Monday, October 8, 2012

West of Eden: I told you so

I love this bit of sophisticated language abuse, picked up by the Times the other day:
Yuval Steinitz, the finance minister, was recently recorded at a closed meeting of his Likud Party activists saying that while “media is important in a democracy,” the Israeli media for the most part favor the left over Likud.

“Beyond that,” he continued, “the media has lost its respect for one small, simple word: ‘truth.’ There is no more respect for the word truth.”
Especially when the minister uses it, eh? And respecting it means if the minister says it's true, you don't ask a lot of impertinent questions. Because it's just the word you're supposed to worry about, not the thing itself.
The Blindfolding of Truth, an Allegory. Byam Shaw, ca. 1909. From The Textile Blog.

The big story in Israel, now that the war with Iran is being postponed till—well, till whenever they need to start seeing it in the newspapers again, has been the tiff between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who have given each other back their respective rings and may be casually dating other ministers, ZOMG.

It seems that Barak was chatting with the Americans behind Netanyahu's back, while Israeli elections are swimming back into the picture, this time rumored for February (the vote has to take place by October 2013 at the latest). Netanyahu's big vulnerability with his voters is that he may have frightened them by being so hostile to Obama; they've finally realized that in one month Obama is likely to get reelected—Mr. Adelson can't buy 'em as effectively over here as he can there—and they are scared he'll want to punish them somehow for having such an unspeakable head of government. As if.

So Barak went to America, according to the Times:
On Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu’s loyalists accused the defense minister of using his recent trip to the United States to differentiate himself from the prime minister and move away from the recent friction with the Obama administration.

“As far as I know, yes, he distanced himself in an attempt to make political gains,” Yisrael Katz, the minister of transportation, told Israel Radio.

Mr. Katz was echoing remarks attributed to Mr. Netanyahu from a closed meeting on Tuesday. Mr. Netanyahu was quoted in the Israeli news media as saying that Mr. Barak had deliberately exacerbated the tensions between the prime minister and Washington in an attempt to make himself look like the moderate who can repair relations. 
In response, Mr. Barak’s office issued a statement saying that the defense minister “works to strengthen relations with the United States and at their heart, the security relationship.”
Then Saturday night the PM, says Haaretz (which has recently installed one of those stupid subscription walls, so I now have to limit myself to 10 articles per month), called the DM in to demand an explanation of this démarche.
Full cooperation between the prime minister and the defense minister is necessary for the security of the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu will tell Barak, sources close to the prime minister's said before the meeting. Netanyahu, they added, will also request of Barak that such remarks will not reoccur during Barak's term as minister in his cabinet.

In response, a source close to Barak said that "no one reprimands the defense minister, not even the prime minister."

The source added that Barak is convinced his actions are contributing to the Israeli government, its relations with the U.S. and to Israel's security. "Barak will continue to act according to his understanding in Israel and abroad," he said.
They'd so longed for a little war they could call their own, you see; until it was really the only thing that was keeping them together, and then inevitably after the miscarriage...

Meanwhile, that drone that invaded Israel Saturday remains a remarkable mystery, in that nobody really knows where it came from, or who it belongs to: the IDF didn't spot it over the Mediterranean until it was practically in Gaza, and when they got around to taking it out they blew it to smithereens instead of knocking it down whole so they could have a look.

Assuming it was an Iranian drone sent from a Hezbollah camp in Lebanon, that was an awfully long flight for it to remain undetected, and it is also a matter of some surprise that, according to the reliable Richard Silverstein, it was able to spend 20 minutes in Israel's own airspace before getting shot down about 18 miles from Dimona, and the Negev Nuclear Research Center, where practically all of the actually existing WMDs of the region come from. What kind of shape has the IDF gotten into, while the PM and DM were running around chasing each other's shadows?

Another Israeli institution that's not as fierce as it used to be is the daily press: Maariv seems to have escaped getting closed down at the last minute this week with an emergency loan from its controlling shareholders, but it and Haaretz are both in serious financial trouble. The New York Times says that
the economics of the print media have been skewed by the arrival five years ago of Israel Hayom, a free national newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, a conservative American billionaire who is a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Hayom, viewed as pro-Netanyahu, now claims the widest distribution of any Hebrew newspaper on weekdays. Public television and radio have also come under tighter state control.
Oops, there's that pesky Mr. Adelson again. If you click the link you get to Israel Hayom's English-language website, which looks more devoted to Willard Mitt Romney than to Netanyahu. Is he more Murdoch or more Berlusconi?
Frank McAndrew, Knox College.

Not too far away, the Turkish army went on shelling across the Syrian border for the sixth day in a row, and Prime Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters,
"The worst-case scenarios are taking place right now in Syria ... Our government is in constant consultation with the Turkish military. Whatever is needed is being done immediately as you see, and it will continue to be done....

"There will be a change, a transition sooner or later ... It is a must for the international community to take effective action before Syria turns into a bigger wreck and further blood is shed, that is our main wish."
Oh, and Barak and Netanyahu have made up, sort of, speaking of Israel Hayom, issuing a joint communiqué to the effect that
"the prime minister and defense minister have agreed to continue cooperating on the security challenges Israel faces."

The message continued: "the defense minister is in agreement with the prime minister on all matters relating to Israel's response to the Iranian threat, as well as managing Israel's relationship with the United States, under the prime minister's leadership."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have put their feud behind them. Photo by Yoav Ari Dudkevitch.

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