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The Israeli authorities announced Sunday night that the fire ranging in the Carmel hills since Thursday, Israel's most devastating fire on record, is now under control.

An even worse disaster was averted. The fire did not seriously spread into Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, or its suburb Tirat HaCarmel. The main reason for the unacceptably high death toll, estimated at 40+ persons - far larger than any single terror attack on Israelis since 1978 - was irresponsibility in sending unprepared unprotected personnel right into the fire, esp. one tragic bus of prison-service cadets.

Will this disaster open Israelis' eyes like Hurricane Katrina did for many Americans? Some obvious questions are, how come a nation with the world's most celebrated air force has zero air firefighting capabilities and relies on outside help? Or, why have the forces run out of fire retardants already in the first day?

There's far more if one scratches the surface.

0. The Theme is HUBRIS

I see this post as an (unplanned) part of the "Lost Decade in Israel-Palestine" diary series announced a few weeks ago.

The underlying theme here is undue hubris and its inevitable results. This has been a chronic problem in Israeli mentality since 1967. One would think that the thumping Israel received only six years after 1967 in the 1973 war, a scandal of which Israelis were reminded only a few weeks ago with the release of yet another batch of embarrassing documents - that 1973 would have taught us the danger of hubris once and for all. But nothing seems to help. Stupid arrogance keeps raising its ugly head and taking over Israeli minds time and again. It seems that Occupation Israel (that is, the post-1967 entity which defines itself on the ground via the colonization of regions beyond its legal borders and the control of their foreign populations) requires hubris in order to exist.

Talk to nearly any mainstream Israeli, and very quickly you'll see that we are trained to believe in our innate superiority over the rest of the Middle East, especially the Palestinians. A superiority that requires no proof and cherry-picks reality to justify itself. Even worse, since the 1990's thanks to successes in the hi-tech arena, many Israelis now believe we are better than just about anyone in the world. Israel's rather anomalous escape, thus far, from the worst of the current economic crisis (an escape which to my humble mind lacks proper explanation) has cemented the case that we Israelis are so smart while the rest of the world are, well, idiots.  

I heard a classic example a few weeks ago on NPR. Israel's government announced a massive alternative energy research initiative (or as Israelis prefer to call it, "Clean-tech"). Quite a few Israeli scientists and companies are among world leaders in this field - esp. solar energy - but thus far the government actually spent very little on this, and Israel's power is virtually all from fossil-fuel sources. This didn't stop PM Netanyahu from announcing that the initiative will turn Israel into the world leader in clean technology. Not "contributing to the greening of the globe", not "being among world leaders", not "joining other nations in the effort" - but "the world leader", plain and simple. Like, China and its massive recent investments, Japan and its amazing work on solar grids, Denmark and its wind energy, and all the rest - they are nothing compared to us once we decide an issue is important enough to merit our attention.

I heard this news story, presented as usual in American media with very little in the way of criticism, and felt hmmm.... this arrogance thing is going a bit too far now. Wonder what will happen to teach it a lesson. And there we go. It didn't take long.

1. The Major Culprit is GLOBAL WARMING

Israel-Palestine is (roughly speaking) bisected by the border between two global climate zones. The northwest is the end of the Mediterranean region and the southeast is the beginning of the Arabian desert. Border regions like this are potentially very sensitive to climate change.

Traditionally the Mediterranean part had a hot bone-dry summer from April/May to September/October. The cooler half of the year (calling it "winter" would be a gross overstatement for those of you knowing what a real winter looks like) is characterized by bouts of rainstorms, often heavy, separated by days to weeks of the most beautiful weather - bright, cool to warmish, and green.

Since the 1980's most summers has been not only hotter and hotter, but also creeping up on the rainy season and making it shorter and warmer. And this decade it has become downright bizarre. We left Israel in late 2002, and until then I'd never heard of heat waves in February. I'm talking over-30 degrees C (for F-trapped folks, this is around 90), in February. Since 2003 or so, this has been happening almost every year. And the end of summer has been pushed out further and further - until this year summer simply has not ended. The heat never stopped, the rains never came.

The first week of December 2010 in Israel-Palestine saw 30+ degrees and easterly desert winds. The Carmel region, usually mild, has been among the hottest. Imagine the hills above Ventura California simmering under Santa Ana winds and 90-degree temperatures in December with no rain in sight. "Tinderbox conditions" is an understatement to describe how volatile the Carmel forests - one of Israel-Palestine's largest and finest remaining patches of natural woods - have become. So it was a fire waiting to happen.

