A Blind Pilot From Syria

Following Bashar Assad's recent threatening speech, just try to imagine the following situation in which the Syrian air force tries to attack Tel Aviv:

As luck has it, the lead pilot suffers a partial loss of sight and can barely distinguish between light and shadow. But at the very last moment, just a second before he decides to turn around and head back to his base, he manages to make out at a distance the huge tower in the center of the defense establishment's headquarters at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.

The lead pilot immediately calms down. "We are very lucky that the smart Jews built such an enormous tower right in the middle of their headquarters, right in the center of Tel Aviv.

It is so obvious and inviting, otherwise I might have missed my target," thinks the commander to himself as he presses on with his mission.

This week, I asked the outgoing head of the IDF's Planning and Policy Directorate, Major General Yitzhak Harel, about this.

It seems that he thinks that this is an ongoing scandal. Already in 1999, when Harel was the deputy head of planing, he recommended moving the defense headquarters to the Jerusalem Hills region. He felt that it would be easier to protect there, and it is also away from Tel Aviv and the center.

Harel suggested utilizing the money that the IDF was to receive from the rehabilitation and renovation of the southern Kirya headquarters area in order to move the entire IDF command center to another region.

But there were strong objections from both inside and outside the IDF. The explanations included: "How will we sell the land in the Kirya?" - an extremely strange question since the Kirya property in the center of Tel Aviv is among the most expensive in the country.

Today, in light of the increased threat on the home front from missiles, and the possibility of a tactical nuclear attack on Israel, the situation is even more serious.

How much does it really cost?

Israel is a country that destroys its leaders. As soon as someone reaches the top, all his enemies - and his friends in particular - band together against him in an attempt to bring him down as soon as possible, and the ends justify all the means. This is true in the case of the attempt to topple Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for selling off his investment portfolio; and it is true in the case of former justice minister Haim Ramon for his kiss.

The most recent accusation to join this list is one that has been made against the prime minister, Ehud Olmert. He recently bought a house in Jerusalem for $1.2 million. There is also an assessor's estimate for the value of the house of $1.7 million.

The problem here is the assessor's estimate. We have seen many deals done at prices with no connection whatsoever to the estimates.

For example, Zadik Bino bought First International Bank at a price that was 50 percent of the bank's equity value. The same Bino recently bought the Ashdod Oil Refineries at twice the "expert's" price valuation.

Therefore, we must be very careful with any assessor's estimate. It is one thing to make a valuation on a theoretical basis; but it is something different completely to pay out cash money - and then the negotiations, the special conditions, status, market conditions, the number of buyers, and the personal situations of the sellers and buyers all matter more than any estimate.

The extra-long summer vacation

Education Minister Yuli Tamir decided to delay the opening of the new school year by two days. "We are doing this as a sign of solidarity with the residents of the North," Tamir explained, adding even that the lost day would be made up during the school year.

What a joke; nothing will ever be made up - only on paper.

The heads of the local authorities in the North asked the minister to delay the opening of the school year only for their own communities, in order to have extra time to prepare and ready the damaged schools for the students. But Tamir wanted solidarity - and stopped studies throughout the country.

I have another idea how to achieve solidarity: Why not dedicate the first day of school, the day Tamir canceled, to "Solidarity Day with the North" in all the schools that were not damaged - and the vast majority were not.

This day can be used to discuss the war, the reasons it started, the time spent in the shelters, and the political issues involved. The students could write letters of solidarity and send them to children in the North.

After all, the summer vacation is already too long, it drives the kids crazy; and because they have nothing to do, the kids drive the parents crazy too.