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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

New phase

Posted by aviel on June 10, 2012

I haven’t been blogging for quite some time now, but some things have happened and I found myself with no time to do fun stuff that I could write about, and no time to write about the fun stuff that I didn’t have time to do.

The reason is simply that I’ve found a job and this week was my first. The company that hired me needed customer support in Swedish and while the competition was hard, between all the Swedes who lined up outside their office, I came out on top – as I knew I would. And I’m humble as well.

This picture is really dark. But I have a really nice view from the office.

I find myself having moved to Israel but being back to the Swedish workweek. Which is why I have time to write this on a Sunday, when most Israelis go to work. There are few things as satisfying as staying at home, with a legitimate reason, while other people go to work. But even when on the Swedish workweek, I’m not enjoying the Swedish employee benefits. Vacation is 12 days a year. I’m only getting money for my pension plan after 6 months. The salary isn’t really bad for similar jobs in Israel, while being less than the average salary here since it’s a starting position, but it would be considered really bad in Sweden. And now I get to discuss a little bit of politics here. In fact, in all likelihood it’s a good thing that the starting salary is low.

Consider my situation: I’m in Israel for less than a month. I know the language, but not at the level of an Israeli born here, and I have a BA in Political Science, but have no idea where to look for jobs related to that (and my Hebrew is probably not good enough anyways). I have no work experience in Israel, but I have served in the Army, and I have no recent work experience in Sweden since I didn’t work while studying at the university. Now, what are the odds that I would find a relatively decent job after three weeks if I had come as an immigrant to Sweden? I’m not going to compare myself to immigrants who never learned to read and write, but I’m still an immigrant in a new country. And the fact is that in any job I would have to be taught pretty much from scratch. I seriously doubt that I would have got this job if the starting salary hadn’t been so low. Now it’s low, but in 3 months it will rise by another 500 shekels (1000 SEK, $130) and another 500 shekels after an additional 3-6 months. For them it will be relatively cheap to teach me, making it affordable for them to hire people they know little about, and for me it means I get to have a first job in Israel, with a salary that I can live on for awhile and which will rise shortly. I would have got another job eventually, but for how long would I have remained unemployed while looking for one? 7 years, which is the median time for an immigrant to Sweden? Surely I’d have a job in a year or so, but I would have been a drain on society until then and I would have felt a lack of personal dignity that I can now enjoy just because I have a job.

Lots of fish outside the office building, in case my salad isn’t enough.

I think that one of the reasons that Israel is an exemplary “start-up nation” is because the bar is low to enter the labor market. The company I work for is a start-up, but I know that people who started working there, like me, have made a lot of money. I don’t expect to myself, not anytime soon at least, but the potential is there and it’s unlikely that it would work unless you start with a low salary.

But I’ve heard that the turtle isn’t kosher..

Enough about that. The days are pretty long since I don’t live in Tel Aviv (yet). The day is 9 hours long, but add that a few hours of traveling and I’m gone for 12 hours every day. Not something I’m used to after 3.5 years at the university. So I get home, completely drained, with barely enough energy to eat and sit in front of the computer. Fortunately, except for my midsection, the grandma has been cooking every day this week except for Thursday, when they went to a wedding. So on Thursday I did the only thing I could under the circumstances, which was to take Yael, who had been doing reserve duty, and eat at a nearby restaurant.

Seriously, I haven’t cooked a single time since I got here, and I’m being fed wherever I go these days. On Friday David and Shiran took me to David’s relatives’ incredible house somewhat to the south. They were throwing a “start of the summer” pool party. I got to make my own pizza actually, since they had a pizza oven, and someone had brought a shwarma spit (kebab, for Swedish and perhaps other readers) as well. Oh, beer, wine and drinks of course. And tons of dessert. On the minus side, the kids had completely taken over the pool and the jacuzzi. Entering the jacuzzi after 20 kids had been there for hours wasn’t really an option for us, without entering into details of what had likely transpired there.