There is universal agreement that this is the main cause of the fire. But eerily, most Israelis still don't take global warming seriously, if they believe it at all. This is part of the Lost Decade's mental divorce between Israel's elites and their traditional allies, Western liberals. 20 years ago whatever Western liberals thought, Israelis tended to agree. Now it's the opposite - anything Western liberals and progressives think is immediately suspect to Israeli eyes - so global warming deniers are having a field day in Israel. Even our political leadership's new-found love for green technology is presented as (and probably is) motivated by the wish to diminish the power of Arab and Iranian oil, rather than having anything to do with climate change.

Will Israelis now wake up and notice that, um, the country is in fact getting too hot for comfort? And that we know why this is happening and how it should be mitigated?

2. Government Rot, and the USSR Analogy

Global warming might be the major culprit, but there is also a more immediate band of hooligans to blame. No, these are not the two teenage Druze brothers ages 15 and 14, whom the police is holding in jail as suspects for accidentally causing the fire (talk about scapegoating!).

Rather, these are successive Israeli governments who have decided, to put it bluntly, that the country does not need a firefighting infrastructure. In Israel there is 1 firefighter per 7000 residents, compared with 1 per 1000 in most comparable nations. The air force used to have helicopters with fire-fighting capabilities, but after the dips in the sea to draw water had rusted the beasts it dismantled those capabilities some 10-15 years ago. The treasury's economists decided it is not worthwhile to maintain a civilian air firefighting fleet in their stead. And so, on Thursday the only air capabilities available are 8 private chemical-spraying planes, that took hours to put into operation. Israel begged around from its neighbors to send their airplanes. Finally, the same economists had also determined that it is not cost-effective to maintain a sufficient stock of fire retardants. Thus, the forces ran out of material within the first day. All this has been known and alerted about for years. Only a couple of weeks ago it was debated in the Knesset.

Parts of the Israeli media prefer to focus on the trees not the forest. They say the problem is the distribution of authority - budgets are centrally controlled by the treasury, instead of local authorities and individual ministries having more independence. But the problem is not in the system's details, but in economic mindset and political culture. Those will not change with a few shuffles of the deck chairs.

The neoliberal mindset has spread in Israel like the Plague. One can understand why: the quasi-socialist regime we've had until the 70's (and in many respects till 1990 or so) was far more like the corrupt and inept Eastern European model, than the successful Western European social-democracies. By 1980 Israelis were sick of waiting years to get a phone line, waiting forever at various government ministries, etc. etc. Private companies, the Serious People told us, would do everything more efficiently and at a lower cost. So since the 1980's, Israel's economy has become an experimental playground for Milton Friedman believers, causing one economic meltdown after the other. And still most Israelis believe in neoliberalism.

One man is responsible more than anyone else for the dismantling process: current Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu. This is not often realized, but Bibi has been far more damaging, and far more extreme, in his economic policies than in his conflict-related policies. Since 1996 he has dominated economic policies for 8 out of 14 years - 5 years as PM and 3 years as finance minister. He has privatized everything in sight (including, for example, the unemployment services!), reduced services and pensions - and embarked on a radical diet for what he calls "the Fat Man of government". No wonder then, that as PM in 1998 he ignored the strong recommendations of a special committee, to strengthen the firefighting infrastructure.

This is the mindset. The culture is that of endemic, systemic government corruption. As Israeli blogger Tsvika Besor reminds us(Hebrew link), when it comes to the number of ministers this Netanyahu government is actually the Fattest Man on record, with 30 ministers 9 of whom do not even have a portfolio. The officially estimated cost of these superfluous ministers - 126 million NIS per year - far outstrips all the "savings" from passing up on firefighting. This is the same government whose head speaks high and mighty every other day about the need to buckle up and cut public services.

It is a culture of shamelessness, of pigging out at the public's expense. Israel's early politicians had their faults. Big time. But at least they were committed to nation-building and lived relatively modest lives. The last of this breed was Rabin; not coincidentally he was murdered in 1995. The idea of the government actually trying to solve the nation's problems and being responsible and accountable in any way, rather than waste time and money and dish out goodies to its favored cronies, was already too outdated then.

I've been planning this "Katrina" diary for a couple of days, meanwhile Amir Oren in Haaretz "stole" my title. Oren is a rather centrist and not very bright military analyst, but this time he seems to get it right:

At the press briefing on Thursday, ministers and five three-star generals were seated alongside Netanyahu. The heads of the IDF, the prison service, the police, fire and rescue service and Magen David Adom were there as well. It was an impressive in the same way that the rostrum of Communist notables during October Revolution Day celebrations at Red Square was impressive. And the actual level of efficiency it projected was akin to the decrepit Soviet system which crashed and burned.

