperation between Israel and a leading Arab State could represent a turning point in the relations between the two sides. The cold peace that has existed between Egypt and Israel for many years is not likely to vanish over-night. But, it is likely that Al-Sisi will be re-elected President of Egypt in the upcoming elections, and that in time a portion at least of the Egyptian people, and especially the Christian Copts (10% of the population) that have been under attack for years by the Islamists, will be happy with this outcome.
It is an irony that Israel that captured the Sinai in the 1967 Six-Day War and then gave it back to Egypt in exchange for the peace treaty in 1969, is now helping Egypt maintain control of that territory. Saudi Arabia and other Arab States will be watching this development closely. They see that Israel is actually no threat to them, to the continuation of their regimes. It is both the Sunni and Shia extremists of ISIS and Iran respectively that are the real threats to their existence. Reality has a strange way of making former enemies into political bedfellows.
According to the infamous memo that Pres. Trump released this week, the issue is not Russian collusion with the Republicans, but rather FBI collusion with the Democrats to prevent Trump being elected President.
It was a memo produced for the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee by its Chairman Devin Nunes, summarizing the findings of an investigation into the case behind the whole FBI/DOJ investigation of the Russian affair. But, some of the contents are truly disturbing. It shows that the FBI used the report of a British spy named Christopher Steele, who was paid by the Clinton Election campaign to dig up dirt on Trump. And then individuals in the FBI, who are now on record as being dedicated to preventing Trump winning at all costs and who expected to be rewarded by Clinton if she won, took over the investigation of the Trump campaign’s supposed collusion with Russia. What a smelly kettle of fish, what an unethical and biased process. Some of these agents, including Peter Strzok, have since been fired from the case by the Special Counsel Mueller. It is too late to be able to say that this investigation is objective, it is totally compromised.
I don’t propose to get into the details of this situation, there are too many strands and too many characters involved. To say that it resembles the Watergate affair with Nixon is an understatement. This is hard-ball politics played for keeps by people who are dedicated to destroy the careers of opponents as enemies and also to subvert the will of the people. When the full story comes out, if it ever will, it will make an exciting story and movie. Until then lets hope it does not prove as damaging to the fabric of American democracy as some think.