By Ted Lapkin
T’is the season for end-of-year summations, tra-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la. The newspapers are full of articles covering a range of topics ranging from politics through the economy to the Footy. So why should the ZFA be an exception?
Thus in this – the final update during the year of their lord 2015 – I’ll engage in a retrospective on a wild and woolly past 12 months when we saw:
- The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister;
- The establishment of an Islamic State Caliphate that straddles the former border between Syria and Iraq;
- Russian intervention to save the Assad regime from defeat in the Syrian civil war;
- The signing of a very bad nuclear deal with Iran that portends all sorts of trouble down the track;
- Jihadi terrorist attacks in France – the January Charlie Hebdo/Hypercacher assaults and the November slaughter in Paris – that constituted bloody bookends to the year;
- A mass human wave of migration from Syria that is inundating Europe;
- The election of a far-left anti-Israel MP to the leadership of the UK Labour Party and the post of Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition;
- US troops back in harm’s way four years after Barack Obama proclaimed victory in Iraq and decamped;
- A wave of ‘lone-wolf’ Palestinian terrorist attacks against Jews – knifing, shooting and car-ramming – directly incited by inflammatory rhetoric from Mahmoud Abbas;
- A high powered trade mission to Israel led by Assistant Minister Wyatt Roy.
Politically speaking this year in Israel it was just the same ol’ – same ol’. Netanyahu’s Likud Party emerged from election day in March as the big winner at 30 seats. But in Israeli politics the magic number is 60 + one, so there was always going to be a lot of horse trading during the process of putting together parliamentary majority that could govern.
The to’ing and fro’ing of coalition negotiations continued down to the wire, with Netanyahu completing the deal-making only two hours before deadline. In a previous update I described this as a “Cinderella story” in which Netanyahu escaped being turned into a political pumpkin just before the stroke of midnight. In the end Netanyahu managed to cobble together a knife-edge majority coalition of 61 votes composed of the Likud, Jewish Home, United Torah Judaism, Shas and Kulanu parties.
Meanwhile north of the border, Syria continues its descent into something resembling the depiction of Hell in the Last Judgment, a painting by 15th century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. The toll of suffering caused by the conflict in Syria is immense, with all sides routinely committing human rights abuses. As I wrote in The Australian two months ago:
“There are no angels in the clash of contending fanaticisms that is the Syrian civil war.”
And now that the Russians are directly involved in Syrian combat it could get a lot messier. In fact, it already has with the downing of a Russian SU-24 fighter-bomber by a Turkish F-16. As if the region doesn’t have enough problems already.
But the mess is no longer confined merely the Middle East, per se. Over the past six months we’ve watched the Syrian crisis spill over into Europe through a deluge of over 750,000 asylum seekers who have made their way into Greece, Italy and Norway (via Russia).
The inevitable social and economic stresses caused by this mass migration have worsened the centrifugal forces already threatening to tear European unity asunder. Only this time it isn’t Greeks bagging out Germans over loan repayment provisions, but Poles, Slovaks and Hungarians rejecting a diktat from Brussels that would forcibly impose refugee absorption quotas on all EU nations.
And with news that at least one of the Paris jihadi terrorists arrived in Europe under the pretence of seeking asylum, those terrible attacks on 13 November only heightened awareness of the national security problem confronting the EU. All of this, of course, is fodder for the European far-right, which is not good news for our kin on that continent. While Marine Le Pen has assiduously tried to distance the Front National from its Nazi roots, there’s only so much you can do to wash clean a party founded by French veterans of the SS Charlemagne Division.
Last week the big news was how well the Front did during the first-round regional elections in which it took the lead in almost half (6-out-of-13) the regions of metropolitan France. But on Monday we learned that the Front National was routed in the second-round elections because of what is described in France as a ‘tactical voting’. In this case the Socialists withdrew candidates and urged their supporters to vote for the centre-right UMP party of Nicholas Sarkozy. As a result the Front crashed and burned at the ballot box, failing to win control of a single French regional government.
It’s reminiscent, in a way, of the 1991 Louisiana election where undeniably corrupt (he later went to prison) Governor Edwin Edwards ran against former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. As I recall, there was a bumper sticker that summarized the stakes of that campaign rather nicely: “Vote for the Crook over the Klansman”. Quite so.
And the final quarter of the year in Israel has been marked by a pattern of terrorist attacks conducted by individual Palestinians on their own initiative. But not without inspiration and encouragement from above, it must be said. In September Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas – now in the 10th year of his four-year elected term – went on Palestinian state TV to praise those who attempt to murder Jews:
“We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”
Disgusting, to be sure, but there’s nothing really new in this. Arab leaders have been using false accusations about Temple Mount conspiracies to whip up anti-Jewish violence since the 1920s.
In previous updates I’ve covered the unsettling rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the British Labour Party. Corbyn is a radical leftist from central casting, with all the views and vices that pertain to that particular breed of political animal. And as far as our franchise goes he’s toxic on Israel to the point of selecting an out-and-out apologist for Palestinian terrorism as his chief of strategy.
The picture isn’t brightened by Barack Obama’s folly of finalising a nuclear deal with Iran full of guarantees that guarantee nothing. Amongst the worst provisions of this very bad deal are the clauses that lift personal sanctions against Iran’s chief overseas architect of terrorism, General Qasim Sulemani.
Then there’s the not-so-small matter of those US$150 billion frozen dollars that will be released into Teheran’s coffers. It only stands to reason that some of thus money will go to augment Hezbollah and Iran’s other terrorist surrogates around the world. Even if only 10% ends up in the pockets of Hassan Nassrallah (Hezbollah) and Khaled Mashal (Hamas), US$15 billion will buy an awful lot of AK-47s, RPGs and other assorted tools of mayhem and death.
Sheer and utter madness. Aspiring Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz crystallised this debacle in a single sentence:
“If this deal is consummated, it will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”
But not all is doom and gloom. On the sporting front Hapoel Yerushalayim beat AEK Athens in a nail-biter 82-78 victory to remain in contention for the Eurocup championship.
And last week I wrote about the outstanding trade mission to Israel led by Assistant Minister Wyatt Roy, whose august title belies his youth. There’s no question this is very good news in its own right. Anything that enhances bi-lateral trade between the two nations we love is an absolute positive.
But there’s another way to think about it as well. With each passing year Israel’s economy grows stronger and its hi-tech sector grows larger. And that means that Israel continues to ride a wave of technological innovation while the rest of the region drowns itself in political repression and blood. If the Middle East were a place of peace our first instinct would be to assist the other peoples of the area to lift themselves from poverty to prosperity.
But, alas, there’s little peace to be found in a region wracked by a brutal form of faith-based fanaticism unseen since the 16th century European Wars of Religion. Thus in the Middle East each passing year sees a widening of the technology gap between the Jewish state and those sworn to destroy it.
So in that respect – as Mick Jagger once so famously crooned – time is indeed on our side.
Best wishes and I’ll see you on the flip side in the year of their lord 2016.