Again, Oren is reading my mind. For a while I've been thinking about the USSR-Israel analogy. The last disaster highlighted that Israel is not an all-around player. We can have a huge airforce but no air firefighting. We build one of the world's best tanks, but never mastered the art of building a proper passenger car. Other gaps abound: a deteriorating education system, a farming sector that was once the pride of the nation and is now nearly extinct, and zero earthquake preparedness despite living right on the Great Syrian-African Rift Valley and getting hit by devastating earthquakes about once in 80 years (last time: in the 1920's ;). Similarly, conventional wisdom back in the 1960's to 1980's held that if the Soviets can build a space program that gives the US a run for its money, and maintain the world's most formidable military - then they probably know how to maintain other systems as well. Not.

Moreover, like the latter-day Soviets, Israelis increasingly see the world as a hostile entity that doesn't appreciate us and treats us unfairly no matter what. We have given up communicating with the world except via propaganda slogans. Like the USSR, Israel's early-day idealism has given way to systemic corruption that rots the entire political system. Finally, like the Soviets Israel's government has painted itself into the corner of maintaining an untenable and morally indefensible regime, and rely on spinning the citizens' attention away from this basic fact using fear-mongering and increasingly stupid propaganda.

I will end this rant with a translation of this excerpt from a brilliant post by Roni Hirsch on the Israeli progressive blog HaEmori:

The meditative watching of the fires consuming everything that we had known and loved not long ago, this pleasant helplessness when all is lost...what can be more enjoyable for such a Prime Minister who cannot do anything about this right now, but remembers through the hallucinatory smoke, together with the media and the rest of Israel, that amorphous moment when this 'disaster' could have been prevented, was cautioned about in advance - or maybe he noticed the people warning him only out of the corner of his eye - warning that there are no fire retardants or planes, no firefighters or fire trucks. And then, this memory itself is swallowed by the smoke, sucked into the core of the immense fire.

...all these are a great reward for a deliberate policy. A policy that only rarely has the fortune to be answered by Nature and Chance, its two main counterparts. The policy, in essence, relies upon detaching of the real world towards a separate upper stratosphere made of abstractions and daydreaming. This strange dream, that one can give up the firefighting budget, the health-care system, the education system - because nothing will happen, at worst some temporary trouble from a labor union, or an unreliable report about the drop in math scores.

...because what are a few more years of useless conflict, compared with Eternity? There will always be time to try this or that, and mostly - to buy more time. Thus, without caring about overdraft, the Knesset spends hours shopping in the World Fascism Mall, buying more and more kitschy laws that it will never wear...

If for a moment we had thought someone up there does care about real time and real emergencies, that you can't keep on holding both ends of the stick, destroying and talking, disengaging and bombing, starving out and condemning - this fire came and showed us that no one there is thinking, no one there is planning, there really is nobody home...

And one last comment: it is hard to ignore the terrible irony that this fire has taken place on the Holiday of Light and Fire. The fires raging between [Palestinian] Ein Hud and [now Jewish] Ein Hod answer like an echo, to the premeditated, cold irony of some generals who two years ago on this very same holiday embarked upon an operation named Cast Lead.

UPDATE: To end perhaps on a hopeful note, and as InAntalya reported in two diaries - the fact that Turkey, the Palestinian Authority and others have readily given their help when Israel needed it, might prove to be the change in the political winds that will break the headlock of Occupation and eventually set free the land of Israel-Palestine. Here's hoping.

Lost Decade Diary Series
 

Originally posted to Assaf on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 12:12 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sorry it came out a bit long and dry (12+ / 0-)

    Not as long and dry as Israel-Palestine's summer 2010, I hope.

  •  This is quite a quote (9+ / 0-)

    ...because what are a few more years of useless conflict, compared with Eternity? There will always be time to try this or that, and mostly - to buy more time. Thus, without caring about overdraft, the Knesset spends hours shopping in the World Fascism Mall, buying more and more kitschy laws that it will never wear...

    Sadly reminiscent of the USA, and our leaders' choices in spending on war, war, and more war. Vs positive things for the majority of the citizens.

    I didn't read this all, but appreciate the opportunity to read about this fire.

    This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

    by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 12:34:05 AM PST

  •  Lavish spending on infrastructure of oppression (16+ / 0-)

    leaves Israel unprepared for the much graver threat posed by climate change as the earth's bands of desert shift toward the poles.  

