Responsibility

As you may have heard, Israel’s Mediterranean beaches have been devastated by a crude oil spill. The environmental damage is severe, the beaches closed, and there’s a ban imposed on seafood from the Med. In short, it’s a disaster.

Who is responsible? Well, as I type this there are several tankers under suspicion and presumably at some point we’ll be told the culprit who leaked the oil. But it turns out there is another culprit closer to home.

The Times of Israel reports (here):

“Way back in 2008, the government decided to formulate a National Plan for Preparedness and Response to Marine Oil Pollution Incidents. A cabinet decision, made in June 2008 when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, ordered that within three to five years from January 1, 2009, the ministry would fill staff positions and acquire all the equipment and sailing vessels it needed to prevent oil contaminations at sea.”

You can guess what’s coming, can’t you?

“The ministry was instructed to discuss with the Treasury any funding needs it could not meet on its own, in the run-up to the 2009 budget. And the environmental protection minister at the time (Gideon Ezra of the now-defunct Kadima party) was ordered to ensure that the plan was enshrined in law, along with the requirements of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, to which Israel is a signatory.

That sounded positive, didn’t it?

Unfortunately:

But the plan never made it into the law books. And the Finance Ministry effectively blocked the transfer of additional funds.

So, there was a plan, but it was never put into action. I’m sure we’ll get some waffle, but the simple truth is that our government failed us. Whether they were lazy, incompetent, or didn’t care about the issue is unknown. But the result is. A quick trip down to the beach – but be careful you don’t breathe in too many of the fumes – is all that’s needed.

According to Wikipedia, these are the responsible ministers:

I anticipate each will have a reason for public consumption as to why the plan couldn’t be executed. Perhaps the reason will include (other than for Gila Gamliel) the excuse that they were just about to take action when their term in power ended. Right…

But in the time we’ve had six or seven Ministers of Environmental Protection, we’ve had one Prime Minister.

One man, in power all this time, who surely could have enacted the plan, who could have put it into force. But Bibi didn’t. It’s almost as if the most important thing on Bibi’s mind was staying in power rather than doing the best for the country and its people.

If Bibi were a responsible adult, he would resign. This incident alone should shame him into falling on his sword. It won’t. He has to go.

More Maskless Masses

This is a follow up to Thursday’s post.

On Friday, I went in to Tel Aviv. While a lot of people were wearing masks, in some areas many were not. For example, Kikar Dizengoff and HaBimah were crowded with many groups of people most of whom were maskless. It’s almost as if they weren’t taking the situation seriously. I hope there isn’t a surge in infections in Tel Aviv.

 

Trump and Biden

I’ll keep this simple.

The electorate have chosen Biden.

I hope, for the sake of the people of the USA, that Biden does good things for them as a whole.

I also hope, for the sake of the people of  Israel – indeed the whole Middle East – that Biden doesn’t make the same mistakes Obama made. Propping up the kleptocracy that is the Palestinian Authority without true accountability will not lead to peace. Giving in to the Iranian theocratic dictators will not lead to peace.

Good luck America.

Oh I do like to be in Tiberias

The above Times of Israel report suggests that Ms Gamliel has not been leading by example.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, who announced over the weekend that she had been infected with the coronavirus, was facing calls to resign after confessing that last week she broke a lockdown limit by traveling from her Tel Aviv home to the northern city of Tiberias.

She also reportedly tried to hide the trip from a Health Ministry epidemiological investigation into her infection.

Apparently, there are some extenuating circumstances.

Gamliel spent the Yom Kippur fast, which fell on Monday, at a synagogue in Tiberias, where her father-in-law is the rabbi, Kan reported Monday.

Associates of the minister have said the congregants all wore masks and that Gamliel slept in a local family apartment in the city, parts of which have been declared virus hotspots. They also asserted on Monday that her husband owned the apartment where they stayed in Tiberias and that they were thus allowed to be there under the lockdown regulations.

However:

Health Ministry officials are trying to determine how many other people were in the synagogue at the time and if the number was more than the permitted ten people allowed at indoor prayer services on Yom Kippur under the lockdown.

The Walla new site quoted participants in the Yom Kippur service as saying there had been 35 people in the building, about half its maximum capacity.

Oops!

