Sunday, March 15, 2015

Politics – March 2015

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"If the rest of the world is changing around you, government also has to change."

~ Tony Blair

Vote Zionist Union. Change.

Israel Needs A Change.

Israel needs change in leadership, change in direction, change in priorities.

Israel needs a leader whose policies are based on constructive vision for the future, not on fears.

Who is the worse prime minister in the history of Israel? There are quite a few to choose from, but do yourself, and us, a favour; Do NOT choose one of them, again.

~ Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Netanyahu’s Speech in American Congress
Palestinian Poll
Death Is Optional
Cure for ALS?
Monthly Poems

Light Side


The stream of polls is predicting a very tight election. The last polls before the elections, published on Friday, 13 March 2015, show:

Yedioth Ahronoth
The Herzog coalition
Zionist Union 26
The Arab Party 13
Yesh Atid (There is a future) 12
Kulanu 8
Meretz 5

Total: 64

The Netanyahu coalition
Likud 22
Jewish Home 12
Shas 7
Yahadut Hatorah 6
Yisrael our home 5
Yahad 4

Total: 56

TV Channel 2
סקר ערוץ 2 100315 -

The Herzog coalition
Zionist Union 25
The Arab Party 13
Yesh Atid (There is a future) 12
Kulanu 8
Meretz 5

Total: 63

The Netanyahu coalition
Likud 21
Jewish Home 13
Shas 7
Yahadut Hatorah 6
Yisrael our home 6
Yahad 4

Total: 57

אילו הבחירות לכנסת היו מתקיימות כיום, לאיזו מפלגה היית מצביע? ()

The Herzog coalition
Zionist Union 25
The Arab Party 12
Yesh Atid (There is a future) 12
Kulanu 9
Meretz 4

Total: 62

The Netanyahu coalition
Likud 23
Jewish Home 11
Shas 7
Yahadut Hatorah 7
Yisrael our home 6
Yahad 4

Total: 58

Poll conducted by TV Channel 1 showed similar results.

Error margin of polls is 4%. In such a tight election, this is significant.

Two parties are hanging on the balance: Meretz and Yahad. The electoral threshold is set at 3.25%. I hope Meretz will enter the Knesset and then pulls its sleeves to reinvent itself. Otherwise it won’t exist for long. To the same extent, I very much hope Yahad of the ultra-Orthodox Elie Yishai won’t enter the Knesset, and that the votes he receives will spread to other parties.

I do hope President Rivlin will call Yitzhak Herzog to form a coalition. If Herzog’s camp will have 64 seats, Yahadut Hatorah may join him, providing him with a comfortable coalition of 70 seats in the Knesset.

I hope for a new horizon and vision in Jerusalem. Fear is a bad guide for policy-making. Netanyahu’s policies are destructive, not constructive. They halt progress. They undermine prospects for peace. They complicate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the integration of Israel into the region. Netanyahu has alienated Israel from the world. Even Israel’s greatest ally, the United States, had developed grave doubts about his leadership. Netanyahu did not improve the economy, as 25% of the population is struggling. About 1.6 million Israelis live under poverty line (Israel's poverty line is $7.30 per person per day).

Israel needs a change. I hope this change will come this week. Amen!

Netanyahu’s Speech in American Congress

This issue has dominated Israeli media during the past month, and received ample coverage on the American media.

Kenneth Waltz is one of the most respected scholars in international relations. Some time ago, he granted a lengthy interview to my colleague, Dr Conny Beyer. In the interview, Waltz said the following:

What are the preconditions of peace in the future?
Nuclear weapons. Because you can’t fight a war and hope to score significant gains against countries that have nuclear weapons. So, it removes any important incentives. You can have skirmishes, we know that. The Chinese and the Russians along that long Eastern border, they had skirmishes, some of that fairly sizeable. But there was never any possibility that a nuclear Russia and a nuclear China were going to fight a major war. The same thing is true with India and Pakistan. There certainly have been really major skirmishes along the line of control, but once each country had a nuclear military capability, it was clear that there was not going to be a fourth war between India and Pakistan although Scott Sagan calls the war the fourth war, because it fits the definition of more than a thousand battlefield deaths. As I say, well, there is something wrong with the definition. I don’t think most Indians and most Pakistanis consider that the fourth war since independence. But it would have been a real war, I think, in the absence of nuclear weapons on both sides.