    Demand Filibuster Reform call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 -AND KEEP CALLING

    by Lefty Coaster on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 01:19:35 AM PST

    •  The only long term solution (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      borkitekt

      is reduction of the human population.

      Historically this is done by mass migration, but any time scarce resources become ever scarcer, the risk of violent conflicts increases.

      Mass migration is now more difficult than ever because there are few places that aren't already brimming with humans.  You don't need a crystal ball to predict the future.

      Show me the POLICY!

      by Fabian on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 04:02:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hopefully there is another option. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        capelza, gerald 1969, Assaf, unspeakable

        Mass migration, or, what Lieberman proposes- some sort of population transfer- is more or less ethnic cleansing.

        Listen to Noam Chomsky's Necessary Illusions. (mp3!)

        by borkitekt on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 05:05:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Historically, it's exactly what happens. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Captain Sham, borkitekt, Miep

          With the exception of the migration to the Americas, whenever major migrations occur someone loses.

          If the migrations don't occur, then people die in situ.

          Ecosystems have some simple rules - they can only support X much biomass per a set amount of resource inputs.  If a limiting resource like fresh water shrinks, then so does the amount of biomass that a region can support.

          Groups can fight over the available resources, but they can't miraculously increase the resources available.

          People can choose to deny that Climate Change is happening, but they can't deny the effects.  They can deny the theory, but they can't ignore the change in temperatures and precipitation.

          Anyone got a plan?

          Show me the POLICY!

          by Fabian on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 05:13:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  THE PLAN: TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY!!! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dancewater

            While responsible people want infrastructure funded including greentech, it appears that the US isn't alone in having government owned and operated for the exclusive benefit of the irresponsible wealthy.

            Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

            by alizard on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:11:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  this problem is hardly unique to Israel (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dancewater, volleyboy1

      Four words: Department of Homeland "Security".

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:21:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Did Americans really open their eyes (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    livosh1, Brecht, dancewater, Assaf, volleyboy1

    after Katrina?

    LA now is one of the most Republican states in America.

  •  I would like to argue on a number of your points (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sofia, Assaf, volleyboy1, Miep

    but I can't! Tip'd and rec'd.

  •  I will just mention (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Assaf, volleyboy1

    that there ARE a few things that Israel does do well:

    It has universal health insurance, provided by four nonprofits. Partly as a result it has some of the best health outcomes in the world. Thank the Rabin government in the early 1990s for that.

    It does take civil defense very seriously and as a result the Hamas rocket attacks result in almost no casualties.

    You can take public transit almost anywhere.

    ---

    Lots of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are emigrating to the west. I run into lots of both here in New York City. Hebrew and Arabic aren't quite as common yet as Spanish, but they are getting there.

    •  Little Known facts of Israel's Health Insurance: (13+ / 0-)

      Shortly after its enactment, in 1996, Bibi became PM. In classical "Shock Doctrine" fashion he declared the treasury empty and started with a draconian wave of cuts, first and foremost to the health system.

      Then, in a sleight-of-hand abetted by a pliant media, bibi exempted Israeli employers from paying into the health system! He passed it just like this, easily, without any alternate funding source - and the health system has been in a tailspin ever since.

      Last week my father-in-law was hospitalized, they wanted to release him before the weekend but my mom-in-law opposed. Reason: Patients admitted just after him didn't have a bed in a room and were hospitalized in the corridor. She didn't want to risk it until absolutely sure he wouldn't need to get hospitalized again soon.

      Patients in the corridor have been a routine spectre in Israeli hospitals since the 1990's. Politicians (e.g. Barak) campaigned on "getting the old lady out of the corridor", and of course did nothing about it once in power, except make more cuts.

    •  Civil Defense: (9+ / 0-)

      Wanted to address this in the diary - but again too long. Indeed almost everything in Israel is sacrificed for "security".

      But from my vantage point as a "self-hating leftie", in recent decades "security" too has become a racketeering operation, transferring power and money to the security establishment and delivering the population waves of insecurity, most of them totally needless.

      I firmly believe that the 2001-2002 waves of suicide bombing were mostly the result of reckless and inhuman IDF policy in the Occupied Territories 2000-2001. Not only they practiced an unconscionable policy - they never prepared for the rather likely blowback, and deserted the population to the danger of revenge attacks.

      Similarly, in late 2008 there was a reasonably working ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Then the IDF decided it's too quiet and started breaking it. This particular story, actually, is rather clear-cut and well-documented.

      Of course, the Israeli government and its apologists (some of them, such as AIPAC officials, no less corrupt and venal than the people they prop up overseas) would have you believe the opposite.

