Monday, January 13, 2014

Ariel Sharon

Issued by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 January 2014:

Ariel Sharon
Foreign Minister of Israel 1998-1999
Prime Minister of Israel 2001-2006

Ariel ('Arik') Sharon was born in 1928 in Kfar Malal. He served in the IDF for more than 25 years, retiring with the rank of Major-General. He holds an LL.B in Law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1962).

Sharon joined the Haganah at the age of 14. During the 1948 War of Independence, he commanded an infantry company in the Alexandroni Brigade. In 1953, he founded and led the "101" special commando unit which carried out retaliatory operations. Sharon was appointed commander of a paratroop brigade in 1956 and fought in the Sinai Campaign. In 1957 he attended the Camberley Staff College in Great Britain.

During 1958-62, Sharon served as an infantry brigade commander and then as Infantry School Commander. He was appointed Head of the IDF Northern Command in 1964 and Head of the Army Training Branch in 1966. He participated in the 1967 Six Day War as commander of an armored division. In 1969 he was appointed Head of the IDF Southern Command.

Sharon resigned from the army in 1973, but was recalled to active military service in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War to command an armored division. He led the crossing of the Suez Canal which brought about victory in the war and eventual peace with Egypt.

Ariel Sharon was elected to the Knesset in December 1973, but resigned a year later, serving as security adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1975-76).

He was again elected to the Knesset in 1977 on the Shlomzion ticket. Appointed Minister of Agriculture in Menachem Begin's first government (1977-81), he pursued agricultural cooperation with Egypt.

In 1981 Ariel Sharon was appointed Defense Minister, serving in this post during the Lebanon War, which brought about the destruction of the PLO terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon. In the realm of international relations, he was instrumental in renewing diplomatic relations with the African nations which had broken off ties with Israel during the Yom Kippur War. In November 1981, he brought about the first strategic cooperation agreement with the U.S. and widened defense ties between Israel and many nations. He also helped bring thousands of Jews from Ethiopia through Sudan.

From 1983-84, Sharon served as Minister without Portfolio, and from 1984-1990 as Minister of Trade and Industry. In this capacity, he concluded the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. in 1985.

From 1990-1992, he served as Minister of Construction and Housing and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption. Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the waves of immigration from Russia, he initiated and carried out a program to absorb the immigrants throughout the country, including the construction of 144,000 apartments.

From 1992-1996, he served as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

In 1996, Ariel Sharon was appointed Minister of National Infrastructure and was involved in fostering joint ventures with Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinians. He also served as Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for Bedouin advancement.

In 1998 Ariel Sharon was appointed Foreign Minister and headed the permanent status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

While serving as Foreign Minister, Sharon met with U.S., European, Palestinian and Arab leaders to advance the peace process. He worked mostly to create and advance projects such as the Flagship Water Project funded by the international community to find a long-term solution to the region's water crisis and a basis to peaceful relations between Israel, Jordan, the Palestinians and other Middle Eastern countries.

Following the election of Ehud Barak as Prime Minister in May 1999, Ariel Sharon was called upon to become interim Likud party leader, and in September 1999 was elected Chairman of the Likud. He served as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

On February 6, 2001, Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister. He presented his government to the Knesset on March 7, 2001. After calling early elections to the 16th Knesset, which were held on January 28, 2003, Ariel Sharon was charged by the president with the task of forming a government and presented his new government to the Knesset on February 27, 2003.

A policy statement issued by the Israeli government following the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister in February 2001 reaffirmed the Israeli government's determination to achieve peace with its Palestinian neighbors. In May 2003 his government accepted the US road map for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In June 2004, the government approved the Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, which was implemented the following year, in order to create the opportunity for peace.

On January 4, 2006, after forming a new party, Kadima, in anticipation of elections to the 17th Knesset, Prime Minister Sharon suffered a brain hemorrhage and Ehud Olmert was designated Acting Prime Minister in accordance with the Basic Law: Government.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon never regained consciousness and passed away eight years later, on January 11th, 2014.

He was widowed and is survived by two sons, Omri and Gilad. 