Why are more nukes better?
Oh, well, it depends. I don’t know why people keep using the word proliferation. There is nothing you can do about it. I should think that everybody would know that proliferation means: spread like fire. Boom. You got one you are going to have thousands. One nuclear country, you are going to have hundreds of nuclear countries. Doesn’t happen. We’ve had nuclear knowledge now for more than sixty years. We have nine nuclear countries. That is proliferation? No! It is not proliferation, it is the opposite. I’d say nuclear weapons spread at a glacial pace. Horizontally. Vertically, you could make an argument. After all, the United States had about 13.000 strategic nuclear weapons, and the Soviet Union had about 10.000 at their respective peaks. You could call that proliferation. But when most people use the term proliferation they mean spreading from country to country. That has never happened. And I expect it never will. But every now and then another country will get nuclear capability and that is not bad. Because every country that has acquired nuclear military capability has behaved in the same way. And one of the things about nuclear weapons is very striking: is it doesn’t matter who has them. See, the difference between nuclear weapons and conventional weapons, their different implications are very clear. Most people ignore them. It makes a great deal of difference with conventional weapons who has them. Right? If you get a country like Hitler’s Germany, it is very difficult to contain that country, so long as there are no nuclear weapons in the world. As I wrote long ago, if Hitler had appeared in a nuclear world, it would have gone to much different results. You know, if you are going to undertake a major war, and it looks as though you are going to score major gains, you can be obliterated. And there is no ruler that comes to power in order to see his country obliterated. And one of the characteristics of dictators, authoritarian rules, fascists, whatever you want to call them, they have one characteristic in common. When we talk about rogue states, by which we don’t mean the great rogue state, namely the United States, which is clearly the great rogue state in the world. We mean countries ruled by people like Gaddhafi in the old days, or Saddam Hussein, or Kim Yong Il, or before him Kim Il Sung. They have one characteristic in common: they are survivors. That means they are easy to deter. I mean, if you have a madman who would run any risk, remind as Less Aspen (n.u.) said, shortly before he became Secretary of Defence, very briefly: these countries, these rogues states are hard to deter, they maybe undeterrable. That was completely wrong. A country that is undeterrable, its rulers are not going to last long. But one of the things these guys proved to be very good of doing was discerning that line beyond which, if you go beyond that line you are going to risk your own destruction. They always had felt short of that. Until you got the worst calculator in the bunch: Saddam Hussein. And even he lasted about 25 years. Much better than even Bush the first who could not even win a second term. And Saddam Hussein pointed that out. He said: I´m here, where is George Bush? They were survivors. Now, if you are going to survive that means you have to be able to react to extreme threats to your regime. I mean, it’s worth repeating: These guys are survivors, which means they are deterrable.

Are you in agreement with the non-proliferation regime?
Oh, yeah, I am for it. I don’t think it is very important. You see, if a country is really determined, they get nuclear weapons. Another way of saying that is if a country believes that its very survival depends on nuclear weapons it is almost impossible to prevent that country from getting nuclear weapons. I think it is much more important to get George Bush under control than it is to strengthen the nuclear regime. Well, you know, he said: three countries constitute an axis of evil, and he named them, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. And then he invades, he orders the invasion of one of them! And you’re a decision maker from Iran or from North Korea, what are you going to think? There is only one way to deter the United States, and conventional weapons won’t do it. That one way is by having your own nuclear weapons. Boy, I mean, I don’t see how! You have a country as strong as the States and that says: I am invading your neighbour, but don’t you get nuclear weapons. Oh, come on!

That is an explanation for Iran?
And North Korea.

I thank Conny for bringing the interview to my attention.

My colleague, Professor Richard Collin, shared with me his thoughts on this affair. Richard is a retired American professor who now lives in Beverley. Here is what he has to say:

The Prime Minister started by thanking the United States for its assistance to Israel.  He should; the US has given Israel about $121 billion dollars (since 1948). Some of this aid has been economic and some military and is currently running at about three billion dollars a year. Give me three billion dollars, and I’ll politely bring flowers and a bottle of good wine when I come a-calling.

It is hard to estimate how much American technical assistance is worth to Israel. The United States maintains communications intelligence sites around the world on land and at sea, as well as satellite-borne reconnaissance collection technologies, and a significant portion of this expensive ‘product’ is dutifully handed over to the Israeli intelligence services. You could argue that this doesn’t costs us anything because we are spending the money anyway, for our own protection.  On the other hand, if the Israelis had to fork out this dough on their own, it would be rather more than they could afford.  

Netanyahu clearly wanted to convince Americans why the Islamic Republic of Iran was our eternal enemy, suggesting that there was no hope of an improvement in the Iran-USA relationship. He dismissed the fact that American and Iranian interests in Iraq are surprisingly similar at the moment, with Iranian-sponsored militias fighting with the terrorist units of ISIS, but concluded that “the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.”

While Mr. Netanyahu clearly wished convince the United States that Iran is our eternal foe, I hope this does not turn out to be the case. Whatever the politicians say to and about one another, the average Iranian actually likes the average American. I say this as somebody who has wandered all over Iran and talked to people. The Iranians have had lousy political leaders; upon occasion, so have we.   

Lastly, Jeffrey Goldberg published an article in The Atlantic titled “The Netanyahu Disaster” (January 27, 2015).

This article is the closest to my own thoughts on this most unnecessary controversy.

Palestinian Poll

A public opinion poll found that nearly half of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip believe that Hamas movement is the main party responsible for the endless split between Gaza and the West Bank. The poll was conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between February 25 and March 1, 2015.

