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ISRAEL'S REMEMBRANCE DAY & NORTH KOREA

 What connection is there between Israel's battle for survival and the current crisis between North Korea and the U.S. on the other side of the world? The Jewish state has paid a heavy price, over 23,000 fallen soldiers in order to preserve its independence and prevent its annihilation. Analyst David Essing sees a link between America's resolution of the North Korean crisis and whether Israel may have to go it alone against Iran. 

 At age sixty-five, modern-day Israel can be justly proud. From the day of its founding in 1948, the Jewish state has had to repel repeated Arab onslaughts aimed at wiping it off the map. And it's far from over. Contrary to many foreign pundits who predicted the 'Arab Spring' would give birth to a glorious future of peace and democracy for the Middle East, it has spawned a Muslim bloodbath. Nonetheless, even in this harsh and unforgiving environment, Israel continues to thrive. Despite the more than 23,000 who have fallen on duty and the tens of thousands of wounded, Israelis live longer than most other people in the advanced countries belonging to the OECD - the average for women is 84, two years more than for males. This is partially due to a universal health service that includes all of its eight million citizens. And if you're bound to have a heart attack, Israel is the place- it also has one of the best survival rates. There are paramedics on motorcycles who weave through traffic jams, much faster than ambulances. (This also applies to life threatening situations such as terror attacks. A lean and mean two-man SWAT team races to the scene on a motorcycle, one drives while the other, armed with a sawed-off automatic rifle, sits behind riding shotgun. Nor, as in some countries, do they set up a perimeter and wait for the cavalry before moving in. Israeli cops take on the bad guys immediately. Israeli security personnel are taught that if a terrorist or madman is trying to mow down as many people as possible, it's your duty job to stop him as quickly as possible - no ifs, ands or buts. It goes with the job.)  

 With very few natural resources, Israel has surged ahead using brain power and high-tech as the engines of its economic life. In 2012, Israeli exports totaled some $U.S. fifteen billion. The average annual income is now $U.S. 32,000 dollars although the country has to pay for one of the biggest per capita defense budgets in the world. When it comes to Nobel Prize winners per capita, Israel, with 10 laureates, ranks number 11, ahead of such countries as Germany, U.S. and Canada. On the other hand, OECD stats show that Israelis work longer hours than in the rest of the developed nations.

Yonatan Netanyahu

 Israel's achievements would not have been possible without the ultimate sacrifice of its fallen servicemen and women. That was the message from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who served in the vaunted Sayaret Matkal commando unit, knows this from personal experience. His brother Yoni was killed in the operation to rescue hijacked Israeli passengers on board an Air France airliner at Entebbe Airport on July 4, 1976. Over one and a half million bereaved relatives and friends visited military cemeteries to pay their respects. The rest of the nation stood for two minutes of silence when air raid sirens wailed across the country. At the main ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Netanyahu declared: "Israel is stronger than ever and we can face any test. We salute the fallen, the heroes of Israel". Moshe Yaalon, the new Defense Minister, warned of threats on various fronts starting with Iran and vowed: "Israel 'will respond aggressively to any provocations!'  

 Iran & North Korea...

Binyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

 As expected, the latest round of talks with Iran have flopped. How could it be otherwise? The Iranian regime perceives a nuclear capability as an insurance policy not only for its survival but also for furthering its political and religious ambitions to achieve hegemony over the Persian Gulf and beyond. For Tehran to compromise at the table would mean backing off from their ultimate goal, and this they will not do. On the contrary, they brazenly activate more sophisticated centrifuges for enriching uranium, open new nuclear facilities, and conduct additional missile tests. Their strategy is to move steadily ahead but not cross any critical threshold that could spook the international community or the U.S. into possibly taking drastic action. This is how it works: they are producing a stockpile of enriched uranium that can be further upgraded to weapons quality while also working on a nuclear warhead that can be mounted on missiles that can already reach Israel. They are waiting until all these components are in place for the final act - a political decision from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to break out for the Bomb. The idea is that it will then to be too late for anyone to intervene militarily. So Tehran and Jerusalem are keeping an eagle eye on what is happening on the other side of the world where the U.S. is confronting Iran's twin partner North Korea. Will the U.S. prevail and prevent the North Koreans from throwing their perceived nuclear weight around. Netanyahu and Yaalon and the rest of Israel are watching to see how U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry cope with that crisis. But clearly North Korea is an example of what the international community can expect from Iran if the U.S. backs down. A week ago at the Holocaust memorial, Netanyahu stated his position about the threat of a nuclear Iran bent on destroying Israel. First he told of a retired U.S. officer who had freed Jews in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and among them was former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lowe. Some time ago at a meeting in Seattle, the officer, with tears in his eyes, told the Rabbi: "I'm sorry we came too late". During President Obama's visit to Israel, Rabbi Lowe had recounted the event to the American leader imploring: "Please Mr. President, don't be too late this time". After retelling the event to the Holocaust survivors and the people of Israel on nation-wide TV, Israel's Prime Minister declared that when it comes to acting to ensure Israel's survival: "I promise you I will never be too late!"

David Essing

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