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Friday, May 05, 2006 

Olmert's government raises the price of bread, and faces its first crisis

Another bad step made by Ehud Olmert, and the beginning of something he deserves - a coalition crisis. From the Jerusalem Post:
The Likud faction announced on Friday that it planned to propose a no-confidence vote against the government in the wake of its decision to raise the price of bread by seven percent.

The price rise was suggested by the Price Committee and approved by the outgoing Finance Minister and newly sworn-in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Likud Central Committee chairman MK Gidon Sa'ar attacked the government over the price increase. "It is a mockery, when the first decision of a government, which wastes money on an cabinet inflated with ministers without portfolios, is to raise the price of the most essential product", said Sa'ar.

Interior Trade Manager of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Tzvia Duri said that the action was taken due to recent financial losses of bakeries.

"The [economic] criterion suggested that we needed to raise the price of bread so that is exactly what we have done. We cannot subsidize the consumers."

"If we wouldn't have enforced this move, the price would have eventually been increased by 14%," added Duri.

The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry stressed that there was no connection between the price increase and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai's new role as the head of the ministry.

Yishai claimed that the move was made behind his back. "It is a scandal," he fumed.

UTJ MK Ya'acov Litzman criticized the change and said that he was convinced that Yishai would reverse it.

Labor MK Shelly Yehimovic said that the decision cast a shadow over the integrity of the prime minister who pledged to fight poverty. She called on Yishai to revoke the price increase calling it "cynical underhanded opportunism of Olmert."
Yishai should do more than just that, he should be leaving the government ASAP. I know that one of Kadima's own members, Marina Solodkin, abstained from voting in approval of the coalition yesterday, because she was mad at being insulted by the "party's" leaders and that too shows that there's already signs of cracks in the government.

Also, here's Caroline Glick's latest article on the damage that not only Israel, but also the United States, faces if Olmert commits a withdrawal from Judea/Samaria.
The problem, of course, is that a reading of The New York Times does not provide an individual or government with a clear understanding of what is happening in the US or of the significance of various debates now raging in the media. For a person to understand what he is reading in the Times, he needs to be able to understand the cultural context in which the articles are being published. Without a cultural awareness of the US, he will be incapable of assessing the value of the information he now accesses on the Internet.

The same, of course, is true of Israel. Israel's political debate is consistently hyperbolic. Israelis who listen to statements by their leaders know that they have to discount much of what they hear as exaggerated showmanship. For instance, from 1982 up until Ariel Sharon became prime minister in 2001, the Israeli Left routinely called him a warmonger, a right-wing extremist and a murderer. But no one really thought that any of this was true. Israelis understood this to be par for the course for the Israeli political debate.

Yet, for foreigners watching events in Israel and listening to this internal dialogue, it couldn't have come as more of a shock when, as prime minister, Sharon suddenly began calling for Israeli withdrawals from Judea, Samaria and Gaza and carried out the withdrawal and expulsion plan from Gaza and northern Samaria last summer. After all, for years they had been reading of Israelis calling Sharon a clone of Genghis Khan. So here, as with the foreigner watching America, the familiarity afforded by access to local debates can lead to greater misunderstandings.

Because of this, it is important for all countries, when assessing what others are doing, to think first and foremost about how various moves can impact their interests. The domestic policy debates carried out in foreign countries should not form the basis of their decision-making.

IT IS important to note our propensity to misunderstand other peoples' national debates today because in three weeks, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will arrive in Washington, DC to present his plan to withdraw Israeli civilians and military forces from much of Judea and Samaria with the hopes of securing American support and funding for his plan.

Olmert's planned withdrawal presents a dilemma for Washington. On the one hand, the US traditionally has supported Israeli withdrawals from territories that Israel took over in the Six Day War, and Olmert's plan aligns with this customary preference. On the other hand, the US is now fighting a war against the global jihad and one of its primary goals is to prevent the establishment of new bases for jihadist forces. Israel's withdrawal from Gaza this past summer fomented Hamas's rise to power in the Palestinian Authority and enabled the transformation of Gaza into a base for al-Qaida, Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. An Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria will exacerbate the current situation exponentially.

Were the Americans to base their policies on what they hear in the Israeli media, they might conclude that Israel will be destroyed if it doesn't vacate Judea and Samaria tomorrow. What they would miss is that the debate in Israel about retaining control over Judea and Samaria or relinquishing control of the areas to Hamas has nothing to do with Hamas, Hizbullah, al-Qaida, or any other consideration that might be called strategic.

What is hard to understand from reading Israel's media is that the country is in the midst of a culture war. Leftist secular messianists, who have replaced their peace god which Yasser Arafat destroyed six years ago with a withdrawal god, are pushing for the Judea and Samaria withdrawal as part of their offensive against religious Zionism which is headquartered in the Israeli settlements of Judea and Samaria that Olmert's plan will destroy.


ISRAEL HAS had next to no debate either on the strategic consequences of the Gaza withdrawal or on the likely security consequences of a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. Such a debate would note that the Gaza withdrawal was a failure on every level. It would also raise the likelihood that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria will cause an inflow of terrorists and missiles that will place all of Israel's major cities as well as its major highways, seaports and Ben-Gurion Airport within missile range from Hizbullah forces in Lebanon and Palestinian forces in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

Aside from that, such a debate would no doubt draw attention to the fact that a jihadist takeover of Judea and Samaria would cause an immediate danger to the Hashemite regime in Jordan. To date, Israeli military control of Judea and Samaria has made it difficult for Palestinian jihadists to threaten Jordan. But if Israel retreats, there will be no one stopping them from joining forces with their counterparts on the east bank of the Jordan River.

And so, an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would cause the destabilization of America's two most stable and reliable allies in the Middle East. Fuel and other vital materiel for US forces in Iraq would no longer be able to be safely transported overland from Israeli ports through Jordan into Iraq due to the instability of both Israel and Jordan. This would increase American dependence on ports in the Persian Gulf. This increased American dependence would embolden Iran to cause the US Navy repeated headaches in the Straits of Hormuz. Judea and Samaria would be used as a terror training base for jihadists who would go on to fight not only Israel, but US forces in Iraq.

Aside from that, just as Israel's retreat from Gaza convinced the Palestinians that terror pays and so brought Hamas to power, an Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria leading to the destabilization of both Israel and Jordan will be perceived by the Arab and Islamic worlds as a strategic victory for the forces of jihad. From Paris to Haifa to Islamabad to Baghdad, to Dearborn, thousands will answer the call to jihad.

By the same token, with the momentum on the side of the jihadists, the US and its allies will experience unprecedented difficulty in attempting to convince Arab and Muslim governments, opinion makers, intellectuals and activists to support them. Political and cultural leaders who today support the US's strategic goal of bringing democracy and liberalism to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide will be cowed into silence. After all, whether the US likes it or not, the Arab and Muslim worlds perceive Israel as an American client state and as a result, an Israeli retreat is seen as an American retreat. If Israel is weakened, America is weakened.
So here's the question: can Congress in example stand up and say that they disagree, and block Olmert's request for money that could be used for much better things than withdrawals? They'll be doing everyone a very big favor if they do.

That aside, I think it would be a very good idea if Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent Likud members, including Natan Sharansky, were to form a delegation to go to Washington to counter this by presenting their side of the argument. If anyone can contact the Likud, that might be of help. Here for now is the website and e-mail address, editor@likudnik.co.il of a Likud affiliate.


About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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