How to fight academic bigotry

From Washington Post, January 10, 2014, by Charles Krauthammer:

For decades, the American Studies Association labored in well-deserved obscurity. No longer. It has now made a name for itself by voting to boycott Israeli universities, accusing them of denying academic and human rights to Palestinians.

Given that Israel has a profoundly democratic political system, the freest press in the Middle East, a fiercely independent judiciary and astonishing religious and racial diversity within its universities, including affirmative action for Arab students, the charge is rather strange.

Made more so when you consider the state of human rights in Israel’s neighborhood. As we speak, Syria’s government is dropping “barrel bombs” filled with nails, shrapnel and other instruments of terror on its own cities. Where is the ASA boycott of Syria?

And of Iran, which hangs political, religious and even sexual dissidents and has no academic freedom at all? Or Egypt, where Christians are being openly persecuted? Or Turkey, Saudi Arabia or, for that matter, massively repressive China and Russia?

Which makes obvious that the ASA boycott has nothing to do with human rights. It’s an exercise in radical chic, giving marginalized academics a frisson of pretend anti-colonialism, seasoned with a dose of edgy anti-Semitism.

And don’t tell me this is merely about Zionism. The ruse is transparent. Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation — is to engage in a gross act of discrimination.

And discrimination against Jews has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism.

Former Harvard president Larry Summers called the ASA actions “anti-Semitic in their effect if not necessarily in their intent.” 

I choose to be less polite. The intent is clear: to incite hatred for the largest — and only sovereign — Jewish community on Earth.

What to do? Facing a similar (British) academic boycott of Israelis seven years ago, Alan Dershowitz and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg wrote an open letter declaring that, for the purposes of any anti-Israel boycott, they are to be considered Israelis.

Meaning: You discriminate against Israelis? Fine. Include us out. We will have nothing to do with you.

Thousands of other academics added their signatures to the Dershowitz/Weinberg letter. It was the perfect in-kind response. Boycott the boycotters, with contempt.

But academia isn’t the only home for such prejudice. Throughout the cultural world, the Israel boycott movement is growing. It’s become fashionable for musicians, actors, writers and performers of all kinds to ostentatiously cleanse themselves of Israel and Israelis.

The example of the tuxedoed set has spread to the more coarse and unkempt anti-Semites, such as the thugs who a few years ago disrupted London performances of the Jerusalem Quartet and the Israeli Philharmonic.

Five years ago in Sweden, Israel’s Davis Cup team had to play its matches in an empty tennis stadium because the authorities could not guarantee the Israelis’ safety from the mob. The most brazen display of rising anti-Semitism today is the spread of the “quenelle,” a reverse Nazi salute, popularized by the openly anti-Semitic French entertainer, Dieudonn√© M’Bala M’Bala.

In this sea of easy and open bigotry, an unusual man has made an unusual statement. Russian by birth, European by residence, Evgeny Kissin is arguably the world’s greatest piano virtuoso. He is also a Jew of conviction. Deeply distressed by Israel’s treatment in the cultural world around him, Kissin went beyond the Dershowitz/Weinberg stance of asking to be considered an Israeli. On Dec. 7, he became one, defiantly.

Upon taking the oath of citizenship in Jerusalem, he declared:
“I am a Jew, Israel is a Jewish state. . . . Israel’s case is my case, Israel’s enemies are my enemies, and I do not want to be spared the troubles which Israeli musicians encounter when they represent the Jewish state beyond its borders.”
Full disclosure: I have a personal connection with Kissin. For the past two years I’ve worked to bring him to Washington to perform for Pro Musica Hebraica, a nonprofit organization (founded by my wife and me) dedicated to reviving lost and forgotten Jewish classical music. We succeeded. On Feb. 24, Kissin will perform at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall masterpieces of Eastern European Jewish music, his first U.S. appearance as an Israeli.

The persistence of anti-Semitism, that most ancient of poisons, is one of history’s great mysteries. Even the shame of the Holocaust proved no antidote. It provided but a temporary respite. Anti-Semitism is back. Alas, a new generation must learn to confront it.