    •  Finally: the Soviets too knew more than just (10+ / 0-)

      space and military. They did a lot of things very well (e.g. science, math education, etc.).

      So does Israel. But there are huge gaps in between, in really central and critical areas. More fundamentally, the overall culture of governance is rotten to the core.

      The Israeli government has long ceased to exist for managing the country for the citizens' welfare, and instead - just like the Soviets - is focused on maintaining untenable structures (first and foremost the Occupation) and meanwhile, extracting the most perks for itself and its cronies.

      Also just like the Soviets, the government hides this Emperor's Nakedness via brazen and well-oiled propaganda, spread with the help of naive "fellow travelers" abroad (funny that Bibi of all people would remind us of this term!).

      •  of course, if you substituted (0+ / 0-)

        "Americans" for "Soviets" in your post, it would be equally accurate, with the minor change ... our "fellow travelers" are almost entirely domestic.

        Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

        by alizard on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:14:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, Assaf, for another worthy diary (8+ / 0-)

    there is so much information here, and considered opinion. I enjoyed reading this, and will look for your diaries in future.

    "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

    by Brecht on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 07:29:23 AM PST

  •  Thank you, Assaf (6+ / 0-)

    Very thorough, informative, and well written, as always.

  •  An excellent diary! (9+ / 0-)

    Thanks for contextualizing this disaster, Assaf.

    I find the attempt to scapegoat the most loyal non-Jewish population in Israel really enlightening. The Druze to my mind are the original practitioners of realpolitik, so I very much doubt that this incident alone will do anything to affect their alliance with the state. But I do wonder if there weren't some subterranean tensions and rifts that revealed themselves last week, if only briefly.

    I'm also kind of surprised that you didn't bring up Eli Yishai, minister of the interior responsible for exactly this sort of thing. This is the man who has spent his tenure advocating for the illegal settlements, for the dispossession of Jerusalem Palestinians, and for kicking out migrant workers and their Israeli-born children. Other than the head of government — Netanyahu himself — no one is more responsible for the fire. I think he's quintessence of what you're talking about when you refer to "government rot."

    Sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice. -- Clark's Law

    by unspeakable on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:29:32 AM PST

    •  You are wrong about Yishai! (not the man) (5+ / 0-)

      He is a lousy minister and a crass politician, to be sure.

      But he is such an easy convenient target for secular Israelis, because he is not "one of us". He is overtly Mizrahi and Orthodox, hence not "modern like us".

      It is true that in the most recent game of "pass the buck" on firefighting, the buck was passed to Yishai and he didn't do much (no surprise there). But even this lip-service plan officially called for getting things sorted out... by late 2012. So it's not exactly an Eli Yishai issue per se.

      On the merits Bibi has far more culpability on this scandal. He imported the radical slash-the-government-functions-but-not-the-rot policies from the American far right, and has worked day and night for 14 years to engrain it into Israeli politics, with great success. Bibi has set up and presides over this bloated government that can do nothing except as Roni Hirsch said it, "shop at the World Fascism Mall" for more racist legislation. Even regarding the money, the Treasury controls the budget and Bibi controls the Treasury via his yesman finance minister Shteinitz

      Yishai is an easy scapegoat. Don't fall for it. I hate it when good energies of liberals go in waste after the anti-Orthodox red herring.

      •  Agree with unspeakable about Yishai... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mets102

        he is more than just a "scapegoat". Here is Yishai: I'm being lynched because I am ultra-Orthodox, right-wing and Mizrahi

        Bibi does have responsibility as well but Yishai has a job to do and he did not do it. Tze Ha'kol. As for being a "target for Israelis... well that is what Yishai himself says.

        Yishai is the "Brownie" of Israeli politics (referring to George Bush's FEMA Director Michael Brown). Was Bush or better yet Rove, Cheney, et al... to blame. Sure, However, the Interior Ministry has a job to do and they did not do it.

        You mentioned Civil Defense as well... As you well know, the Israeli CD apparatus failed miserably jin the test drills. With the Carmel fires that is what I would be focused on now... Disaster preparedness and First Responder efficiency should be at a premium.

        I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

        by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 12:06:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Too bad you're falling into this trap too. (4+ / 0-)

          It is not Yishai who decided about a decade ago to scrap the plan for firefighting planes.

          It is not Yishai who decided on an unacceptably low firefighter/citizen ratio.

          It is not Yishai who decided on an outrageously low  level of fire retardant stock.

          It is not Yishai who skipped on updating the fire engine fleet.

