Thursday, October 31, 2002

So, the government collapsed yesterday. Most of the local political analysts say that the breakup of the coalition government was inevitable and would have happened as elections drew near. However, it all went down in a ridiculous manner. It reminds me of a story about two cars who both try to cross an intersection at the same time. Although the cars are crawling along, neither driver is willing to give way and eventually they collide into each other slowly.

What we saw yesterday was a political version of this same principle. Due to their own internal party politics, Fuad Ben-Eliezer and Arik Sharon collided into each other at 10 km/hr.

Fuad is behind in the polls for the head of the Labor party. He apparently felt the need to make a bold political move that would play well with the voters in Givatayim and the kibbutzim. So, he decided to pick a fight with the PM about the budget and the settlements.

Sharon, in the meantime, has to fend off Bibi Netanyahu on his right flank and deal with a massive influx of new Likud members from the settlements. Given this situation, the big man felt he couldn't back down even one centimeter on the settlement issue. We now see the results.

Personally, I agree with Fuad. The settlements get too much money proportionately. Also, they are a big pain in everybody's backside.

However, there is a time and a place for this kind of political fight and with Israel's world financial standing in a shakey state, this ain't it. Besides, Labor has been in the government for close to 2 years now. Where've you been up until now, Fuad?

So now it gets to be election time again. What joy. Nothing like a wasteful, divisive political campaign to lighten up our days around here.

Contrary to Howell Raines and the boys at the Times, I don't think that the elections are going to change anything in the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. Although the polls do indeed show that a majority of the Israeli public is willing to give up the territories for a peace agreement with the Palestinians, this willingness is entirely predicated on the Palestinians giving up both violence and the right of return. So far, it doesn't look like they're going to do either.

So long as the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is calling the shots (literally and figuratively) from Ramallah, Sharon can be assured of the Israeli public's support.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

In case any of you were wondering what happened to the reforms within the Palestinian Authority, one need only look at the PA cabinet that the ra'is presented for a vote yesterday. Despite a sincere desire for change within the Palestinian political scheme, Arafat presented yet another collection of his corrupt cronies. Last month, the Palestinian Legislative Council voted down Arafat's proposed cabinet.

This time, the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize laureate expressly told the legislators that if they voted against his cabinet that they were collaborating with Israel. (This charge, of course, is tantamount to a death sentence among those peace-loving Palestinans). Arafat's threats gave him the necessary boost and the cabinet was approved overwhelmingly.

I'm sure we can look forward to more expressions of Palestinian democracy like this in the near future. Sometime next year Arafat will be re-elected president of the Palestinian Authority with Saddam-style margins, probably because nobody will be brave enough to challenge him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002
VDH on North Korea's nukes

As usual, Hanson hits the nail on the head:

Apparently a privileged class of men and women in the West, the beneficiaries of higher education and of ample means, share a tendency to believe that the world works according to their own Enlightenment logic — or at least that its reasoned judgment can appeal even to the uninitiated like Kim Il-Sung.

This is the major flaw in trying to resolve problems like the one we have in Iraq -- and I say "we" very consciously; Saddam's threat to the West may not be directly clear, but it does exist now or in the future -- using negotiations and inspectors. I like to think of it like Cape Fear: Saddam is Max Cady, who has contempt for all the rules of international law, but tries to use the trappings of law to defend himself and his evil regime.

The case of North Korea is enlightening. We in the West engaged them using all the enlightened methods. We gave them aid in order to persuade them to disarm. They promised to disarm. We believed them. Jimmy Carter won a Nobel prize.

Now it turns out they lied. And used the aid we gave them to develop nuclear weapons.

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to apply the lessons we've learned with North Korea to the Iraq situation. Saddam wants nukes and he will do anything in his power to get them. The only way to prevent this from happening is to get rid of Saddam by whatever means works.

Sunday, October 27, 2002
The Troubles in Moscow

So, Moscow becomes the latest flashpoint in what increasingly and uncomfortably looks like a worldwide conflict between Islam and the infidels. The latest incident, pitting Russian special forces and Chechen terrorists in a Moscow theater ended with an ambivalent outcome. On the one hand, the rescue operation was a success. The Russians managed to bust into the theater, kill most of the terrorists and free the hostages. On the other hand, 118 hostages died and there's still quite a bit of mystery surrounding the knockout gas that was used during the operation.

Personally, I think you have to admire Vladimir Putin for acting quickly and decisively. When faced with terrorists making impossible demands, he dealt with them the only effective way: swiftly, and with a massive show of strength. The Russians have no qualms about these things and it wouldn't have surprised me had Putin ordered a bunch of tanks to crash through the theater if necessary.

The loss of life is saddening, but we don't know what the loss could have been if the Russians hadn't acted the way they did. Had the terrorists been given a chance to blow themselves up, the death toll would likely have been much higher.

The lesson for dealing with 21st-Century terrorism: give no quarter and don't waste time trying to understand implacable "root causes."