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President Donald Trump could not have been any clearer- the US is ready, willing and able to totally destroy North Korea, if it continues with its nuclear weapons program. Trump's verbal escalation in the UN General Assembly should have left little to the imagination – even for a lunatic like Kim Jong un. On the other hand, Trump's declaration should not come as a surprise. Remember Barbara Tuchman's memorable phrase about a 'lantern on the stern' when it comes to charting a course for America's ship-of-state. Not just the mercurial Trump, but probably all US presidents would have issued the same severe warning – are they not duty-bound by their presidential oath to 'protect and defend' the constitution, the embodiment of the USA? And is North Korea now bent on building ballistic missiles that can reach America's West Coast?

Take JFK back in 1962 when the Soviet Union tried to establish a secret nuclear missile base in Cuba just off the coast of Florida. Kennedy waded in by imposing a naval blockade threatening to sink Soviet vessels headed for Cuba. Fortunately, the MAD (mutually assured destruction) doctrine held sway and Comrade Nikita Khrushchev ordered his armada of missiles to change course and head back home.

So Trump has upped the ante – and if Kim Jong un decides to launch another ballistic missile over Japan, will Trump order that it be shot down? The US leader will now have to do something dramatic unless he wants to lose his credibility and be accused of 'words, words, words'. In fact, the flamboyant US President did take the bull by the horns by bombing Syria in response to Assad's chemical weapons strike. Again it stands to reason that Trump will also go to the brink to prevent 'Rocket Man' from getting his hands on ICBM's that can reach Los Angeles. He will likely receive the support of most Americans after trying and failing to gain international support for sanctions against Pyongyang.

Trump also talked tough to Iran - but the Ayatollahs in Tehran are still a long way from producing ICBs that can reach Florida from this part of the globe. Nonetheless, he branded Barack Obama's nuclear accord as an 'embarrassment' to the U.S. Moreover 'this was not the last of it!' - Was Trump referring to next month when he has to recertify America's commitment to that agreement of 2015? The US leader's stand against Iran was music to the ears of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, sitting in the audience, nodded his head from time to time in approval.

Later taking the podium, Bibi refuted the latest IAEA report that Iran was abiding by the accord for nuclear inspections over the next eight years or so. The Israeli later noted the Iranians bar the inspectors from entering their military installations for example, where nuclear research is known to have been conducted in the past. Moreover, the 'sunset clause' in the agreement will enable Iran to break out for A-Bombs in the future with no restrictions. Meanwhile, the Iranian military Chief of Staff has joined the ayatollahs in vowing to wipe Israel off the map. The General was a little more specific - he would start by destroying Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city. Bibi took all this in stride, warning that Israel could take care of herself. On the contrary, such an attempt would put Iran in mortal danger. On the other hand, always ready with a card up his sleeve, Bibi told the Iranian people in their Farsi language that they were the 'friends' and he hoped there could be a return to this historic friendship of the past. Netanyahu, as did Trump, more or less skirted the Palestinian issue. Despite what they say in public, both leaders do not believe there is a real chance to advance the peace process at present after Hamas and Fatah have reportedly closed ranks.

Just a couple of hours before Trump took the rostrum an Israeli Patriot missile shot down an Iranian built reconnaissance drone, possibly launched by Hezbollah from Damascus International Airport. In the wake of the Syrian civil war, Iran and Hezbollah are trying to move closer to the Israeli-Syrian border. However, the IDF has orders to react in force immediately. In this case, when the drone approached the border, the Patriot was launched scoring a bull's eye. Two weeks ago, a chemical weapons and missile plant in Syria was bombed – Syria pointed the finger at the IDF. Israel's policy is immediate and clear-cut, the IDF will respond immediately to any infringements of the current situation and will not acquiesce in Iranian or Hezbollah now moving closer to the Israeli border in the wake of the Syrian civil war. It is not unlikely that the next hot-spot might be southern Lebanon where Hezbollah is in control and the Lebanese army has abdicated its role.

And for the first time, Egyptian President al Sisi agreed to meet Bibi in public symbolizing the expanding relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab states, which are just as concerned, maybe even more so, about the threat posed by Shiite Iran as a result of Obama's nuclear deal. It is an open secret that Israel and Egypt are now cooperating militarily in Sinai to contain radical Islamist terrorists that pose a threat to both states.

Israeli politics on Jewish New Year…

How have the security situation and the police investigations of Bibi and Sarah Netanyahu affected the political scene? The Yediot Ahronot newspaper has just published the findings of an intriguing opinion poll and it is truly amazing!

In spite of the Iranian threats to wipe the Jewish state off the map and Palestinian terrorism, only 17% of Israelis think security is the most worrisome problem. This indicates supreme confidence in the IDF's ability to defend Israel against Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and danger of terrorism.

This is what concerns Israelis the most:

  • Cost of living – 30%
  • Gap between rich and poor- 15%
  • Housing prices – 12%
  • These economic issues total 57%, while religious and social issues make up the remainder, combined with 17% who worry most about Israel's security.

So who would Israelis vote for if an election were held now:

  • The Likud (lead by Bibi) - 24 (down from 30 in the last election)
  • Labor – 22 (down from 24)
  • Lapid's Party – 18 (up from 11)
  • Bennett's party – 12 (up from 8)
  • Arab List – 12 (down from 13)
  • Kahlon's Party – 10 (up from 9)
  • Ultra-orthodox parties -13 (same as the last election)
  • Lieberman's party – 5 (down from 6)
  • Meretz – 5 (same as in the last election)

Most suitable candidate for prime minister:

  • Netanyahu- 29%
  • Lapid – 12%
  • Gabbay – 10%
  • Bennett – 5%
  • Kahlon- 5%
  • None of them – 24%

Do you believe Netanyahu that there is no basis for suspicions of financial fraud?

  • Do not believe him – 54%
  • Believe him- 34%

What mark do you give to Bibi's role as PM?

  • Very good- 12%
  • Good- 37%
  • Not good- 25%
  • Bad- 21%

If Bibi is indicted should he resign?

  • Yes – 63%
  • No – 29%

If Bibi resigns should there be a new election?

  • Yes – 57%
  • No – 28% (another Likud member to replace Bibi as PM)

Some remarks about the poll:

The poll was taken before Bibi's UN speech, which could have gained him points with Israeli voters.

Avi Gabbay, the new Labor party leader, is a new face and has overtaken Lapid's party. Gabbay is very strong on economic and social issues and less so in defense and foreign affairs. However, he is a very quick study and has adopted the policy of the late Yitzhak Rabin built on separation from the Palestinians while insisting on strong security arrangements.

Shana Tovah – Happy New Year!


 David Essing

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