Thursday, July 31, 2008

It takes a hard-liner to compromise

Starting Sunday, observant Jews enter into the Nine Days, the darkest period on the Jewish calendar, leading up to the Ninth of Av, the worst day of the year.

The announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he is not seeking re-election has thrown some Israelis and much of the international press into a tizzy, leading to speculation that the peace deals he has been chasing will not come to pass.

I don't think that's true. I think quite the opposite.

The Ninth of Av is a dark day indeed for Jews. On that day, Biblical Jews were told they must wander in the desert for 40 years; both the first and second temples were destroyed; the end of the Jews' centuries-long golden age in Spain occurred; World War I began, leading to World War II and the Holocaust and so on. It is a full 25-hour fast and the Book of Lamentations is read, as well as the complete works of Jeremiah. 

The timing of Olmert's announcement could not be more significant. But after darkness comes the dawn. In synagogues on the Saturday after the Ninth, the prophetic reading begins: "Console, console my people."

Let's look at recent history. If you are looking for peace deals, look at Israel under a hard-liner. The Camp David agreements that led to peace with Egypt occurred under Menachem Begin, a hard-liner if there ever was one. Although the peace with Jordan and the Oslo accords were reached under the late Yitzchak Rabin, much of the heavy lifting and the giving away of much of the West Bank occurred under Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-liner who is a leading candidate to win the prime minister's chair this time around.

The evacuation of Gaza, as ill-conceived as that may have been as it turned out, took place under hard-liner Ariel Sharon, and who knows what dividends it may have paid if Sharon hadn't been felled by a stroke. 

So, what I'm saying is that all is not lost because Olmert is going away. I welcome his leaving. He has been under a cloud for at least a decade, if not more. I remember a friend telling me during a trip to Israel in 1996 that Olmert was heading for trouble.

Olmert sought peace the easy way -- by giving away the store. He is talking to Syria about peace by holding up the Golan Heights. No way, I say. That area is home to thousands of Jews, much of the rapidly growing and maturing wine industry, much tourism and the only ski area in the nation. So, we want to give it back on the promise that Syria will stop its support for Hamas and Hezballah, its closeness to Iran and its meddling in Lebanon. 

As Paul Simon said, a handful of mumbles that are promises. That'll help the legacy of George W. Bush, but what will it do for Israel? Nothing.

The Palestinians are another case. Gaza is gone. Hebron is gone, even though Abraham was bright enough to buy and pay for the area thousands of years ago. Shechem, called Nablus by the Palestinians, (it was called Neopolis, or Naples, by the Romans, but Palestinians can't pronounce the letter "P") is gone. 

The only reason the "moderate" Palestinians aren't throwing more bombs in Israeli cities is the combination of the barrier and the great intelligence capability of the Israeli police. 

Peace will come to Israel, some day. But it will not come by weak leaders in Israel, the interference of the clueless Condoleezza Rice or the desperate seeking of something to leave as a positive legacy by George W. Bush.

Page 2

There is little joy in Beantown today.

The beloved Boston Red Sox are not doing well, although they are still a game ahead of the New York Yankees. The Tampa Bay Rays, after they exorcised the Devil out of their name, are streaking again, but that cannot last, can it?

Of course, much of the reason the Red Sox can't seem to hit, field or pitch has to do with the machinations of Manny Ramirez. He's been mouthing off to the press, to everyone who'll stand still long enough to listen, about how he's being ill-treated by the Sox.

Enough, already. If he wants to be traded, trade him. Trade him, if you have to, for a bat boy and a groundskeeper to be named later, but cut out this festering sore. Let's get back to playing ball the way we know how.

Page 3

Congrats to Exxon-Mobil, the poor energy company that our president says we have to nurture. They only made $11.68 billion in the last three months. That wasn't what analysts were expecting -- they were expecting more -- so the stock fell in early trading today.

My question: What do you want? People are suffering because of high oil prices.

I have an idea. A NASA-Italian spacecraft found lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, liquid ethane to be precise, on a moon of the planet Saturn, Titan to be precise. Ethane is a component of crude oil. 

Well, let's not just sit here. Let's get Arthur C. Clark (no, sorry, he's dead) and roll out the Discovery II spacecraft of the movie "2010" with Roy Scheider as captain (sorry, he's also gone). But John Lithgow, Helen Mirren and Bob Balaban to train the HAL computer are still here, so let's go get the damn thing, pull it into orbit, get some pipeline and get that stuff down here where it will do some good. Maybe even bring down the price of a gallon of gas, eventually.

But we have to hurry before the Sierra Club gets finished sounding stupid in their opposition of using garbage to generate electricity and OPEC sends up a spacecraft to claim the place for themselves or Richard Branson sends up a spacecraft himself. Let's see -- the Virgin Ethane?

But they needn't hurry. We haven't even decided we want to explore space. We need the money down here to fund highways to nowhere in Alaska.

Until next time...

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