Israel Is Becoming a Footnote in the Eyes of the U.S.

I don't know how the One in heaven is reacting to the holy war of the ultra-Orthodox against the draft, but it's really getting on the nerves of the rest of the nation.

1. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will both be visiting Washington at the same time. Each of them will speak separately with U.S. President Barack Obama, each of them will march proudly on red carpets, and journalists will swoop down on them separately or together. They will be interviewed on television, and Sara Netanyahu will be a star with her finery and her smiles. Although we didn't win the Oscar, there's no question that we are gradually managing to become a footnote in the eyes of the U.S. administration.


2. A cartoon from The New Yorker was printed this week in the Gallery section of Haaretz Hebrew edition, in which a man is seen praying on his knees before going to sleep, and standing at the window is an angel who says to him: "God hears your prayers, and they're really beginning to get on His nerves." I don't know how the One in heaven is reacting to the holy war of the ultra-Orthodox against the draft, but I think it's really getting on the nerves of the rest of the nation. We have no existence without Torah, they say. Where is that actually written, except in extortionate coalition agreements? "We have no existence without Torah, we'll give our lives for it," declared MK Moshe Gafni, in defense of the continuation of draft exemptions for yeshiva students, relying on a religious bloc of 15 seats. Okay, we have to respect their wishes. The Iranian bomb whose architects are also religious fanatics of the same God will make sure not to skip over them.


3. Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose has been very active and nervous recently, ordered ministers and army officers to stop chattering, so that Israel won't be seen as being responsible for dragging the United States into war. Maybe he's right and maybe not. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is following in the footsteps of Jules Verne and going around the world in 80 days with the message of the Iranian threat. In my estimate, the most important and most judicious and mainly the strongest person today is Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. Why? Because as opposed to all his predecessors, Gantz does not owe his appointment as chief of staff to anyone in the political leadership. Not to Netanyahu and not to Barak. As we know, the two politicians wanted someone else, and Gantz was already on his way out. He is turning out to be the least political chief of staff we've ever had. One who doesn't see himself, like some of his predecessors, as being on his way to a political career. In any situation where there is a threat or irresponsible activity, his word will be decisive. In the land of political intrigues, he is our most precious asset.


4. The attack against Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran for not joining the singing of the national anthem at the swearing-in ceremony for the new Supreme Court president proves how insensitive we can be. As long as the words "a Jewish soul is yearning" appear in "Hatikva," we will continuously face the question of whether the time has come to abandon an anthem to which the 1.5 million non-Jewish citizens of the state have difficulty connecting. Until that happens, we can at least try to understand them when they don't identify with it and sing. And apropos "Hatikva": Have you seen Haredim who sing the national anthem, or who stand to attention in memory of the victims of all the wars, thanks to whom they can throw stones and spit on all the country's values?


5. The Foreign Ministry's diplomatic-security center estimated this week that a third intifada will erupt during the coming year. Statistically at least there is a certain order to our lives: every decade one war, plus a war of attrition and two intifadas. The intifadas are not planned in advance. They erupt when the burning-hot lava seeks an outlet. The first intifada erupted ostensibly because of a road accident in Gaza in which Arabs were killed. In fact it was a genuine protest. When it happened, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was not yet here. He bombarded his associates in Israel with phone calls in order to find out who had initiated it without his knowledge. The second intifada erupted as a result of the failure of the Arafat-Barak-Clinton talks. Now the atmosphere in the region is highly explosive due to the Palestinians' disappointment at Israel's inflexibility. When the spark arrives and the conflagration erupts, we won't be able to say we had nothing to do with it.


6. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz proudly declared that Israel plans to lay down 475 kilometers of railroad tracks in the West Bank. This grandiose idea reminds me of the reaction of Finance Minister Simha Erlich to the idea of switching over to a five-day working week. He thought for a long time, and eventually said we should start by working one day. Before we start building 475 kilometers of tracks, we should make sure that the little we already have works properly.

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