Leaders in Trouble?

In a stunning development, the police in Israel have proposed indicting PM Netanyahu on charges of bribery and fraud.  Just as with Pres. Trump in the US, the opponents of Netanyahu have for long been trying to bring him down on charges of minor infractions. The police claim to be neutral and unbiased, but there is always a strong tendency for ambitious police or legal officers to try to bring down the incumbent leader. Similarly with the Mueller Probe in the US against Pres. Trump, using supposed “collusion” between the Trump election campaign and Russia. This is not to say that these politicians are lily-white pure.  But, these continuous and ongoing investigations are definitely a drawback to democracy and the efficient functioning of the governments.

In the case of Netanyahu there have been three ongoing investigations, cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, and several against his wife Sara. It is the Case 4000 that is now being brought to a proposed indictment.  This contends that Netanyahu appointed his campaign manager Shlomo Filber as Communications Director in order to ensure favored treatment for the owner of the Bezeq communications company, owned by Shaul Elovitch. Elovitch was then supposed to ensure positive treatment of Netanyahu in the news program he controls.  Now that the evidence has been forwarded to the Attorney General  Avichai Mandelblit, he has to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to actually indict Netanyahu.  If he does it will cause a major political crisis, because then Netanyahu might be forced to resign and there would be competition to replace him in Likud and then the need for a general election.

Similarly, in the US the Mueller probe into so-called Russian collusion has resulted in the indictment of several of Trump’s former aides, including his former lawyer Michael Cohen (no relative).  These may be dubbed fishing expeditions in order to get any of them to dish the dirt on Trump himself and embroil him in their own unrelated (to the Russia probe) wrong-doings, such as lying to Congress and stealing.  After nearly two years the Mueller probe should come to some kind of conclusion or be shut down.  Meanwhile Trump and Netanyahu have done great things for their respective countries.

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The US-China Trade Deal

Perhaps the most important outcome of the recent Buenos Aires G20 Summit was the hour-long meeting between US Pres. Trump and Chinese Premier Xi Jingping that came to a compromise conclusion.  Those who feared an all-out trade war will be disappointed.  The two trade giants agreed on a temporary truce in which Trump agreed not to boost tariffs on bn$200  of Chinese goods from 10% to 25% on January 1 for 90 days and China will buy a “very substantial” amount of US agricultural, industrial and energy products. Meanwhile, Beijing says the two sides agreed to open up their markets and to engage in further negotiations.  

Many had blamed Trump for starting a trade war that could be ruinous for the US and the world.  But, in effect China blinked first.  As Trump pointed out, not only was China cheating on its trade agreements, but they need the US trade more than the US needs theirs, and so in order to save their economy they had to come to terms.  This is precisely what is happening.  China could ill-afford to have these b$200 tariffs slapped on to their goods exported to the US, so they agreed to change their trade practices, that gave them a very unfair advantage contrary to the regulations of the World Trade Organization.  In future China will buy US goods to even the trade balance between the two countries.  This will be a great boost for the US economy and is in fact a great victory for Trump in re-negotiating trade agreements between the US and other countries.  

Over time, previous Presidents have ignored these unfair bilateral trade practices of other countries, either out of fear of causing a trade war or because they genuinely believed that the US should allow its industry and trade to suffer in order to help these less fortunate countries.  As an example of this Trump signed the tripartite US-Canada-Mexico trade deal at the Summit to replace the previous NAFTA, that Trump deemed unfair to the US.  It must have been acceptable to the leaders of Mexico and Canada because they very quickly agreed to the revised deal and signed the agreement at the Summit. 

Another trade partner of the US that has been using unfair one-sided practices is the EU, principally Germany, that for example expected no US tariffs on its cars exported to the US, but retained tariffs on its imports of US cars.  Trump is also pushing for a level playing field here too.  With his initial victory against China, the fear of an international trade war will be greatly reduced and we can expect positive outcomes for world trade.   

Anti-Semitism and the US Elections

Ironically, soon after 11 Jews were murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue, more Jews were elected to Congress than before.  All 23 Jewish Democrats who ran were re-elected to the House of Representatives, and 8 new Jewish members were elected, including one Jewish Senator, Jacky Rosen from Nevada.   Two Jewish Governors were elected, in Illinois and Colorado.  Does this seem like a country that is anti-Semitic?  On the contrary, all of these Jews were elected in districts that only have a minority of Jews, if any at all.  We know that anti-Semitism is only really dangerous when it is backed by the power of the State (as in Nazi Germany, Czarist Russia, etc.).  That is certainly not the case with the USA.  So although we can expect a modest increase in the immigration (aliyah) of young American Jews to Israel, there is no need to panic, the Trump Administration is solidly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.

