Tag Archives: middle-east

Naftali Bennet takes on Netanyahu, and wins

30 Jan

Naftali Bennet, the head of the right wing “Bayit Yehudi” party is up in the polls. According to a new poll conducted yesterday, he would receive 17 seats in the Knesset, if elections were held. He currently has 12.

And what has caused this surge in support? It seems that his recent attack against Netanyahu, for which he was forced to apologize has actually boosted his standing among the voters in Israel.

Bennet publicly attacked Netanyahu after a Times of Israel report “according to which Netanyahu wants Jewish settlers to be given the choice of living under future Palestinian rule in the West Bank if a peace treaty is sealed.”

My thoughts:

First, its important to remember that the Bayit Hayehudi party is much more right wing than Likud.  Among other things, it has advocated annexing 60% of the West Bank.

As we get closer to a possible framework deal with the Palestinians (I emphasize the word possible), we are going to see both the left and the right becoming much more vociferous, combative and active. Yesterday I saw the head of the opposition Isaac Herzog like I have never seen him before at INSS conference. He did not hold back in attacking the right. Very combative.

And now the right in Israel is becoming worried, because a deal with the Palestinians could challenge it politically like it has not been challenged before since it returned to power with Netanyahu.The biggest loser from a deal could be Bennet. In my opinion if a deal is reached with the Palestinians, just like Netanyahu resigned from Likud prior to the Gaza withdrawal in 2005, Bennet is likely to resign as well. He could also get fired if he challenges Netanyahu again, this time with no warning.  He may be popular, but his party will remain marginalized, if a deal goes through. He must be praying that Kerry’s peace efforts fail.

Here is Naftali Bennet challenging the idea that the West Bank is occupied:

My Local Pharmacy, My Fantasy Israel

10 Apr

I have a soft spot in my heart for Pharmacies, a major reason being that my father used to own one in Tehran for more than 10 years (until 1988 in Kooy-e Nasr Neighbourhood, on the  corner of Forouzanfar and 9th street).

I used to help out after school and during the holidays. He constantly had Voice of Israel Persian, BBC Persian and Voice of America Persian on his radio transistor in the store room every single evening blaring out news and analysis of the day’s events. And he wonders why I didn’t follow his footsteps!

But there is something very special about my local “SuperPharm” on the corner of Dizengoff and Gordon street in Tel Aviv.

Its like the microcosm of the Israel I dream about: its well organized, friendly but most important of all, its inclusive.

In my local branch you will find numerous Arab Israelis working as pharmacists, there is a deaf girl who works in the store room, Russian ladies in the make up section and there is a transgender person who serves at the check out counter. This is in addition to a range of Israelis from European and Middle Eastern heritages working in different positions.

Its so amazing to go there.

If Theodore Herzl had been alive, he would have wanted to shop there, just to see his version of Zionism in action, one which according to Israel’s declaration of independence:

“Will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

And what would he have bought at my local pharmacy?

Well I leave it up to you….tell me what you think…

Greek Style Economic Meltdown on Israel’s Southern Border?

29 Mar

A Greek style economic meltdown in Egypt is not impossible.

In Israel, the press and politicians seem to be worried about whats happening around the country’s borders, but in my opinion, they are not worried enough (now there is a first!).

Worried about Turkey? you betcha!

Worried about the Syrian civil war and its consequences? Oh yes.

Worried about Lebanon and the fact that prime minister Miqati has just resigned? increasingly so.

I have even heard some reporter friends who are worried about Jordan.

But Egypt?

It seems that we have forgotten about Egypt. Unless there is some kidnapping in the Sinai, the press and politicians do not seem to be very worried.

The attitude seems to be “well, Morsi has not cancelled the peace treaty. He is getting on with his own problems and not bothering us. So let him be.”

But that could all change.

In fact both Iran and Israel should look at the latest economic developments in Egypt closely as it could impact the tensions between them.

The Economist describes the current situation as:

Unemployment may be as high as 20%. The stock exchange this year has slumped by a tenth. Tourism, which used to account for 12% of Egypt’s GDP, has evaporated. Foreign investment has dried up. Foreign reserves have shrunk. Many of Egypt’s most dynamic businessmen have fled, fearing they will be arraigned for complicity with Mr Mubarak.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? “And after the commercial break: Greek style economic meltdown on Israel’s southern border”.

Not worried yet? well, read on:

Egypt needs a government that can take some difficult decisions swiftly. To that end, Mr Morsi should select a fresh team of ministers from a much wider ideological spectrum, including technocrats and secular-minded people as well as his own Islamist brethren….Without people willing to put their country before themselves, Egypt faces economic collapse.

Call me a pessimist, but I just don’t see Morsi being able to “reach across the aisle” and to muster enough consensus across Egypt’s political spectrum to push through much-needed economic reform.

What could this mean for Israel?

Worst case scenario: In a bid to score much-needed political points Morsi adopts a much tougher anti-Israel tone. The Salafist follow suit. Due to inability to fix the economic situation, both sides try to outbid each other in their anti-Israeli policies. This could mean calls to change parts of the peace treaty or even attempts to do so.

Best case scenario: In order to secure more funds from the West, Morsi becomes even more pro-western and more pro Saudi.

What could this mean for Iran?

Worst case scenario: see the best case scenario for Israel.

Best case scenario: In order to increase his own bargaining power and leverage against the West, he could start improving his relations with Iran. Unlikely for now, but stranger things have happened at sea, as the saying goes.

The problem for Israel is that even the best case scenario is likely to be quite unsettling.

Rafsanjani, the man who could save the Iranian revolution

28 Mar

According to a recent article in the Global Post: 

A pro-reform clerical group in Iran is calling on the country’s former moderate leaders to step up to the plate ahead of the country’s June presidential election.

