Monthly Archives: November 2013


Is it merely a coincidence that so many of Women of the Wall’s leaders have numerous close associations with radical, anti-Israel groups? Or could it be that WOW is a useful vehicle for advancing an anti-Israel narrative that leaves Israel increasingly isolated internationally? Is concealing that agenda the reason why WOW tried to suppress the story of its leaders’ ties to fringe anti-Israel NGOs?

Egypt’s Turn to Russia

In one of my encounters with the Soviet military attaché in Paris in the late 1980s, I was asked how many staff members were assigned to me at the Israeli Embassy. I answered that I was the only officer and was assisted by two secretaries. I asked my Soviet counterpart how many people he had working with him, and he said “16.” I was shocked at the high number. “What are you doing with so many officers and staff?” I asked. I remember his answer as if it was yesterday: “We are still waiting for better times!”

This episode can easily apply to Egyptian-Russian relations as they emerge today. It seems indeed that “better times” is the proper way to describe the latest developments in Russian-Egyptian relations after almost 30 years of strained, always problematic, and sometimes hostile relations. This is happening not because of a deliberate choice made by the Egyptian regime, but rather as an option of last resort, mainly because of what the current Egyptian leadership and probably half of the Egyptian body-politic feel is a betrayal by their American ally.

Musical Interlude

Palestinian debt to IEC passes NIS 1b

Palestinians’ debt to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) (TASE: ELEC.B22) has exceeded NIS 1 billion, states the utility in its financial report for the third quarter of 2013, which were published on Sunday. Palestinian consumers frequently do not pay their electricity bills, and Israel used to deduct the debt from the Palestinian Authority’s VAT revenues. This practice was halted at the order of the US, and the Palestinians’ debt has since ballooned undisturbed.

Although this debt is negligible compared with IEC’s total debt, but the laws of economics state that a person who does not pay for goods will continue to consume them. This means that the Palestinians’ electricity debt is becoming a time bomb.

This raises the questions why the Palestinians do not generate their own electricity or built even one large power station, despite receiving the greatest amount of foreign aid in the world on a per capita basis. The questions are good ones, especially given the presence of one small, oil-burning polluting power station in Gaza, which could be operated by natural gas. The Palestinians do not lack for gas: BG Group plc (NYSE; LSE: BG) discovered gas at the offshore Marine Gaza license in 1999. This field could meet the Palestinian’s full electricity generating needs for almost 20 years.

On paper, the Palestinians could achieve energy independence within 3-4 years at the most, but nothing has happened on the ground in 15 years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared in principle to allow the Palestinians to develop the Marine Gaza field, and his special emissary, Adv. Yitzhak Molcho, is responsible for talks on the subject. However, the Israeli public has not been informed as to why these talks have continued for so long but gone nowhere.

Information indirectly obtained by the media indicate that the Palestinians are largely responsible for the problem. Their conduct, according to this partial information, has been amateurish, if not actually childish, and is mostly defamatory and slanderous.

However, Israel is also to blame. It considers electricity and Palestinian gas as diplomatic bargaining chips, as part of the limited gestures that Netanyahu is willing to make to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen).

The time has come for Netanyahu to realize that Palestinian energy independence is an Israeli national interest, because Israeli electricity consumers will ultimately pay the price for the present conduct.


Beijing getting serious about improving air quality – destroys barbecue grills to cut pollution

Beijing is waging a war against air pollution, one barbecue at a time.

Authorities in the capital have destroyed more than 500 open-air barbecues “to cut PM2.5” — the tiny particulate matter in the air that can enter deep into the lungs.

Photos carried by state media showed workers on Tuesday cutting pieces of metal with sparks flying as city wardens looked on.

Citizens online ridiculed the exercise, suggesting authorities should focus on bigger sources of pollution.

The Politicization of Everything

The Obama presidency has had very little legislative success. Even the signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is imploding, and was dubbed a “train wreck” by one of its own Senatorial authors. The lead-from-behind retrenchment abroad from America’s traditional leadership role has won few adherents. The Benghazi tragedy and the series of alphabet-soup debacles involving the IRS, the NSA, and the AP journalists are the most disturbing political scandals we’ve seen since the Nixon administration.

What, then, is the Obama legacy? An insidious politicization of almost everything.

Vietnam announces big fines for social media ‘propaganda’

Vietnam will hand out fines of 100 million dong ($4,740) to anyone criticizing the government on social media, under a new law announced this week, the latest measure in a widening crackdown on dissent by the country’s communist rulers.

Comments that did not constitute criminal offences would trigger fines if held to be “propaganda against the state”, or spreading “reactionary ideology”, according to the law signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Vietnam has repeatedly drawn fire for the harsh treatment and lengthy jail terms it has given to bloggers who criticized its one-party regime. The number of arrests and convictions has soared in the last four years.