          All these decisions were made by the bean counters at the Treasury. The man who has influenced their thinking in the past 14 years, more than anyone else, has been Bibi.

          Apparently Yishai has the formal authority as Interior Minister over the firefighting forces (a strange assignment in itself, considering that police obeys a different ministry) - but all budgets are determined centrally by Finance. Yishai was tasked rather recently (last year or so) to begin modernizing the force, and hasn't done anything yet. He also wasn't given the budgets. But the hole from which that force needs to climb has not been dug by Yishai. The chief digger is Bibi.

          don't get me wrong, Yishai needs to resign for 1,000 reasons starting with his ugly campaign against migrant laborers and refugees. But on this issue he is the scapegoat. Scapegoats don't have to be innocent, they are just easy targets to divert anger away from the main culprits, which are a government mindset and culture designed from the top.

          •  Certainly (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            livosh1, Assaf, Mets102

            It is not Yishai who decided about a decade ago to scrap the plan for firefighting planes.

            True

            It is not Yishai who decided on an unacceptably low firefighter/citizen ratio.

            True

            It is not Yishai who decided on an outrageously low  level of fire retardant stock.

            True

            All these decisions were made by the bean counters at the Treasury. The man who has influenced their thinking in the past 14 years, more than anyone else, has been Bibi

            .

            True....

            HOWEVER... Yishai was in a position to begin fixing these issues. Meanwhile, instead what has he been focusing on. I have no problem with citing Bibi on this as well. But Bibi is not going down unless there is a general election. SO... it is good to put blame on him, but, this won't topple the coalition.

            Yishai however, as Interior Minister knew there were problems and focused instead on helping bring more crazy ass politics (I know you realize this). Disaster preparedness would be much more of a valuable spend on money (which I understand is controlled through Finance). He needs to go and they need some who understands the issues that as you pointed out are important to Israel's long term survival.

            I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

            by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 02:19:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  OK, you've bought me. Especially... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              livosh1, volleyboy1, Mets102

              ...if Yishai who looks increasingly vulnerable, becomes the first domino taken out to bring down this stinking government.

              As in: Yishai fired by Bibi (he has the formal authority). Shas call it quits. Government disbands (I think that will bring them below 60 MK's).

              But I can't see Bibi firing Yishai without some plan B to prevent this. He's not that stupid.

              •  Unless he has something up his sleeve (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                livosh1, Mets102

                to give to the Right. That is the frightening thing of all this.

                Here is a great piece from Brad Burston in today's Haaretz...

                "Auschwitz Borders are here"

                and one from Carlo Strenger: Israel's Post Traumatic Isolation

                I thought for a while Netanyahu could veer center and bring in Kadima but no, it seems like they are placating the Right. Given that, Are they planning something else to hold Shas with and possibly trading out Yishai for that.

                Lieberman today said "There is no reason to freeze settlements in the West Bank"...

                And there we have it.

                I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

                by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 04:34:53 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Burston's article (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  sofia

                  is revolting. A growing Palestinian population = "Auschwitz borders"?! I'd hate to ask what he thinks of brussels sprouts.

                  I really don't care what ideology one chooses to adhere to, when you're reduced to fearmongering about the number of A-rabs in your country and the rate at which they're reproducing in order to advocate for peace (calling this state of affairs "Auschwitz borders"), you're doing something wrong.

                  Burston and other "liberals" like him keep using the same points over and over again to no perceived result. They accept Israeli right-wing frames for their arguments and try to argue for liberal policies within those confines, and they come off looking like indecisive, amoral weaklings. Just look at what he does in the article itself. Instead of arguing against the insanely hyperbolic notion of "Auschwitz borders," he accepts that a such a thing exists but disagrees about what those borders delineate.

                  The idea that there are certain inalienable rights for all people is fundamental to liberalism. Yet at no point in his disgusting article does Burston even bring up any of the rights of Palestinians. The idea isn't even faintly hinted at. He mentions anti-Palestinian legislation but only as something that could hurt Israel. Burston's ideas are firmly entrenched in the conventional wisdom of the Israeli elite which Assaf is railing against. There is nothing brilliant or enlightening about anything he writes.

                  Sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice. -- Clark's Law

                  by unspeakable on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 05:40:12 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You don't understand the term or how (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    livosh1, Mets102

                    Burston uses that term. He is not supporting it. It is what the extreme Right uses to describe a territorial compromise. Assaf knows the reference.

                    Understand, Burston is writing for an internal Israeli and Liberal American audience. I have seen him speak and talked with him. You are dead wrong when you say this:

                    The idea that there are certain inalienable rights for all people is fundamental to liberalism. Yet at no point in his disgusting article does Burston even bring up any of the rights of Palestinians. The idea isn't even faintly hinted at.