Haaretz also covers the story here (behind a paywall). I thought this part was interesting:

Gamliel’s office said Sunday that the report was “another attempt to harm Likud members through lies and pathetic fabrications. The minister is fully cooperating with the epidemiological investigation and assisting the Health Ministry in whatever is required.”

This seems to be a regular feature in Likud’s response to any media criticism. In my opinion, that type of approach sounds awfully like bluster: long on sound, short on substance.

If the media report was “lies and…fabrication” I would expect, from a minister of the government very much in the public eye, some detail. For example, what exactly is a lie? Did she or didn’t she exceed the 1km limit? Did she or didn’t she socialize with her in-laws? Did she or didn’t she claim to be infected by her driver? Did she or didn’t she go to a synagogue over Yom Kippur. (If so, what was the compliance level?) Did she or didn’t she avoid the Health Ministry officials?

In the absence of a full response, the objective observer is going to come to one conclusion. And that is not one favorably disposed towards Gamliel.

They must have stopped teaching it

A few weeks back, the coronavirus czar proposed a scheme of traffic light coding (green, amber, red) and localized lockdowns for those areas that went red. Most (all?) of the areas that either were or became red fell into two categories: Arab majority areas or Haredi majority areas. Unsurprisingly, there was a substantial pushback from both communities. To all intents and purposes, that scheme died a death, to coin a phrase. And, since that scheme wasn’t implemented, everyone – well, everyone who respects the rule of law – ended up in this general lockdown, the country’s second.

Over Yom Kippur, several – not all – Haredi communities continued to pack themselves into shul for Yom Kippur. Over the forthcoming Sukkot festival, several – not all – Haredi communities intend to pack themselves into their own large communal succah to celebrate the festival.

Now, the coronavirus situation is even worse. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Those disobedient Haredi communities are well aware of the virus. They are well aware of the risks. They see their tradition as being more important than any reason advanced as to why they should refrain from behaving as they always have.

So, their tradition is more important than taking steps to decrease the risk of serious ill health, injury, or death to their fellow man.

So, their tradition is more important than doing the morally right thing.

So, have they stopped teaching chillul hashem?

This never happened last year

Today’s riddle: what has fifteen metal poles, eight wooden poles, and two rolls of bamboo matting? Our succah! The lockdown put and end to the holiday we had planned for Sukkot, so we’re at home and getting ready for this family focused festival without, er, the family. First step is getting the succah up and I am glad to report it’s all up and ready to go.

(We had one or two hiccups along the way, but finally we worked out which pole went where. Despite keeping the instructions, it was more challenging than I would have liked. This year I’m definitely taking pictures to remind me how it is constructed!)

In Scotland, you could virtually guarantee it would rain first night of Sukkot. It can happen in Israel, but not this year according to the forecasts. Apparently it’s going to be hot.

A Very Different Yom Kippur

The core idea behind Yom Kippur is that, in the orthodox Jewish tradition, we are to fast, pray, and repent for our sins. My personal experience of Yom Kippur since making aliyah, has been as part of the shul congregation, where I have had some truly spiritual experiences courtesy of some inspirational davening and a real feeling of community spirit. Not this year.

First, the shul is closed. Second, while there is an outdoor minyan within a stone’s throw of our building, outside congregations are supposedly limited to 20 people who should all be socially distancing. The acoustical challenge is substantial. The communal spirit will be absent. It simply won’t be the same.

(That having been said, I had a different sense of belonging when I was at the minyan on Friday night. There was something noteworthy, memorable, and good about being a part of 60+ people – in three ‘capsules’ of 20, more or less – standing outside in the playground, davening together as best they could.)

In addition, the lack of air conditioning – and the expected unusually high temperature tomorrow – make for another challenge or two. In this regard, I was impressed by our rabbi’s clear announcement that it was more important to fast than to pray with a minyan, and if you thought you wouldn’t be able to cope with the heat, you should stay at home and do your fasting, praying, contemplation, and repenting at home. That option makes sense to me.

Whatever you do for Yom Kippur, may you be blessed with a good sweet year.

Blind to Justice?

By way of follow up to my earlier post about the killing of Iyad Hallaq (or Iyad Hallak), the Times of Israel has some rather disturbing news:

Click image to go to Times of Israel article

How likely is it that one security camera was not turned on? How likely is it that all the security cameras covering this incident were not turned on? I stress that I am not speaking from a position of informed opinion, so I could be wrong. However, I believe it to be highly unlikely that there was no video coverage of this killing. Does it seem sensible or logical or likely to you? Why have such an extensive network of security cameras – that have been well used in the past – if you are not going to turn them on?

