Dead Sea

A lovely minimalist piece by the same photographer from last week, Gilad Benari.

Speaking of minimalism, Tzipi Livni’s attempts to take the high road and speak and act with integrity are backfiring and will almost certainly cost her the upcoming election. First, she refused to wheel and deal with Shas, thereby preventing the creation of a coalition that would have enabled her to rule. She was attempting to act responsibly, in the manner that many Israelis complain does not exist among Israeli politicians. Her stance against being blackmailed is admirable but she misread the cynical Israeli public that saw this as a failure. She was a “fryer,” (a sucker) for not taking a deal that would have let her govern.

The public is right. It’s better to govern than not govern and she could have attempted to sideline Shas once she was in power. Out of power, however, she has little influence. This will be even more true if the Likud wins as many seats as the polls are projecting and may be able to form a coalition without Kadima. It doesn’t help anybody if you’re sitting in the cold, lonely seats of the out-of-power opposition.

Livni also spoke honestly about Shalit, saying that Israel might not be able to release him or have him released. She was taken to task over this statement, compelled to meet with advocates for Shalit’s freedom (aren’t we all advocates for this?). She wasn’t just criticized by civilians, the IDF got into the fray informing reporters that no effort is or will be spared in releasing Israeli soldiers.

Livni, of course, spoke the truth. But people don’t want truth. People would rather say Shalit should be freed at any price. If it means sending soldiers into what could be a trap, so be it. If it means releasing terrorist murderers who will go back to a life of violence and kill and maim innocent civilians, so be it.

“We cannot leave the children alone to suffer,” say the parents. Who wouldn’t say that if their child was in cruel captivity. But shalit wasn’t a child, he was a soldier. He was a soldier on a front line of a war. He is paying the price for being a soldier, unfair though it is. Sure, he deserves to be freed and the Israeli government should know that its price will be higher than what it paid Hizbullah for dead soldiers. After all, Shalit is alive.

But the Israelis cannot pay any price and Hamas finds Shalit to be a convenient hammer to use to smash Israel over and over. They are not seriously in the market to bargain, which is why they keep pushing the price to intolerable levels: it leaves the Israeli government looking like it’s too cheap to pay the price and it sows doubts in the hearts of Israeli parents and Israeli soldiers. Shalit also serves as a life insurance policy for Hamas leaders. If he’s gone, they could become targets. With him alive, they are left alone so that he won’t be harmed.

It’s a tough situation and one that may not have a resolution in the near term. This is what Tzipi Livni said. But people don’t want to hear the truth. They would rather growl and yell and stomp and threaten. They would rather demand an undesirable solution from their government, than the right solution. This is the same as wanting politicians to act ethically and then punishing a leader who refuses to be blackmailed by a small party. This is why Tzipi Livni will sit in opposition and Bibi Netanyahu will sit in the PM’s office again, growling, yelling, stomping and threatening while outside Hamas will continue to hold on to Shalit and Shas will be laughing all the way to the bank. The voters choose the government they deserve.

So let’s all take a fatalistic deep breath. Relax for a minute. Look outside and see how beautiful winter can be. Breathe in. Let it out. Breathe in. Let it out.


Shabbat shalom!

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  • Poor Shalit is Hamas’s version of Kim Jong-il’s nuclear program. They have every incentive to keep him as a hedge against attack…. I hope Middle is wrong and that Livni is eventually rewarded for displaying courage.

  • Your timing is, uhh, impeccable.

    You’ve written a paean to Zipi Livni’s integrity just as Israeli voters realize that she is just another weary, vision-less Kadima-nik.

    It’s not so much that Israelis can’t handle the truth. It’s more that Livni’s “like a virgin” shtick just ain’t enough anymore, considering the stench rising from every other corner of her party.

    I don’t think she’s as corrupt as the rest of Kadimah. But that’s not enough for her to carry Kadimah – a raft of corrupt, backbiting rats unconcerned with leading the country – across any finish lines, with or without Shas.

    That raft is gonna sink this time around. And to most of the unprincipled opportunists who bailed from Likud, all I can say is good riddance.

    At best, Zipi will have to wait out an election cycle before she tries to get back into the Likud. Maybe by then the odor of the sewer will have worn off.

  • Right, because the folks in the Likud and the folks at Labor are angels. Come to think of it, so are Netanyahu and Barak.

    She can stand tall with the integrity she’s displayed. I’m not a fan of hers and I’m not sure that she’s made of PM material, but at least she’s got her honor and integrity intact. That’s, you know, kinda important. On the other hand, maybe Israel needs a scheming, conniving leader considering the external and internal challenges facing whoever takes office.

  • I didn’t know where else on these threads to make this sad announcement.

    The Jewish People lost another Hero last week. In my view this loss is at least on the level of the Indian Kidush Hashem recently in many ways. Its a pity that it takes these kind of losses to recognize the extent of the Mamash Mesirat Nefesh of Jews who persist in confronting danger to foster and perpetuate Hashem’s Torah and Holy Name in the most extreme and this case hostile environments.
    To me this is the Jewish equivalent of doing great and dangerous expedition like going to the Moon and space travel etc… Something awesomely cool, to look up to and say,

    “halavay I could do something like that.”