How? How to answer the thugs, physical and intellectual, who single out Jews for attack? The best way, the most dignified way, is to do like Dershowitz, Weinberg or Kissin.

Express your solidarity. Sign the open letter or write your own. Don the yellow star and wear it proudly.

A Poet Goes to War

Hat tip to Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, who posted this photo of Leonard Cohen, standing with Arik Sharon, during the Yom Kippur War, on his Facebook page yesterday, after Arik died:

[This is the context of Cohen's song "Who by fire..." modelled on the Yom Kippur prayer]

From Israel Hayom, 13 September 2013, by Neta Bar-Yosef:

When war broke out on Yom Kippur in 1973, Leonard Cohen was touring on the Greek island of Hydra • He dropped everything, left his wife and son, and headed to Israel • "I will go and stop Egypt's bullet," he said.

Leonard Cohen sings to a group of IDF soldiers in 1973
 Photo credit: Uri Dan / Courtesy of Farkash Gallery

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The End of Erdogan’s Cave of Wonders

From Spengler, 27 Dec 2013:

Turkey is coming apart. The Islamist coalition that crushed the secular military and political establishment–between Tayip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and the Islamist movement around Fethullah Gulen–has cracked. The Gulenists, who predominate in the security forces, have arrested the sons of top government ministers for helping Iran to launder money and circumvent sanctions, and ten members of Erdogan’s cabinet have resigned. Turkey’s currency is in free fall, and that’s just the beginning of the country’s troubles: about two-fifths of corporate debt is in foreign currencies, so the cost of servicing it jumps whenever the Turkish lira declines. Turkish stocks have crashed (and were down another 5% in dollar terms in early trading Friday). As the charts below illustrate, so much for Turkey’s miracle economy.
...Erdogan’s much-vaunted economic miracle stemmed mainly from vast credit expansion to fuel an import boom, leaving the country with a current account deficit of 7 % of GDP (about the same as Greece before it went bankrupt) and a mushrooming pile of short-term foreign debt. The Gulf states kept financing Erdogan’s import bill, evidently because they wanted to keep a Sunni power in business as a counterweight to Iran; perhaps they have tired of Turkey’s double-dealing with the Persians. And credulous investors kept piling into Turkish stocks.
No more. Turkey is a mediocre economy at best with a poorly educated workforce, no high-tech capacity, and shrinking markets in depressed Europe and the unstable Arab world. Its future might well be as an economic tributary of China, as the “New Silk Road” extends high-speed rail lines to the Bosporus...
For the past ten years we have heard ad nauseum about the “Turkish model” of “Muslim democracy.” The George W. Bush administration courted Erdogan even before he became prime minister, and Obama went out of his way to make Erdogan his principal pal in foreign policy...
The whole notion was flawed from top to bottom. Turkey was not in line to become an economic power of any kind: it lacked the people and skills to do anything better than medium-tech manufacturing. Its Islamists never were democrats. Worst of all, its demographics are as bad as Europe’s. Ethnic Turks have a fertility rate close to 1.5 children per family, while the Kurdish minority is having 4 children per family. Within a generation half of Turkey’s young men will come from families where Kurdish is the first language.
Chart forUSD/TRY (TRY=X)
Chart foriShares MSCI Turkey (TUR)
Our foreign policy establishment, Democratic and Republican, was so enamored of the notion of Muslim democracy that it mistook Erdogan’s incipient dictatorship and bubble economy for the object of its desire.

...Now the hashish smoke has cleared, Erdogan’s Cave of Wonders has turned back into a sandpit, and the foreign policy establishment has nothing to show for years of propitiation of this Anatolian wannabe except a headache.
Now that Turkey is coming unstuck, along with Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, we should conclude that the entire project of bringing stability to the Muslim world was a hookah-dream to begin with. 

Except for the state of Israel and a couple of Sunni monarchies that survive by dint of their oil wealth, we are witnessing the unraveling of the Middle East. The best we can do is to insulate ourselves from the spillover effect.