Of course, there are many more Jewish Democrats than Republicans, in fact only two in the House.  But, although these Jewish Democrats may be anti-Trump in terms of many of his policies, they are unlikely to be all leftist radicals who want to destroy Israel.  Some of them are known to be supporters of Israel, and indeed why not?  The moderate wing of the Democratic party has always been pro-Israel, and the majority of Democrats elected are indeed from the moderate wing of the Democratic party.  This election has been a big loss for Bernie Sanders and the radical wing of the Democratic party.  This augurs well for the future.

Nevertheless, there are three strong opponents of Israel and strong supporters of Palestinian aspirations who were elected, Alexandia Ocasio-Cortiz, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omer, who all have been supporting the BDS movement.  No doubt they will make their presence felt in the new Congress.  But, not only are they opposed by a majority of moderate Democrats, they are opposed by the pro-Trump Republicans in the House and Senate.  American democracy has worked, representatives of all segments of the US population have been elected.  Let the games begin!

 

The US Mid-term Election Results

The good thing about the US mid-term election results is that both Republicans and Democrats can claim victory, and be right.  The Democrats because they wrested control of the House of Representatives away from the Republicans, and the Republicans because they retained control of the Senate with an increased majority, and furthermore, more Senators favorable to Pres. Trump. So Pres. Trump and Nancy Pelosi both claimed victory.

The Democratic victory in the House was expected, partly because the party of the President usually loses in a  mid-term election.  It’s a way for the electorate to show their displeasure with the lack of progress which is usually the case, and in the case of Pres. Trump, a goodly proportion of people are upset with his behavior, his use of twitter, his manners  and sometimes his tendency to exaggerate (some would say lie about) his accomplishments.

The Republican victory in the Senate results to a large extent from the votes of Trump supporters in the hinterland, who are fed up with the politicking of the Democrats (such as the now two-year old Mueller probe into collusion between the Trump campaign of 2016 and Russia).  Trump chose to actively campaign in States where Republican candidates that support him were up for election, and his strategy was successful.

Nevertheless, losing the House is a blow to Trump’s agenda, and may require him to cooperate with the Democrats.  But, the Democrats may not be in the mood to cooperate with him, because of the animosity that they have showed to him, the Democrats may decide to spend their time investigating Trump and trying to find a way to impeach him.  If they do, it is likely that there will be a  boomerang against them for stopping his agenda, on the economy, on international trade and on immigration, that are supported by a majority of Americans.

I watched Trump’s first press conference after the election results were announced and it was vintage Trump.  But, I have to agree with him, the reporter for CNN, James Acosta, was very rude.  He not only continued to ask another question after he had  received an answer from Pres. Trump, but he refused to give up the microphone after the President said “enough.”  This is ridiculous how rude can the media be to the President, it seems they think they are in charge and can do whatever they like.  I agree that it was appropriate for the White House to revoke his press credentials.  I have never seen a person being so rude to the President of the USA.

Another result after the election was the immediate firing of Jeff Sessions as the Secretary of the Dept. of Justice.  Although he had been a loyal supporter of Trump through the election, as soon as something came up that was controversial, he recused himself.  That may have been a way to ensure he was not involved in a conflict of interest, but to do this without the agreement of his boss was unacceptable.  The Mueller probe is a pure case of politics, and having a loyal head of DOJ will be a boon for Trump if the Democrats come up with further politically motivated probes.  However, getting a loyal Trump appointee approved may be difficult, although his majority in the Senate will help a lot.

Responsibility for Pittsburgh?

It is a gross distortion, according to some liberals and Democrats, to whisper or even shout, that Pres. Trump is somehow responsible for the massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh.  Eleven were killed and some 6 more injured in the Tree of Life Synagogue last week.  Is this massacre different from any other in which a deluded and often crazy individual takes a gun and goes and shoots people?  It has happened in schools, colleges, theaters, churches, malls, everywhere in fact.  Were any of these other massacres blamed on the sitting President at the time.  It is a twisted as the individuals who carried out the attacks to claim that any President, let alone Trump, could have in any way possibly been responsible for this attack.

Anti-Semitism is unfortunately endemic and embedded in Western culture. Children learn it growing up from their parents.  Just as any number of strange factors turn one son to be radicalized and join ISIS, or another to take his father’s gun and shoot his peers, or a former mailman to go back and shoot his former boss and his colleagues, so one right-wing fanatic, who blames the Jews for all society’s evils, decides to murder Jews in prayer.  There is a political schism in Washington, there is hard-ball politicking going on, there is strong polarization over real issues such as immigration.  But, to add the massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh to this mix, as some Jews and others in Pittsburgh and elsewhere have done, because of their liberal anti-Trump political views, is simply unacceptable.