                    It is central to the article. He is saying you cannot have democracy or equal rights if you let the settlers run wild. Whose rights exactly do you think Burston is trying to protect? Martians?  

                    Look up who uses the term "Auschwitz Borders"... Burston is mocking them, not supporting them.

                    I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

                    by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 05:52:25 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      sofia

                      He's directly buying into the premise of the term. He just disagrees what "Auschwitz borders" refers to. It's not the physical pre-June 1967 borders of right-wing discourse. No, to Burston it's the growing population of Palestinians.

                      Whose rights exactly do you think Burston is trying to protect? Martians?

                      Not Martians, just Israeli Jews. The article was not about Palestinians or Palestine, it was about Israel. If Palestinian rights were central to the article, the least he could have done is actually refer to them directly. He does no such thing.

                      I don't know Burston in real life. All I have to go on is his written word, and his article presents demographic trends among Palestinians as a problem that must be solved. This sort of dehumanization is unacceptable to me as a Palestinian, but even if I wasn't a Palestinian, I'd think it was bad.

                      Sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice. -- Clark's Law

                      by unspeakable on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 06:58:16 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You really don't understand this.... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Mets102

                        He does not "buy" the premise of the term. The fact that you would accuse him of that is ridiculous at best. Burston wants a Jewish State, he also believes in a Palestinian State. Period.

                        He cares about affecting things from an Israeli perspective that will accomplish that goal. Nothing more, nothing less. He is not Palestinian, so he can affect what he can affect.

                        But, I don't expect you to take my word for it so you may have the last word, but, your misrepresentation of Burston is really saddening.

                        I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

                        by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:21:50 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  i also disagree with you (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          sofia, Aunt Martha, unspeakable

                          and support unspeakable's reading of Burston's article. He accepts the framing of the right of what Auschwitz borders are and argues for a 'liberal' zionist solution that will put off this problem. Nowhere in this is there a shred of what liberalism is about. Instead, it reads as a way to assure ethno-supremacy, exclusion and privilege.

                          "I have a vision of our rights as indigenous people. We didn't migrate to Israel; it is Israel that migrated to us." Haneen Zoabi, interview in the New Stateman

                          by Fire bad tree pretty on Tue Dec 07, 2010 at 10:08:38 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

      •  Point taken. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sofia, Assaf

        It's not my intention to go after the Mizrahim and the Orthodox, and I can see how readily available stereotypes would factor into the Israeli conventional wisdom on who to blame for the fires.

        But as minister of interior, Yishai had the opportunity to press for the reforms that were needed. Lack of courage or vision to do so is no excuse.

        So given what you have to say about Steinitz and Netanyahu, you have a point about Yishai not being the primary target for blame and responsibility, but he shouldn't get off scott-free for his conduct, either.

        Sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice. -- Clark's Law

        by unspeakable on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 03:25:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I read parts of this diary with an odd sense of (5+ / 0-)

    familiarity. If you changed the word Israel to Lebanon then you wouldn't be too far off with the hubris, superiority, inefficiency and corruption!

    I was wondering if there's been any discussion of forest and land management issues in the Haifa area, whether the pines, which are highly flammable, are appropriate types of trees to be planting, the linking of this to the role of the JNF etc. I think it's an interesting angle.

    Thanks for the diary, tipped and rec'd.

    "I have a vision of our rights as indigenous people. We didn't migrate to Israel; it is Israel that migrated to us." Haneen Zoabi, interview in the New Stateman

    by Fire bad tree pretty on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 03:08:42 PM PST

    •  Thanks for this interesting perspective! (7+ / 0-)

      I keep hearing that the similarities in political culture across Israel's borders are much deeper than meet the eye! Our Shabak, too, is more similar to the Arab Mukhabarat than to any Western domestic-security agency.

      Regarding pine, it so happens that much of the Carmel pine forest was natural. It was the only part of Israel-Palestine with an extensive natural pine population in a combination brush-forest with the common oak. Probably has to do with enough moisture coming from the sea in the form of night dew.

      There are some JNF planted pine forests to complement that, and yes, making them all pine was bad from almost all respects (plus, planting some of them to hide ruined Palestinian villages was plain ugly action).

    •  Blumenthal has an excellent piece out on this (5+ / 0-)

      The Carmel wildfire is burning all illusions in Israel
      Max Blumenthal, The Electronic Intifada,

      Beyond the embarrassing spectacle of Turkish supply planes landing in Tel Aviv just six months after Israeli commandoes massacred Turkish aid volunteers on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, or the confessions of impotence by the hard-men Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, the fire exposed a terrible history that had been concealed by layers of official mythology and piles of fallen pine needles.