Yesterday made for a new experience for me in Israel. The family, and I, were invited to some friends who are Israeli Arabs and live in the nearby town of Abu Ghosh – where they likely make the world’s best hummus. I don’t think I was ever invited to an Arab home here before. In any case, it was a really pleasant evening. They have a nice big house and an unbelievable view from their huge balcony. It’s kind of funny because we were invited for “coffee”. I wondered if we should eat something before, but Orly told me to wait until I see their “coffee”. So we get there, the table had been laid, and first the soup is served. Then chicken, meat pastries, salad, really good “dolma” and more. Then we had really good pastries for dessert, and of course, no meal is complete without cherries, watermelon and grapes. Barely conscious we then proceeded to the coffee. During the meal I learned something about Arab food culture. Apparently coffee is served last, at the end of the meal, and the funny thing is that it carries with it a subtle hint that it’s time for the guests to leave. So I don’t know, maybe it would be considered rude to just invite someone for coffee. 🙂


Posted in Israel, Politics, Sweden | 2 Comments »

Current Israeli politics

Posted by aviel on May 31, 2012

I haven’t written yet about the current Israeli politics as I’ve been trying to update myself on it after a few years of neglect. One of the problems, and really what makes Israeli politics so interesting in my opinion, is that the issues here are so bloody complicated. I figure that a blog is a good outlet for thinking about these issues, as well as learning to write about them. If you’re not at all interested in Middle Eastern politics then there is not much point in reading further.

Coffee, the newspaper and a shaded place while enjoying 25 degrees Celsius, is a great way to start the day.

First and foremost there is the Iranian issue. There is hardly a day when the various officials, politicians, generals and former spy chiefs, don’t speak out on the issue. It’s hard to make up my mind on this, and those who proclaim to ‘know’ or who profess certainty on the matter, seem rather foolish to me. A lot of analysts seem to believe that PM Netanyahu and DM Barak have made up their minds and are the main drivers behind the process leading up to an eventual attack on Iran. Against them stand, among others, former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan who spoke out yesterday, reiterating his position that an attack would at best be limited and actually speed up the Iranian acquisition of nuclear bombs. It would, according to him, unite the Iranians behind the regime and legitimize their nuclear aspirations. Also former IDF Chief of General Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, spoke out saying that Israel won’t have to live under the umbrella of a nuclear Iran, that there is still time to let diplomacy to run its course. In any case, it seems less and less likely that either Israel or the US would attack in 2012, given the upcoming US elections. Worth noting is that there seems to be a general consensus, in Israel as well as in the US, about the Iranian nuclear aspirations. The question is how the hell will the Iranians be stopped?

A potential sign of Israel gearing up for attack could be seen in the surprise-move to expand the government with the inclusion of the main opposition party, Kadima. The government now enjoys the support (as far as that goes in Israeli politics) of roughly three quarters of the Parliament, thereby postponing the expected elections until the end of the next year. That is true today though, might not be tomorrow. The problem with grand coalitions is that they foster discontent among both voters, who look for an alternative, and among the elected officials who see their relative influence diminished by far. The task of getting all these officials to agree on policy has got to be daunting. I’m not sure we can expect this coalition to last very long, but if the coalition deal is secretly a way of creating a national-unity government, in order to carry out an attack on Iran, we would be talking about something else entirely. I doubt it though.

At times the West really gives in to wishful thinking, as seen in the latest rounds of negotiations with Iran. The naive optimism shared by many decision makers, and various officials, ran up against the reality of the Iranian intransigence. In essence, the Iranians bought a month of accelerating the enrichment of Uranium, exactly what the Israelis kept saying would happen, and the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano was made a fool of. This same wishful thinking led to the intervention in Libya, with no plan for the day after and with serious political ramifications. Besides spreading chaos into neighboring countries, such as Mali, the intervention also sent the message to all the remaining despots of the world that the only way to secure their regimes from Western attacks is to develop WMD. One should recall that Qaddaffi gave up his weapon’s programme in return for guarantees, in one of the sole successful outcomes of the NATO invasion of Iraq.

It’s not hard to understand why people call for some kind of intervention in Syria as well. The violence of the regime is appalling, no doubt, but what is known is that the regime is in possession of chemical weapons that would have to be secured in the event of an intervention to topple the regime. Chances are that those weapons would end up in the hands of various terrorist organizations, chief among them Hizbollah in Lebanon, on Israel’s northern front. The head of the IDF Northern Command, General Yair Golan expressed his concerns about this scenario yesterday. He further warned of the need for an Israeli operation in the north to prevent this from happening, should it seem likely. There’s just no way Israel could live with chemical weapons in the hands of Hizbollah, which is rapidly arming itself with more advanced missiles that can reach the Tel Aviv area. But in any case, I doubt that the US or the EU have much appetite for yet another intervention in a Middle Eastern country. Elections in the US and the potential break-up of the Euro zone will surely prevent that.

