Thursday, December 31, 2009

Description of the Decade: Shitty

2009 was a shitty year. In some respects in was even shittier than 2008, in others, it was better. In both my countries, the United States and Israel, one shitty chief executive was replaced by another shitty chief executive. Barack Obama is far less shitty than George W. Bush ever was, but this year he has proven what I thought about him last year, that he is ill-equipped for the job of president. In Israel, I'm having a hard time deciding who the hell is shittier, Benjamin Shitinyahu or Ehud Ol-merde (read as in French).

The whole decade was shitty. First, the Second Intifadah started. Then Dubya was elected  president. Then 9/11 and then you know all the shit that followed. I supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but now I think that Iraq shouldn't have been touched, and that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban should have been bombed without an invasion. Airline and border security are the best ways to maintain our safety.

I'd like to say that the shittiness ends tonight, that 2010 and the rest of the Twenty Teens will be much better. Unfortunately, the shittiness is going to spill into the next decade. I don't see any peace deals, or even negotiations, between Israel and the Palestinians or any other Arab neighbors any time soon. The US is still knee deep in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever happens with Iran, it won't be good (seems like the two main options there are either a war or them obtaining nukes, and I don't see the protesters prevailing). The economy is still shitty, even if it's better than before.

I must say the year and decade were shitty politically, but they were pretty good to me personally. The beginning of the decade wasn't that great, especially the boredom of my military service and when my nephew was diagnosed as autistic. But as the decade ends, my nephew is doing great, I'm a graduate student enjoying my life, and my family and friends are all happy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Kadima, Stay Out!

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered Tzippi Livni, the head of the opposition and chairwoman of the Kadima Party, to join his government. She hasn't ruled it out. I think it is very important that Kadima stays in the opposition. Hopefully, the threat of many Kadima MKs to change parties and Shaul Mofaz's demand for new elections for the chairmanship of Kadima won't lead Livni to the wrong decision.

Netanyahu is one of the worst prime ministers Israel has ever had. Despite this, there is no real opposition against him other than radical settlers. The parties in the parliamentary opposition are too diverse to form a cohesive counterbalance to the government, and even Kadima is oddly silent on its failings. What needs to be done is for Kadima to be united somehow and for more criticism to be lodged against the government, not to join it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Israelis Don't Hate Obama

According to popular wisdom, Israelis are very hostile towards Barack Obama. I have to admit that I bought into that notion myself. Most of my friends have a positive attitude towards Obama, or mixed feelings, but I had a feeling that the social circle I belong to isn't very representative of Israeli society. And indeed, whenever I talked to other people, let's call them non-academic types, they tended to hate Obama, or at the very least, they were suspicious of him. This seemed to be supported by a now discredited poll that claimed only 4% of Israelis support Obama.

A new poll shows I was wrong. Obama's approval ratings in Israel are quite similar to his approval ratings at home. When compared to Rasmussen's Dec. 11 poll, Obama's approval rating in Israel is just six percentage points lower than his approval rating in the States, but even more interesting is the fact that a higher percentage of Americans disapprove of his performance than Israelis: 51% compared to just 37%.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has a higher approval rating among Israelis than is widely believed, undercutting arguments he has lost Israeli public support for new peace efforts, a poll said on Thursday.

The poll by the Washington-based New America Foundation found that 41 percent of Israelis had a favorable rating of Obama against 37 percent who rated him unfavorably.

Despite this, 55 percent of Israelis polled said they thought Obama did not support Israel against 42 percent who said he did -- a reflection of the "complexity of views" about the U.S. leader as he presses both Israel and the Palestinians to resume stalled peace talks.

"They genuinely admire and like him ... but at the same time they also want to feel that he is in their corner, and they have concerns over this," pollster Jim Gerstein said in an email message.

Gerstein said that, in contrast to widespread media reports of low Israeli public support for Obama, the poll of 1,000 Israelis showed more support and solid backing for a possible future U.S.-brokered peace deal with the Palestinians.

"Israelis believe peace is necessary, but they currently do not feel a sense of urgency to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians," Gerstein said in his report, adding that Obama had a chance now to persuade Israelis it was time to reach an agreement.

"There are real opportunities for the president and his team to speak directly and convincingly to the Israeli people," the report said.

Predicting Time's Person of the Year 2009

Time Magazine likes putting President Barack Obama on its cover, but I think it is safe to say that he won't be Time's Person of the Year for a second year in row. Despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize, he hasn't done enough to merit the title. He deserves to be first runner-up, at the most.

Will it be Angela Merkel, who won re-election as Germany's chancellor this year and has become one of the most influential European leaders?  It's very possible.

Will it be Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to the Israeli Prime Minister's office after 10 years and has already managed to anger the Palestinians, settlers, the Israeli left and the Obama administration? No, it won't be him.

Will it be Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is credited by many as the person responsible for curbing the financial crisis? I think he's the top candidate. The economy has been the number one issue worldwide this year, so someone who has something to do with it is likely to be named POY. It could also be that the companies that got bailout money will be chosen, if Time Magazine decides to go with something other than a person.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Ahmadinejad: "US Trying to Prevent the Mahdi's Return"

Yossi Melman reports in today's Haaretz (in Hebrew, no English version) that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told families who lost loved ones in the Iran-Iraq War that the main purpose of the American invasion of Iraq was to prevent the return of the Mahdi, the Shi'ite messiah. He quotes Iranian news agency Tabnak, which reported Ahmadinijad said the following:

"It is true that the forces of arrogance (the Americans) have their eyes on the [Iraqi] nation's oil and other treasures, but behind all this there is a hidden reasoning and they are working in accordance with it, although they would never admit to it in public. However, we have obtained documents of theirs. They came up with this plan (the invasion and occupation of Iraq) to prevent the coming of the hidden imam, and they also know that the Iranian nation is preparing for this event and will be his ally when he appears." (Note: I'm translating from Hebrew, which itself is a translation, and probably a translation of a translation).
Melman points out that Ahmedinijad is a follower of Masbah Yazdi, who believes Muslims must pave the way for the Mahdi's return. This is a view the Iranian Ayatollahs see as heresy.

Some experts believe that Ahmedinijad's belief in the return of the Mahdi is the main reason he wants to have nuclear weapons. Messianic Shi'ites believe that when he returns there will be a bloody war between the Shi'ites and their enemies. Sounds pretty much like the Christian Armageddon.

Scary stuff.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Jews and the Kingdom

I don't know anything about being Jewish in Great Britain. I've never lived there, or even visited. I know quite a few British Jews, mostly those who moved to Israel, but we've never discussed the topic of how it is to be Jewish in the United Kingdom. Two interesting opinion pieces were published recently about just that. David Newman of the Jerusalem Post and Roger Cohen of the New York Times write from different perspectives, about different aspects of "Anglo-Judaism", and are each prompted to write about the issue for very different reasons.

You can go to the links above or read the articles below.