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Famed IDF Rescue Team in Ghana After Mall Collapses

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The Israel Defense Forces galvanized its internationally-recognized emergency response team to assist in a search and rescue operation in Ghana Wednesday night, after a shopping center collapsed in the country’s capital.

Doctors, engineers, and others, along with Magen David Adom staff, were sent to establisha  field hospital in the area.  So far, 51 people have been pulled from the rubble, with one confirmed death.

Israel’s Political Circus In Full Swing

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

On October 15, the Knesset voted unanimously to dissolve itself. Elections will be held on January 22, 2013. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to take the step after realizing he could not obtain a majority for his proposed budget.

The weeks since the announcement have been characterized by several unexpected maneuvers, most of which have not yielded anything of substance.

There were initial efforts to build a center-left party led by former prime minister Ehud Olmert which would include his two successors at the helm of the Kadima Party, Tzipi Livni and present leader Shaul Mofaz, as well as political newcomer Yair Lapid. The latter, a well-known media figure, founded a new party called Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”).

A Jerusalem Post poll gave the imaginary mega-party 31 seats, well ahead of the Likud’s projected 22.

Olmert began to check into the possibility of a return to politics. He had resigned in 2008 in the wake of corruption allegations against him. This year he became the first Israeli prime minister condemned by a court of law, which found him guilty of breach of trust.

The condemnation did not include moral turpitude, which would have prevented Olmert from running for the Knesset. But he is still involved in another court case, concerning bribery by real estate developers.

Sources close to Livni said she was considering a political comeback as head of a new party. But an Israel Radio poll on October 30 found that Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich is the preferred leader of the center-left, well ahead of Olmert, Livni, Mofaz and Lapid.

Kadima won 28 seats in the February 2009 elections – one more than the Likud. Kadima joined the Netanyahu government in May of this year, a move that prevented early elections. It left the coalition just two months later, however, when Netanyahu refused to introduce full conscription for haredi men.

Public support for Kadima crumbled almost immediately, creating many floating voters in the center-left arena.

Surprisingly, a major development came on the right side of the political spectrum. Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel Beiteinu, announced that they had agreed on a merger of their parties.

Some saw it as a panicked reaction on the part of Netanyahu to those center-left discussions about establishing a party that might possibly overtake Likud. Others interpreted it as Netanyahu’s determination that the center-right bloc would form the next government and return him as prime minister.

For Lieberman, being Number Two in the combined party brings him closer to his long-term aim of becoming prime minister. (Both leaders, apparently for different reasons, were willing to sacrifice seats, since party mergers often lead to diminished electoral returns for each of the component parties.)

Popular Likud Minister of Communications Moshe Kahlon initially announced that he would not be a candidate in the next elections. Then he played with the notion of establishing a new party that would emphasize social issues. Polls gave him ten or more seats. When he announced that he had abandoned the idea, there was relief in the Likud and in the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which focuses on social issues.

Shas closed ranks when it brought back its former leader, Aryeh Deri, as the party’s Number Two. Ten years after serving out a prison term on bribery charges, Deri was allowed under Israeli law to return to politics.

Other recent developments concerned the introduction by some of the parties of new, name-brand candidates. Yachimovich felt Labor needed more “visible” candidates and lacked a credible defense figure so she hauled in General Uri Saguy, a former military intelligence chief.

Lapid succeeded in attracting former domestic intelligence head Yaakov Perry, who has also enjoyed a successful business career.

Several Kadima parliamentarians and senior politicians jumped ship to both Likud and Labor.

A number of polls indicate that the Independence Party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak might just barely pass the threshold or even fail to muster any seats. If that plays out, it would be the most dramatic fall in Israeli parliamentary history.

In Israel, the weeks leading up to an election can feel like quite a long time. One only has to recall that during the previous election campaign Operation Cast Lead in Gaza began and ended.