The article goes on to say:

The Society of Seminary Teachers and Researchers of Qom issued a statement saying in “view of the current national situation,” former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani should run for president. Qom is a major religious city and home to a leading Shiite seminary in Iran.

There have been numerous reports in Iran that Rafsanjani will decide to announce his availability to stand as a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. There have been as many reports if not more denying such a possibility.

It is also not clear if Khatami will declare that he wants to run as a presidential candidate.

And if either or both did, it’s not clear that the Guardian Council would approve their candidacy (this is mandatory).

If Iran’s supreme leader is interested in saving his regime, he must listen to the advice of The Society of Seminary Teachers and Researchers.

This is especially true when it comes to Ayatollah Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani as president could pull Iran out of its current economic and diplomatic quagmire. In 1988 Rafsanjani saved the regime by convincing Ayatollah Khomeini  that the war against Iraq must stop. Rafsanjani did this despite the wishes and intense hostility of the powerful IRGC. Had he not succeeded, Iran could have ultimately lost the war. A Saddam victory would have culminated in the regime being toppled by his forces.

Rafsanjani as president could prepare the ground for rapprochement with the West in order to facilitate a deal over the nuclear program. He has the experience and the credibility. As president he could also start repairing the economy which has been ravaged by Ahmadinejad’s populist policies and sanctions. He has the experience, as he was in charge of repairing Iran’s economy after its devastating war against Iraq.

The key question is: if he decides to run, will the supreme leader approve his candidacy? For now this seems unlikely, much to the delight of the West.

Obama’s “hand picked” audience in Jerusalem?

22 Mar

Some people seem to have mistaken Israel for North Korea

‘The Israeli audience at Obama’s speech on the 21st of March at the Jerusalem convention center was hand-picked carefully by the Obama administration. Only Israelis who supported his view were invited and allowed to attend.’

This seems to be the conventional wisdom of some people here in Israel who are upset that Obama received so much applause from Israeli students who attended his speech yesterday.

Now I would understand why some of my compatriots would be upset with Obama for stating things like:

“Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized”

All opinions are subject to dispute and analysis. We can all agree or disagree.

But to suggest that the audience was carefully handpicked and thats the only reason why the Israeli students gave Obama such a warm welcome and applauded his comments is truly a sign of desperation.

Lets consider the absurdity of this argument.

To handpick such an audience, the CIA would need to have infiltrated Israel’s entire student population. Their spies would have needed to categorize and profile every student in this entire country, based on their political beliefs, who they vote for in Israel, their opinions towards the peace process, their opinion towards Obama and whether they are likely to applaud him or not.

Once all this information has been gathered and sifted through by the CIA’s spies in Israel and  all the supposedly “bad apples” have been removed, the final list is sent out to the US embassy in Israel.

The FBI office then stand at the door of the event in the Jerusalem convention center to profile every person who enters, to ensure that those who are considered to be “ideological deviants” do not enter.

And thats how you get an entire Israeli audience applauding Obama. Otherwise how would it be possible?

To all those who think this way I say: this is Israel, not North Korea. Yesterday, it was the leader of a democratic country who spoke in our country, not the supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un.

You should consider the possibility that just as much as those Israeli students who attended Obama’s speech yesterday love their country and believe in it, they also believe that some of the things being done by their government are wrong. Gravely wrong. That they too believe that when it comes to defending Israel, we must fight Hamas and its terrorists with all our might when they attack us. Thats defending Israel. Not  punishing an entire groups of their population by discriminating against them in the supply of water, and the ability to farm on their land.

That Israel’s borders must be secure, but to do so we need to fight the terrorists and at the same time improve our relations with the Palestinian people by allowing them to live a normal life with dignity. That much like us in Israel, people of Palestine also need to have a state next to us.

Now would it be possible that there are Israeli students who believe that such ideas are logical and sensible?

Not if you believe some of those who are upset by yesterday’s events.

On Iran, Israel Can Trust Obama

20 Mar

My latest article explains why when it comes to Iran, we in Israel can trust Obama’s policies.


Obama In Israel For The Nowrooz. Why? Could he be Persian?

20 Mar

I am sure Obama did not do this on purpose, but as it happens, he will be arriving in Israel just in time for the Persian Nowrooz new year celebrations.

Or maybe he did and we just don’t know about it. Because don’t forget, we Persians believe that all famous and successful people all have Persian heritage if you trace back their heritage long enough. Even Obama. Dark skinned? well he must be from the Iran’s southern coast of Bushehr or is it the city of Abadan? The latter allegedly like to wear Ray Ban sunglasses even when they are sleeping or taking showers. Has anyone seen Obama wearing Ray Bans? Does he have a soft spot for them? because if he does, then sorry Bushehr, there is a good chance Obama is from Abadan (originally).

Well he can’t be from the city of Esfahan. He keeps giving money away to Israel. Despite the US budget sequester, we in Israel are still getting the full amount of aid. In fact no US president has helped Israel financially like he has. We Esfahanis are masters of being economical with money. I am pretty sure that we own the patent for the pocket less trousers. Have you heard about what the Esfahani husband wrote on the tombstone of his wife? “Here lies Fatemeh Esfahani, the beloved wife of Mohsen Esfahani…Owner of antique store, Abbas Abad Street, number 32, business hours 8 am – 10 pm. http://www.Dada-antiqchi-bekhar.com”  or the one about the Esfahani who committed suicide with his next door neighbor’s electricity? Obama just can’t be one of us.

Well whatever he is, or is not, let me just say how happy I am that “he is with us“.  Not only because I like his policies, but also because thats what his surname means in Persian. And no, this is no joke.