Not only is Pres. Trump inclined towards being philo-Jewish, not only has his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism and he has elevated his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner to a high position in his Administration, not only has he generally supported Israel, not only has he moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, not only…I could go on, but the point is that it is ridiculous to assign blame for such an act, when it is clearly the individual who carried out the act who is responsible, as well as the media outlets that allow such anti-Semitic  lies to be broadcast day in and day out.  Let’s be real and stop this fake blame game!

 

 

Attacks in the the US

Within days of the bomb scare of 13 packages being mailed to prominent Democrats in the US, including ex-Pres Obama and Hillary Clinton, there has been a shooting in a Conservative synagogue in the Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hills in Pittsburgh.  At times like these we are so glad that we have effective and proactive police forces and FBI.

In the case of the bomb mailings, the FBI was able to identify the criminal who mailed them from one fingerprint and two DNA samples from the intact packages.  Either these packages were not intended to actually explode, but largely to scare and intimidate, or the perpetrator was incompetent, since none of them exploded and no one was actually hurt.  Within a day the  perpetrator was identified as 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc from near Miami Florida, with ties to NY City, and a previous criminal record.  He was taken into custody in Florida and his van was taken for investigation.  Democrats accusing Pres. Trump of being responsible for these bombs is way out of line. On the contrary, he has directly and sternly condemned them

In the synagogue shooting, the shooter murdered members of the congregation (currently estimated at 11) and injured another 12, including three police officers who went to the scene.  The shooter was captured and has been identified as a white male aged 46 named Robert Bowers.  Pres. Trump called him a “wacko,” but that is not nearly serious enough.  This man no doubt had political and/or anti-Semitic motives, and is likely inspired by the current wave of anti-Semitism sweeping the Western world, using anti-Israel bias as an excuse.  Whether or not he acted now because of the bomb scares, or quite independently we shall soon know.  But there is no doubt that the continued false accusations of the BDS and other pro-Palestinian movements in the US and Europe are leading to a lower tolerance for anti-Semitism, that doesn’t need much excuse to continue murdering Jews.

This might lead to an increase in emigration (aliyah) of young Jews to Israel, and it might have a back-lash against such hate-crimes.  But, taking the long perspective, it is more of the same, the killing of Jews that has always been happening.

The Migrant “Caravan”

Some 14,000 would-be immigrants to the USA from Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico are approaching the southern US border.  But, these are not the usual immigrants, they don’t apply through the usual channels to legally enter the US, and they don’t even slink over the border thru tunnels at night.  No, these immigrants expect to simply cross the border illegally in full view, they believe it is their “right” to enter the US and simply become Americans, with all the rights that entails.

How did they get this idea?  There are I believe two reasons, first the immigration debate in the US, as well as in Europe, has two sides.  The right-wing who see the erosion of borders as a threat to the very existence of the nation State, and the left who feel sorry for the poor suffering masses and want to let them in to share in the affluence.  It seems there is no common ground between these two positions.

The second reason I believe is that the population of Gaza, organized by Hamas, has been attacking the Israeli border, claiming that they have “the right of return.”  This speaks to leftists, so that Jeremy Corbyn, the leftist UK Labor Party leader, has said that these are justified “peaceful” demonstrations.  And there are many who support that view.  On the other hand, the IDF has been positioned along the Israel-Gaza border for months, fighting off the horde of up to 20,000 people a day.  In order to protect the border and the citizens of Israel they have had to use live rounds to stop them breaking though.

In the same way, the US authorities cannot stand by and allow the immigrant mob to attack the US border with the intention of breaching it and entering the USA.  In order to prevent this US Defense Secty Mattis has sent 800 US servicemen to the border.  This crowd is not naive, they have already announced they will split up and attack the border at several points.  This is a calculated attack in the hope that some of them will be killed and therefore will gain sympathy from the liberal elements in the US and Europe.  The sight of  poor Mexican and Honduran women and children being shot down by US soldiers will certainly lead in the western newspapers, fueling the liberal agenda (“if it bleeds, it leads”).  But, when it comes to it, the integrity of the country must be the primary concern.

If this “caravan” breaches the US border, there will be more and larger ones.  All the poor and disenfranchised from the whole of S. America will pour towards the US border, with the same notion, that they have the right to enter the US. Perhaps not just 10’s of thousands, but hundreds of thousands.  Pres. Trump is right, a stand must be made.