According to the poll, a plurality of respondents, 34.3%, blamed Hamas for the continued division in the Palestinian territories. 23.1% put the responsibility on Fatah, 17.8% blamed both movements, and only 7.9% who blamed Israel. The largest proportion of those who blames Hamas (42.7%) are from the Gaza Strip while 29.2% are from the West Bank. That means that nearly half of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip believe that Hamas carries the main responsibility for the split.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody 2007 coup, ousting the Fatah government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. After several failed attempts, the two parties reached an agreement last year on the establishment of a unity government, but since then the various rivalries and ideological differences between the organizations have prevented any progress.

The poll also showed a clear setback to those who consider Hamas as the winning side in the conflict with Israel last summer. Last October, 57.1% thought that Hamas was the victor in the fighting, but this has plummeted to 40.4% in the current poll. It is also noticeable that the largest proportion of those who considered Hamas as the winning side (46.1%) were from the West Bank. Only 30.9% of residents of the Gaza Strip think that Hamas won the war. After all, they have to live with the consequences of that war.

Death Is Optional

You might be interested in this exchange:

A Conversation: Yuval Noah Harari, Daniel Kahneman,

Cure for ALS?

A new stem-cell technology with the potential to treat neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is now in development by the Israel Prize laureate responsible for the blockbuster multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Rebif. Prof. Michel Revel’s company, Kadimastem, recently announced successful results of a preclinical trial in which itslab-produced central nervous system support cells (astrocytes) demonstrated significant motor function and survivability improvement in a mouse model of ALS. Revel based his approach on scientific evidence that ALS is characterized by malfunctioning astrocytes. Producing and then injecting healthy, functioning astrocytes into a patient’s nervous system seems to provide support for damaged motor neurons, slowing the progression of the disease, improving quality of life and even extending survival. Globally, 90 percent of ALS patients die of respiratory failure within three to five years after the onset of symptoms. Kadimastem is now in touch with the US Food and Drug Administration as well as regulatory bodies in Israel and Europe, hoping to advance the technology to clinical trials. Using the same technology for differentiating pluripotent stem cells into a range of functional human cells, the company also is developing pancreatic cells that secrete insulin. In January, Kadimastem signed an agreement with Ramot, Tel Aviv University’s technology transfer company, to conduct joint research with Prof. Shimon Efrat in the field of cell therapy for diabetes.

Monthly Poems

My Little March Girl
Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Come to the pane, draw the curtain apart,
There she is passing, the girl of my heart;
See where she walks like a queen in the street,
Weather-defying, calm, placid and sweet.

Tripping along with impetuous grace,
Joy of her life beaming out of her face,
Tresses all truant-like, curl upon curl,
Wind-blown and rosy, my little March girl.
Hint of the violet's delicate bloom,
Hint of the rose's pervading perfume!
How can the wind help from kissing her face, —
Wrapping her round in his stormy embrace?
But still serenely she laughs at his rout,
She is the victor who wins in the bout.

So may life's passions about her soul swirl,
Leaving it placid, —my little March girl.
What self-possession looks out of her eyes!
What are the wild winds, and what are the skies,
Frowning and glooming when, brimming with life,
Cometh the little maid ripe for the strife?
Ah! Wind, and bah! Wind, what might have you now?
What can you do with that innocent brow?
Blow, Wind, and grow, Wind, and eddy and swirl,
But bring to me, Wind, —my little March girl.

Light Side

3 Wishes

A woman was out golfing one day when she hit her ball into the woods. She went into the woods to look for it and found a frog in a trap. The frog said to her, "If you release me from this trap, I will grant you 3 wishes."

The woman freed the frog.
The frog said, "Thank you, but I failed to mention that there was a condition to your wishes that whatever you wish for, your husband will get 10 times more or better!"
The woman said, "That would be okay."
For her first wish, she wanted to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
The frog warned her, "You do realize that this wish will also make your husband the most handsome man in the world, an Adonis, that women will flock to."
The woman replied, "That will be okay because I will be the most beautiful woman and he will only have eyes for me." So, KAZAM she's the most beautiful woman in the world!
For her second wish, she wanted to be the richest woman in the world. The frog said, "That will make your husband the richest man in the world and he will be ten times richer than you."
The woman said, "That will be okay because what's mine is his and what's his is mine."
So, KAZAM she's the richest woman in the world!
The frog then inquired about her third wish, and she answered. "I'd like a mild heart attack."
Moral of the story: Women are clever. Don't mess with them! 

Attention female readers: This is the end of the joke for you. Stop here and continue feeling good! 
Male readers: Please scroll down. 
The man had a heart attack ten times milder than his wife!!! 
Moral of the story: Women are really dumb but think they're really smart! 
Let them continue to think that way and just enjoy the show! 
PS: If you are a woman and are still reading this; it only goes to show that women never listen!!!

Peace and love. Happy Passover and Easter. Have Fun Holiday!

May we sing “Ma Nishtana” with fervent and renewed optimism

Yours as ever,


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