Israeli happenings

I leave Israel for a week and everything falls apart. Must I take care of everything? I was shocked by the defacing of the Yad Vashem memorial with anti-Zionist slogans, apparently written by one or more haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men. Aren’t these places guarded, the most sacred places of the Jewish people? Don’t they have cameras to record everything that happens there? Given the extent of the anti-Zionist fervor in the world, don’t they prepare for such acts? Do I have to think of everything?

The Immigration police rounded up 300 African migrants from South Sudan in south Tel Aviv to be repatriated to their new country. Since S. Sudan is now a recognized state there is no longer any reason for them to be here. Some 150 are being flown out today. Another ca. 300 voluntarily agreed to return home. But, there are an estimated 60-80,000 African immigrants in Israel, most of them illegal. And since the Government has not yet built a sufficiently large facility to house new immigrants that cross the Egyptian border near Eilat, the immigration authority are putting African migrants onto buses to the north just to get rid of them. So while 600 may be sent back to S. Sudan another 1000 a week are flooding in. This problem must be solved. Just yesterday I had my car washed and the boy (yes, he was a teenager) who dried it was from…Nigeria!

I was disappointed that PM Netanyahu decided to go along with the Supreme Court decision that the buildings at the outpost of Ulpana are built on private Arab land and must be destroyed. This is an unfortunate decision since the buildings have been inhabited for up to six years by 30 families. Such a decision will result not only in internal strife in Israel, but will be seen as the Israeli Government doing the Palestinian’s work for them. Surely a sovereign Israeli Government could have reached a less drastic compromise, such as compensation for the owners. The plan is to move the settlers from Ulpana to the nearby settlement of Beit El, and then to build ten times the number of apartments elsewhere in the West Bank. Even though these moves appear to be a filip to the settler movement, there will still be scenes of conflict when the IDF attempts to force these people out of their homes on July 1. And it will in no way improve relations with the Palestinians. In order to avoid such mistakes in the future the PM has established a new “Settlement Committee” that will investigate all cases of settlements before they reach this stage of disruption.

The State Comptroller’s Special Report strongly criticizes the Government for bad decision making in relation to the Mavi Mamara incident. It does not question the right of Israel to stop the Mavi Mamara or other ships trying to break the legal blockade of Gaza, but it points out that the decision-making process in response to the raid was flawed. Processes set-down for the PM and the Government to consult with the National Security Council were ignored and decisions were made without consultation. Further, some of these decisions were bad ones, such as sending paratroopers aboard the ship when it was unknown what the circumstances were, without adequate protection, i,e, with guns filled with paint-balls and not bullets (the Turks killed were shot with the soldier’s revolvers). Also, delaying for three days the release of the IDF videos of the fighting showing the commandos being attacked with iron bars. Such consultations might not have made any difference to the eventual outcome, but what is the point of having security experts if they are not consulted. These findings raise questions about the decision-making process in relation to the current Iranian situation.

Whle we were away the situation in Egypt deteriorated even more, with the Elections Commission declaring only two candidates valid for the Presidency, including the last PM under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafik, and the Moslem Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi. The Commission also declared the previously elected, MB-dominated parliament unconsititutional. This has raised severe issues in Egypt regarding the extent of military junta involvement in such decisions. Whether the MB will foment violent demonstrations against these decisions remains to be seen. But, while Egypt heads for more turmoil, Israel is not a factor in the situation. Meanwhile Syria has entered a new extreme phase of its civil war, with more massacres of civilians, including children, by Assad’s military and more actions by the Syrian Free Army. For all its faults Israel by comparison is an island of stability and peace surrounded by an Arab world in disarray.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.