Obama Wins Close National Vote, Mandate Denied, US Future Dim

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

It hasn’t been a long night. Around 10 PM Eastern, someone on one of the channels I had been following said that President Obama’s motorcade was getting ready to take him to his election center, in Chicago. It meant that the Democrats were certain about their presidential win.

I could feel the anguish emanating from our own chat line here, at the JewishPress.com. I was hearing similar cries of woe from a few open Skype lines on my desktop. Towards the end there, I think many of us started believing that a Romney win was a real possibility. A Dick Morris prediction of a Romney landslide win we ran here got close to 30 thousand page views in half a day. Regardless of its very loose connection to reality on this planet, the story expressed the yearnings of so many who flocked to our website in search of a voice to reflect their own.

The Democrats have retained control over the Senate, with 51 seats plus two independents. Not the kind of numbers that can break a filibuster. The Republicans will keep the House, with a net loss in the single digits. This means Obama had no coat tails whatsoever in this election. He barely got over the hedge himself. He has won better than 300 delegates to the Electoral College, but that does not mean that he received a mandate from the people. He won by a squeak.

I believe the Republicans have achieved their most basic goal this time around, namely, that their presidential candidate—who was destined to lose to an incumbent—wouldn’t perform so atrociously that his defeat would coat-tail the Republican House with it down in flames. Remember Governor Perry? Speaker Gingrich? Congresswoman Michele Bachmann? So Romney delivered the bare minimum that was expected of him: Don’t make matters even worse. That was the reason the party leaders, along with the Bush clan and Karl Rove were so adamant about supporting Romney – they and the billion dollar budget they brought in with them.

The fact that Romney almost won the presidency while he was at it was above and beyond their initial expectations. I think Romney spent much of the campaign playing to tie rather than win. It was only when he met the enemy in the first debate and drew blood that he realized he could actually make it. That’s my hunch.

Political Science majors should take note of the miracle performed by Obama Tuesday. Until this year, no incumbent president since FDR in 1940 has won re-election with unemployment over 7.2%. Well, Obama has broken the mold, winning despite unemployment hovering at between 7.6 and 7.9%. This means there were additional circumstances that weighed in his favor. I believe two factors were in play:

1. America is losing its White majority. It is sinking fast, and this year it is 72.4% White. Back in 2000, it was 75.1% white (In 2011, White new births were outnumbered by non-White 50.5% to 49.5%). Since Romney lost by such a small margin (roughly a million votes nationwide), it means that had this election been held in 2004—all other things staying the same—it would have been a Republican victory.

A good friend suggested to me early Tuesday morning that the Republicans were experiencing the broken glass effect, meaning they would crawl over broken glass to vote their choice, that’s how much they hated Obama. But my wife commented that, judging by the images of long lines of African American and Hispanic voters standing in line in Florida, Virginia and Ohio, it appears they, too, would be perfectly willing to take the crunch. That’s how much they feared Romney.

2. The Republican Party has to regain the center for real. Let’s face it, Romney was working hard to appear like a benign centrist, but you can’t be against the Dream Act and against abortion rights in this country and hope to be considered a centrist. I’m afraid that with its zeal to embrace the authentic Tea Party candidates, the Evangelicals, and the NRA crowd, the GOP has edged out the last of its liberal and moderate stars. This works well for the red states and even for local races in many blue states, but if the GOP wants to govern, it has to rediscover its businessmen/women, its bankers and its moderate intellectuals, or it won’t stand a chance to win presidential politics ever again.

Operation Dove’s Wings Begins as Ethiopian Aliyah Comes to a Close

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Operation Dove’s Wings commenced on Monday, with arrival of some 240 Olim from Ethiopia, half of them children, on the first charter flight. The flight was organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel, pursuant to the July government decision to increase the rate of Ethiopian Aliyah, in order to complete the immigration of the remainder of the Falash Mura to Israel.

The ceremony at Ben Gurion airport took place during the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, which is taking place this week in Tel Aviv, with Jewish leaders from Israel and around the world.