On a completely different note, after a wave of rapes and crime in Tel Aviv the debate about the rapid influx of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees have really heated up. At the moment the government’s performance is patchy at best. By the UN definition the illegal immigrants from these countries are to be considered refugees and should not be forced to return to their home countries. Israel abides by this, in the meantime. On the other hand, while these immigrants are let in on a collective basis as they show up on Egyptian border, after having crossed the Sinai dessert, they are refused the legal right to work and other social services, except for in case of medical emergencies if I understand correctly. Well, it’s hardly surprising that some, certainly not the majority, would turn to crime if they have no legal way of making a living. How does the Israeli government respond? By seeking harsher punishment on those who illegally employ these immigrants. And by building a fence on the border. With the last policy I happen to agree, seeing no other way to stop the rapid immigration that by some projections can reach half a million, up from the current 60,000 according to official statistics. But in Southern Tel Aviv people, who witness the ‘invasion’ of their neigborhoods, are growing increasingly agitated and afraid. Last week saw a violent demonstration where lots of people were hurt. To no one’s surprise populist politicians are seeking a way to make themselves a name in leading these demonstrations with the demand of a general expulsion of all immigrants, something which is not really possible at the moment. And not the moral thing to do either for that matter. Only, I have no better solution myself. I understand the government’s hesitation in allowing the immigrants to work, as it would signal to economic refugees everywhere that all they have to do is come here in order to substantially improve their lives. Israel is after all a tiny country without the capacity of handling more immigration than it already does.

Ok, this is it for the political update. I find this stuff to be highly interesting and one day I hope to play a part in the decision-making process here. Who knows? 🙂

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Politics | Leave a Comment »

War is old men talking and young men dying

Posted by aviel on January 8, 2009

I guess I should add innocent civilians dying as well. The truth is that war is in itself pointless and doesn’t bring anyone any good, but once started it creates its own logic.
I’m watching the pictures from Gaza and I heard about the soldiers who have died. Almost all from friendly fire, which is the most lethal kind.
Especially hard was to learn that Captain Yoni Netanel (יהי זכרו ברוך) fell in Gaza last night, an officer in my battalion. I wonder how the rest of the kids are doing and I worry about them a lot. For the truth is, they’re just kids. Kids who have yet to see the world, dream their dreams and live their lives.

And what about the Palestinians? They suffer tremendously, no doubt. The “government”, they elected that promised the destruction of Israel, brought this upon them. The very same “government” is now asking for others to step in and save it from the consequences of its actions. Just like Hassan Nasrallah confessed to have underestimated Israel’s reaction to the kidnapping of its soldiers (which triggered the Second Lebanon War), so does the Hamas leadership show all the signs of having underestimated the response to thousands of rockets over southern Israel.
I am at loss to grasp this. What reaction did they expect? After 10,000 rockets during the last 8 years and 3,000 rockets only last year they must have expected something.. I mean, there must be some logic behind their actions. Even if death is something they wish for they can’t possibly win only by dying and having everything they built up destroyed.

At second thought, they do seem to want to destroy everything. To destroy Israel, to destroy the United States and the entire Western world. Destruction has become an end to itself.
Destroying is their sense of power. When you can’t build, can’t produce, can’t accomplish anything of significance and when you’re incapable of taking responsibility – then blaming others and ultimately destroying what they have, becomes your goal.
The truth is that you never hear them talk about building or achieving. As sons of the desert they want to turn everything to a barren land where nothing can live.

This conflict will continue until the Palestinians have made up their minds what kind of society they want to build for themselves. Will it be a society based on liberty or will it be based on religion. Will it be a society that aims to build or one that aims to destroy. Until they figure that out we have no choice but to continue to fight them.

And kids just out of high school, who shoulder the enormous responsibility of safeguarding the existence of a nation, will continue to fall in battle..

Posted in Israel, Politics | 1 Comment »