    Yeah I am a Chabadnik, but NO the Yeminite Jewish teacher didn’t work with Chabad apparently. However, I have no problem whatsover in bringing to attention another round of horiffic and irreplacable loss Israel has endured the week before this forementioned Shabat.

    To illustrate the heinous ugliness of the enemy that does such crime and a clue as to the nature of the climate that this takes place:

    The murderer fired on Nahari several times, made sure he as dead, and then waited for police to come. Ash-Sharq il-Awsat identified the killer as Abed el-Abdi, a former pilot. El-Abdi murdered his wife two years ago, but was not imprisoned because he agreed to give his wife’s family financial compensation.

  • Thank you for the note, Netsach. That’s a terrible story. Nine orphans!

    We’ve discussed Satmar and Yemenite Jews before. I have no idea what the hell Satmar Chasidim are doing influencing Yemenite Jews but it appears this was part and parcel of Nahari’s life. How odd.

  • Yeah,
    I am mostly clueless as to understanding the Satmar involvement with the Jewish Yemin
    people. I can only make some very uneducated guesses. I have bias colored by some unique experience in encountering and dealing with Satmar over the years. To start off, my experience in general is positive in many places I have encountered Satmar. However, Satmar is a very big Chasidic group with a lot of variation depending on place and people, history… No doubt though, because of the size and complexity of their operations, Satmar is one of the most influencial Jewish groups of people around. I wouldn’t underestimate their reach. It is worthy of note in Los Angeles, the relatively small Satmar community is completely different then what I have seen in New York and Israel. Much of the complex Chabad vs Satmar issues that I have seen outside of LA don’t exist here. Not that I really understand those issues either… but suffice it to say this is a subject for another thread…

    What could be happening is that Satmar has got some kind of pass to operate to support the small Jewish remnant in Yemin from the authorities there. Maybe it is because of the anti Zionist beliefs of the Satmar.. Who knows? That is a very ignorant guess…

    There is ongoing news. The leaders of the Jewish People in Yemin are now talking about getting more protection from the government or leaving the country, what most Jewish people around the world are saying.

    What may be happening there is an ominous sign of what happens to a Jewish presence when left to an arab governed majority.

  • Yeah,
    I would like to see that movie.

    Besides being of subject interest, “In Satmar custody” has
    some serious accolades:

    Festivals and awards: Columbia College Chicago, Vancouver Jewish Film Fesitval 2005, Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival 2005, Brandeis Jewish Film Festival 2005, San Diego Jewish Film Festival 2005, Cork International Film Festival, Ireland, 2004, Cape Town World Cinema Festival, South Africa, 2004, Winner of the Audience Award, Marseille International Documentary Film Festival, France, 2003, Hamilton Jewish Film Festival, Canada, 2004, Cape Town World Cinema Festival, South Africa, 2004, Rome International Film Festival, Georgia, USA, 2004, Best of Input – Encounters International Film Festival, South Africa, 2004, Budapest Israeli Film Week, Hungary, 2004, The Beverly Hills International Film Festival, USA, 2004, Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Munich International Documentary Film Festival, Germany, 2004, New Port Beach International Film Festival, USA, 2004, The San Francisco International Film Festival, Golden Gate Awards Competition, USA, 2004, Palm Beach International Film Festival, USA, 2004, Input Screening Conference, 2004, The Amnesty International – Doen Award Film Festival, The Netherlands, 2004, Marseille International Documentary Film Festival, France, 2003, IDFA International Film Festival, “Reflecting Images” Category, Amsterdam, 2003, The Jerusalem International Film Festival / In The Spirit of Freedom Category, Israel, 2003

    If you hear of where this film plays let me know.

  • The amrican/canadian views about politics in Israel never fail fail to amuse me. It’ s like from Mars or from another Galaxy altogether.

  • Really? The day after I wrote this, Ma’ariv came out with an editorial praising Livni for her integrity and courage.

  • Maariv is out of circulation here for almost two years. I guess I will have to travel a bit to grab a copy. Today Maariv is hardly relvant. TM, for becoming on of those ME experts, you need to try harder. And you need Israeli TV.
    About Zipi: After the Vinograd report she hoodwinked her own party without knowing all the details. Courageous? Maybe. Populist? Definetly. Unfortunately her plot against Ulermt didn’t work out. She was reprimanded and almost lost her job. Since then she is a political nobody and this episode cost her her political career. She will go down with Kadima which is good riddance for Israel.

  • Maariv is hardly relevant? Okay.

    Still, you’ll agree that it’s a long-standing newspaper whose reporters and editors are Israelis. You claimed that being an American came through and amused you in my post. Having the editorial from an Israeli newspaper agree with my point of view refutes that statement.

    Whether I’m an expert or not on the ME in your opinion is immaterial. You’ve read an opinion of mine (which happens to have been echoed by an Israeli paper) and apparently it’s so ludicrous that it amuses you. So, if you’re right, how did Livni win enough votes in Kadima to win the top spot? Is that what happens to political nobodies? How is it she was one dirty deal with Shas away from becoming PM of Israel? How is it that Bibi and Barak are trying to evade a debate with her?

    She also didn’t “hoodwink” her own party. In fact, she showed weakness of the kind that raises questions in my mind about her abilities as a potential PM because she didn’t go after Olmert after Winograd (the first report).

    Kadima will go down but it won’t be because of Livni as much as Olmert.