On July 2012, the government of Israel decided to increase the rate of Aliyah from Ethiopia in order to complete the process as quickly as possible. It was decided to reopen the Jewish Agency’s Ibim Absorption Center at the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, which will be able to accommodate up to 600 of the Falash Mura.

Immigrants arriving from Ethiopia will also be housed in 16 Absorption centers around the country, run by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. In order to facilitate absorption of the new immigrants, Jewish communities around the world and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews have raised $3 million, in addition to $1.5 million invested by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

Operation Dove’s Wings is expected to be completed by October 2013, with the arrival of the remainder of eligible Falash Mura, who have been waiting in Gondar. The Jewish Agency for Israel has been operating a community center in Gondar, headed by Asher Sium, to provide services for the waiting Olim. The center provides a comprehensive range of social services with the support of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. These include preparation classes for Aliyah run by a group of volunteers, humanitarian assistance, and catering services. The center also runs a school which includes Hebrew and Jewish studies, as well as the regular curriculum of the Ethiopian Education Ministry.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said at the ceremony: “What a miracle. I just met a brother and a sister who were reunited today after 25 years. Well, we the Jewish people have just been reunited after 25 centuries. When Ethiopian Jewry left Israel, there was no Hannukah. Now we can celebrate both Hannukah and Yom Haatzmaut together. Together we are writing the last page of the history of Ethiopian Jewry. We are now bringing all of our brothers from Africa to Israel. This is happening thanks to the State of Israel, world Jewry and our Christian allies.”

Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite captured this visible image of Hurricane Sandy battering the U.S. East coast on Monday, Oct. 29 at 9:10 a.m. EDT. At 8 a.m. EDT the National Hurricane Center noted that the center of Hurricane Sandy was located near latitude 36.8 north and longitude 71.1 west. This was about 310 miles (505 km) south-southeast of New York City, and 265 miles (425 km) southeast of Atlantic City, N.J. Sandy was moving north-northwest at 20 mph. Maximum sustained winds are now near 85 mph (140 kph). Tropical Storm force winds extend almost 500 miles from the center, making those winds 1,000 miles in diameter. The image was created by the NASA GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The Ethiopian Aliyah Comes to a Close

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

A ceremony welcoming the new immigrants will take place at Ben Gurion Airport Terminal 1 on Monday, 29.10.12 at 15:00. In attendance will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, James S. Tisch, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Sofa Landver, Chairman of Keren Hayesod, Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, Kathy Manning and members of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors.

The first charter flight with approximately 240 Olim (immigrants) from Ethiopia, half of them children, will arrive in Israel on Monday, 29.10. The flight was organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel pursuant to the July government decision to increase the rate of Ethiopian Aliyah in order to complete the immigration of the remainder of the Falash Mura to Israel. The ceremony will take place during the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, which is taking place this week in Tel Aviv with the participation of Jewish leaders from Israel and around the world.

In July 2012, the government of Israel decided to increase the rate of Aliyah from Ethiopia in order to complete the process as quickly as possible. It was decided to reopen the Jewish Agency’s Ibim Absorption Center located in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, which will be able to accommodate up to 600 of the Falash Mura. In order to facilitate the reopening of Ibim, the Jewish Agency raised 12 million shekels in addition to five and a half million shekels invested by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

Operation Dove’s Wings is expected to be completed by October 2013, with the immigration of the remainder of the eligible Falash Mura, who have been waiting in Gondar. The Jewish Agency for Israel has been operating a community center in Gondar, headed by Asher Sium, to provide services for the waiting Olim. The center provides a comprehensive range of social services including preparation classes for Aliyah run by a group of volunteers, humanitarian assistance and catering services. The center also runs a school which includes Hebrew and Jewish studies as well as the regular curriculum of the Ethiopian Education Ministry.

The Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Mr Natan Sharansky, noted that this was a historic moment which began with Operation Moses, continued with Operation Solomon, and will be concluded with Operation Dove’s Wings. Sharansky thanked the Jewish Agency’s partners across the Jewish World and in Israel for their contribution to the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry and to their integration into Israeli society.

Hurricane Biberman

Friday, October 26th, 2012

The person I like least in the Knesset, the person I detest by far more than I do Haneen Zoabi, or Ahmad Tibi, two openly pro-Palestinian Arab MKs who are on occasion very hard to take – the one person who awakens the angry Jew in the pit of my stomach is MK Zehava Gal-On, leader of the now-minuscule, ultra-leftist Meretz party, who looks and sounds like the aging Communists who used to gather at Union Square for fiery speeches on May Day, except her voice reminds me of fingernails screeching down a glass window.

The same Zehava Gl-On, last night, on one of the local TV channels in an interview that followed the Netanyahu-Liberman announcement of their upcoming wedding, has come up with the perfect name for the new political creature born by the happy couple: she named it Biberman.

She invested this nickname with all the Jew-hating zeal of the left, which by now has stopped bothering to hide its anti-Semitism. This is not the left of Hubert Humphrey or even George McGovern, not to speak of David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir. This is the left of the Yevsektsia and gulags, whose repulsion of things Jewish is pathological. When Gal-On calls the new deal of the two major right-wing parties “Biberman,” she spatters the name like an evangelical Christian decrying the Prince of Darkness.

But I must tell you, having provided the emotional and historical context for the new name, I must admit that I love it, and that come January 22, I’m most likely going to vote Biberman. As will many other Israelis, I trust, who have in the past voted for neither Biberman partner.

The short announcement by the two men last night—there were no questions from the reporters in the room—described a logical union of Likud, with its 27 seats in the outgoing Knesset, and Yisrael Beitenu, with its 15 seats, to create a powerful new party with the potential to attract more seats than its sum total of 42.

An old, by now departed, chavruta of mine used to say that before you start talking about good government, you have to have government. And both men have proven to the voter that they are able to govern. Netanyahu boasted that this has been the most stable government in Israel’s history, and he may not be so far from the truth. More than that, it has been a government that faced the worst global economic tides in decades, and under its rule Israel was among the very first Western countries to emerge from the worst of it. They faced adversity on the social welfare front and managed to calm the “Occupy Sderot Rothschild” protests. They also managed a hot border with Gaza and a cooler border with the PA, and were able to mobilize the world against a nuclear Iran. They’ve done quite well.

Now, I was going to vote for Liberman’s party and not for Likud. I was disappointed by Netanyahu’s cavalier treatment of the settlements, his use of Ehud Barak as his errands boy against the settlers, and his failure to adopt the Levy Committee’s recommendation to apply Israeli law to the Jewish towns and villages of Judea and Samaria.

I planned to vote for Liberman not because I thought he was any more trustworthy regarding the fate of the settlements, despite his show of anti-Abbas machismo. I also didn’t think he was such a stellar foreign minister—although he did improve relations with Russia in ways only he could have done, and brought in from the cold  several former Soviet republics, as well as rebuilding relationships with long-ignored countries, because they weren’t the United States. I was also aware of the cloud hovering above Liberman’s head, as five-years’ worth of attorneys generals have been threatening to prosecute him for “corruption” (this mostly has to do, as I understand it, with just how blind is the blind trust managing his businesses).

My reason for supporting Liberman this time around was gratitude. One of the portfolios held by his coalition party is Absorption: the Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver is a member of Yisrael Beiteinu.

My family arrived in Israel last December and we have had a charmed aliyah, largely due to the competent and compassionate help we received from the Absorption officials, starting at Ben Gurion airport on a very early Monday morning. It has been obvious to us that letting recent immigrants—the largely Russian crew at the ministry—run absorption services is an ingenious idea, and it works. As a voter, I’d like to reward competence with my vote.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/hurricane-biberman/2012/10/26/

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