I would like to hear from anyone knowledgeable in these areas – perhaps someone who has been on security patrol in and around Jerusalem – to learn more about the situation on the ground and whether this ‘no video available’ line is indeed likely to be hogwash or otherwise.

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a previous incident where it’s been said that security cameras (all of them!) were not turned on.

If I am right, this is a nasty cover-up. If I am right, this is scandalous.

While I would dearly love to think an independent investigation would get to the root of the matter, I regret I am skeptical. If the authorities are being so brazen as to lie about the availability of the video evidence, what chance is there of justice for Iyad Hallaq either through the courts or by an independent probe?

Truly this is a black stain upon Israel.

[If it was the case that security cameras were not turned on, do you think that means anyone is going to be disciplined for that shocking state of affairs? No, I don’t think so either.]

Dear Haaretz

Do you think you might be able to find a native English speaker somewhere in your establishment? If so, I suggest you go and get them right now and ask them to sort out this rubbish (taken from your landing page).

Analyses? Really?

After all, there is a school of thought which says if you cannot be bothered about accuracy in general, why should anyone trust your news reporting? And there’s another school of thought which says your subscribers, and yes that includes me, deserve better.

Annexation Frustration

The media and political storm leading up to Bibi’s promised ‘annexation’ on 1 July was fairly predictable. Up until the last moment, however, what wasn’t predictable was what Bibi would actually do. Would this be another broken promise? Or would Bibi ignore everything – real and imagined – that was stacked up by way of opposition, and go ahead?

As we all know, what we got was indeed another broken promise. From my perspective, that was only half the issue.

(To be clear, I wasn’t counting on his promise. It wasn’t what I wanted to happen. It is also noteworthy that several commentators accurately predicted nothing would happen.)

The other half of the issue – one that seems to have largely been overlooked – was how we (Israel) got ourselves into such a position that one man could hold such power and potentially wield it in such a way that would irrevocably damage Israel, with no fear of an effective opposition. If Bibi wanted to extend civil law, it would happen.

Who is responsible for that state of affairs? The voters and Benny Gantz. Not a lot we can do about that now. However, it does seem that Gantz will pay for his perfidy should he face the electorate in the future. I do wish the voters would also make Bibi pay for his folly should he be around for the next election.

As matters stand, it appears the annexation topic is off the agenda while the government deals with more pressing issues. But I’ll take the opportunity to offer some random thoughts and observations.

  • Annexation is the wrong word. (But, it’s so much snappier than the alternatives!) What it is about is the application of Israeli law to certain territory.
  • Unless you make a unique interpretation of international law, there is only one country that has legal right and title to Judea and Samaria: Israel.
  • These two points having been made, however, there was no material gain for Israel to extend its law to parts of Judea and Samaria at this time. None.
  • There was the potential of a real downside for Israel.
  • It was scandalous to devote any resources to this project when there were far more pressing issues for a responsible government to deal with. Like coronavirus, the economy, and the ticking bomb that is Gaza.
  • If ever there were a single episode that proved you cannot be an effective Prime Minister while facing criminal charges, this was it!
  • The whole situation has probably hardened the divide between Israel and American Jews of a Democratic persuasion. Under Bibi, Israel has largely become a partisan issue. That’s bad. Very bad.
  • When even a hard-nosed Bibi fan like the Elder of Ziyon rightly says it’s been a debacle, and skewers Bibi in the process, that tells you how bad this has been for Israel.
  • The one bright spot – not that bright, but in this part of the world it’s all relative – was the Palestinian leadership making a counter proposal to Trump’s peace plan and declaring themselves now ready to negotiate. Do I believe anything will come of that? No. Do I want Bibi to do something about it? Absolutely. No matter how poor the prospects of success, our Prime Minister should start talking. As Dov Lipman once said, we have to be able to tell our grandchildren that we did all we could to try to make peace.
  • I have polished my crystal ball. It tells me that reviving the idea of extending Israeli civil law at any time in the next few years would simply be repeating past mistakes.

It is frustrating seeing such poor leadership from the Prime Minster of Israel. For the country’s sake, let’s hope such a woeful performance is not repeated ever again.