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NETANYAHU’S POLITICAL HEADACHES

 It makes no difference if you are a supporter of Israel's Prime Minister or not, you just had to sympathize with Bibi Netanyahu when he saw the headlines this morning. Staring him in the face were two political nightmares, but not the Iranian nuclear threat, Syria, or Palestinian terrorism. They were far closer to home.

 Defense Minister Yaalon does it again…

This time, he blasted America's back-down over Syria's use of chemical weapons, the Iranian nuclear threat, and now in Ukraine. Yaalon thought he was giving an off-the-record briefing to a closed audience...

 Next to the Prime Minister, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has the greatest interest in preserving Israel's 'special relationship' with the U.S. Where would the Jewish state be without the annual $3 billion dollars in American military aid and political support? But you wouldn't know it from Yaalon's caustic comments about U.S. foreign policy. For the second time in two months, Yaalon has insulted the Obama administration by his outspoken remarks about a 'weak' U.S. foreign policy, with the conclusion that Israel can depend only on itself. This time, he blasted America's back-down over Syria's use of chemical weapons, the Iranian nuclear threat, and now in Ukraine. Yaalon thought he was giving an off-the-record briefing to a closed audience at Tel Aviv University, but alas he was again secretly recorded by one of his listeners. Haaretz newspaper first printed the text, and later the recording started appearing on radio stations. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who Yaalon branded last month as being ' obsessive and messianic in his diplomatic mission', obviously hit the roof and got on the hot phone to Netanyahu. In response, the Prime Minister then praised America in the Knesset after calling his defense minister to find out what was going on. Yaalon then called his American opposite number Chuck Hagel, with whom he does get along, to apologize for his caustic comments.

Israel fighter jet. (photo courtesy of the Israeli Air Force ©)

 Question: does Israel have a loose cannon for its defense minister? Former IDF Chief of Staff Yaalon was an outstanding general and a recent opinion poll picked him as the best cabinet minister. So there is no question Yaalon is considered to be a first rate military leader. However, he apparently does not understand his own occupational limitations about what's said and what is definitely not said in public. For example: when serving in the IDF, if one of his own officers had made political remarks in public, General Yaalon would have cashiered him on the spot. But when serving as Chief of Staff, Yaalon opposed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposed plan to evacuate the Strip. Yaalon said it would lend a 'tail wind to Palestinian terrorism'. It cost Yaalon a customary fourth year as Chief of Staff - Sharon retired Yaalon early. History has proved Yaalon to be correct with over 11,000 rockets and mortars being fired at Israel from Gaza since Israel's disengagement in 2005. Today, Hamas has turned Gaza into a launch pad that can even target Tel Aviv with a vast arsenal of missiles and rockets and terrorizes hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians in the border area. On the other hand, Yaalon does not have a record of being an unbridled hawk in military affairs. In fact, he did not join the Netanyahu-Barak campaign of threats to bomb Iran, if the U.S. did not step up its effort to impose sanctions on Tehran. (An Israeli tactic that proved partially successful after the years of prevaricating by Obama and the international community). Previously, Yaalon contended there was still time to stop Iran, and only lately has he appeared to side with Netanyahu's tougher stance on possibly going it alone, if need be.

 The Syrian file…

Ceasefire line between Syria and Israel on the the Golan Heights. (photo credit: Masterpjz9)
Syria broke the rules by allowing Hezbollah to plant a roadside bomb along Israel's border fence that wounded four IDF soldiers, one of them critically.

 Consider the last three years of the civil war raging in Syria. Israel has adopted a 'keep out' policy while enforcing several red lines: First, Israel has not tolerated any 'spill over' of fire from Syrian territory and replies immediately in kind. Secondly, Israel will not permit Syria and Iran to transport strategic weapons to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Thirdly, Israel would not tolerate Assad's use of chemical weapons in the fighting and was the first to expose this atrocity to the world. But aside from providing medical care to injured Syrian civilians who cross the border, Israel has not taken sides. This week on the Golan Heights, Syria broke the rules by allowing Hezbollah to plant a roadside bomb along Israel's border fence that wounded four IDF soldiers, one of them critically. (The Israelis fell for the ruse of a Hezbollah guerilla, disguised as a Syrian shepherd who approached the border fence. When an Israeli officer went to warn him away, the bomb was detonated by remote control.) After concluding that the Syrian Army was in cahoots with the bombing, Israeli jets were ordered to hit several Syrian positions in the immediate vicinity. However, Syria reported that only one soldier was killed and seven others wounded. In other words, the Israeli strike was so surgical that it injured very few Syrians.

 

L: MacArthur, R: Yaalon
The U.S. and obviously Netanyahu realize that Yaalon is a responsible military man with vast experience, and not a gung-ho Douglas MacArthur of the Korean War era.

 The message was a clear and calibrated warning: if you collaborate in another such Hezbollah attack on our men, next time we'll really hit Syrian soldiers. If Yaalon had pressed for a more severe retaliation, it could have sparked a wide scale flare-up along the Israeli Syrian border. Hezbollah and Syria have responded by informing UN peace observers that they now wish to cool it. The U.S. and obviously Netanyahu realize that Yaalon is a responsible military man with vast experience, and not a gung-ho Douglas MacArthur of the Korean War era. According to U.S. President Harry Truman, MacArthur wished to nuke China. All this is even more important because Yaalon apparently views himself as Netanyahu's future successor. And with good reason - when Yaalon looks around himself in the ruling Likud party what other real rival candidate does he see to cope with Israel's future military and economic challenges? But meanwhile, he has left Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Obama in Washington muttering between clenched teeth, "Will Yaalon just shut up and get on with his job!'

 

 Bibi's household headache…

Sara Netanyahu

 Israel's prime minister has to deal with another headache not of his own making - a new domestic squabble has landed on his plate at home. The former head of his household staff, Menny Naftali, has filed a lawsuit in the Jerusalem Labor court charging in particular that Sara Netanyahu repeatedly insulted him, even with a racist slur. According to Naftali, the Netanyahus ordered a meal from a five star hotel, but when it arrived he was blamed for ordering too much food. Sara reportedly upbraided him by saying: "We're Europeans not Moroccan like you and we don't eat so much! You make us look fat in the photos!" In another incident, Sara Netanyahu was said to have phoned Naftali at three in the morning to harangue him for ordering milk in a plastic bag and not in a carton. She reportedly demanded that he get out of bed and immediately bring a carton of milk to the family home in Caesarea, which is miles away. Bibi Netanyahu also got on the phone telling Naftali to do exactly as Mrs. Netanyahu demanded, adding this would calm her down. In a Channel 10 interview, Naftali's lawyer said there are recordings of some of the incidents. This is the third time that former employees have threatened to sue the Netanyahu family, and twenty-nine of their household staff were said to have quit within a 20-month period. The Netanyahu family issued a statement accusing Naftali of spreading 'malicious gossip with the aim of extorting unjustified money'. The racist crack also has a political ramification. Many of Netanyahu's political supporters are Mizrachi Israelis and Moroccan.

 

 

David Essing

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