      "There are no facts"

      Among the towns that have been evacuated is Ein Hod, a bohemian artists' colony nestled in the hills to the north and east of Haifa. This is not the first time Ein Hod was evacuated, however. The first time was in 1948, when the town's original Palestinian inhabitants were driven from their homes by a manmade disaster known as the Nakba.

      Most of the original inhabitants of Ein Hod, which was called Ayn Hawd prior to the expulsions of '48, and was continuously populated since the 12th century, were expelled to refugee camps in Jordan and Jenin in the West Bank. But a small and exceptionally resilient band of residents fled to the hills, set up a makeshift camp and watched as Jewish foreigners moved into their homes.

      "I have no emotional obligation to [a] militarist & politically aggressive nation-state which asks for my solidarity on racial grounds" E. Hobsbawm

      by jon the antizionist jew on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 11:22:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here is a message I got from Peace Now (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard, Brecht, Assaf, Captain C, Mets102

    in my email today:

    Dear xxxxx,

    Israel was struck by disaster last week: A forest fire blazed out of control outside of Haifa. More than 40 were killed. Israel's firefighters didn't have the manpower or the equipment to put out the blaze.

    Today the fire is under control thanks to assistance Israel received from the United States, European countries, Turkey, and its Arab neighbors.

    That's right. Egypt, Jordan, and even the Palestinian Authority sent men and equipment to help Israel put out the flames.

    Skeptics believe that the Israelis and Palestinians harbor so much hate and pain that peace is impossible. The events of the past week show that they are wrong.

    The image of Palestinian firefighters standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their Israeli counterparts shows us that both peoples understand that they have a common humanity and a shared future.

    This week, in the midst of tragedy, we saw a glimpse of the future that we're fighting for.

    Thank you for being a part of our movement.

    I was very heartened to see this and I thought it really did symbolize a Chanukah miracle.

    I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

    by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:53:01 PM PST

    •  sorry for the duplicate. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mets102

      I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

      by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 09:17:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Correction to the Peace Now letter (3+ / 0-)

      They wrote:

      The image of Palestinian firefighters standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their Israeli counterparts shows us that both peoples understand that they have a common humanity and a shared future.

      Actually, this shows that the Palestinians understand this, since they pitched in to help like the Turks, the Jordanians and the Egyptians.

      The burden of proof is now upon Israelis.

      •  Bullshit (0+ / 1-)
        Recommended by:
        Hidden by:
        soysauce

        While the Palestinian involvement in fighting the fire was nice to see, it doesn't delete history.

        Israel has offered the Palestinians a state several times (Ehuds Olmert & Barak). They refused, because they don't accept Israel as it is - the state for the Jewish people.

        Despite that, and the many terror attacks perpetrated by Palestininans on Israeli civilians, Israel continues to treat Palestinians in Israeli hospitals at no charge, to supply Gaza with food and fuel (this went on during Cast Lead), etc. etc.

        The burden of proof is not on Israel.  It is on the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table, accept Israel as the state for the Jewish people, and claim their own state for the Palestinian people.

  •  Here is a message I got from Peace Now (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lotlizard, Mets102

    in my email today:

    Dear xxxxx,

    Israel was struck by disaster last week: A forest fire blazed out of control outside of Haifa. More than 40 were killed. Israel's firefighters didn't have the manpower or the equipment to put out the blaze.

    Today the fire is under control thanks to assistance Israel received from the United States, European countries, Turkey, and its Arab neighbors.

    That's right. Egypt, Jordan, and even the Palestinian Authority sent men and equipment to help Israel put out the flames.

    Skeptics believe that the Israelis and Palestinians harbor so much hate and pain that peace is impossible. The events of the past week show that they are wrong.

    The image of Palestinian firefighters standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their Israeli counterparts shows us that both peoples understand that they have a common humanity and a shared future.

    This week, in the midst of tragedy, we saw a glimpse of the future that we're fighting for.

    Thank you for being a part of our movement.

    I was very heartened to see this and I thought it really did symbolize a Chanukah miracle.

    I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

    by volleyboy1 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 08:55:22 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary, Assaf! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soysauce

    Thanks

    "Trolling is a sad reality of internet life...Directly replying to the content of a trollish message is usually a waste of time"

    by Rusty Pipes on Thu Dec 09, 2010 at 11:32:01 AM PST

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