Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chapter 7 (4/5): Kosher Duck (Updated)

Many fear Israel could come back to attack us this summer, but I feel this is unlikely; Hezb is far too isolated to provoke anything too rash (I am assuming Shater Hassan is rational, but in any case, he has time till Sept. 25th, apparently). More to the point, the current Prime Minister is all but discredited.

In addition, Israel has to content with the politics of the US presidential elections. The increasingly contested election is spilling overseas, as demonstrated by Pelosi’s visit to Damascus; a “courageous” mistake from anyone’s perspective, but the once-supporter of the Syria accountability act was acting for “the good of the Democratic Party”. At least, that’s what she thinks she’s doing. Her radical base is very happy, but so were the republican radicals back in the days of Gingrich the Newt. And you need more than just the base in the race for the White House.

With so much at stake in the United States, and with passions so high, Israeli politicians may be well advised to lay low. After all, the Democrats keep piling up visible mistakes.

Survival of the Foulest

In any case, Israeli politicos have their elections to worry about. Olmert has been able to postpone his misgovernment’s downfall by incorporating into his cabinet the foul Avigor Lieberman. As occupation and terror continues, bottom feeders on all sides are strengthened. The Palestinians have the likes of Hamas, but the Israelis have to contend with Avidgor Lieberman, whose “‘Da Lieberman’ reminds one of similar historical salutes”. Because of the necessities to ensure his short-term political survival, Olmert made a grave error, far more damaging to Israel on the long-term than the July War… From Akiva Eldar;

The silence of the leadership of mainstream Jewry in the world, in view of the legitimization of a person such as Lieberman, undermines the moral high ground they hold in the struggle against Israel-haters throughout the world. If a Jewish politician who aspires to transfer an Arab minority across the border can sit in an Israeli cabinet, why should an anti-Semite not sit in an Austrian government? Let's hear it for the Haiders.

There is an ongoing discussion among Ghassan, Amir, and others about Yvet’s real intentions regarding the Palestinians. would like to add my 2 cents here; behind any talk about territorial “adjustments” and population “transfers” lays an important fact; the need for Israel to secure water-rich territory, and the source of more than 30% of its freshwater.

This is highlighted in many publications in the United States, Canada, Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon. While Lieberman is still perceived as a racist among Arabs, there maybe some (twisted) method to the madness.

And some logic behind the accords, and the settlement-buidling...

Rise of Likud

It is in a bid to consolidate his government that Olmert asked Avidgor Lieberman to join “the government and blocking [other’s] own way in to the government”. The Term of the 17th Knesset will last until 2010, but “only one of the last 8 Knesset assemblies completed its full term”. This one might try to muddle through, but it is unlikely to survive beyond the next US presidential election; the Americans will need an ally with a clearer mandate that the present lame duck. This is where Likud comes in…

Once considered “passé”, the Likud is making a helluva comeback under Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of those Kadima MK’s are desperately trying to win back favour with the Bibi and his cohort. The scandals are not forgotten, but an increasing number of Israelis now consider that, while “Bibi” may have been a crook, at least he was competent.

War or Peace?

On the Long run, the Israeli politicians need to think beyond the news cycle and answer a simple question. No, it is not whether they want “War” or “Peace”; either War or Peace are but means to an end. The question they need to ask themselves is; what “end” do they want to reach?

For all the talk about “Talking to the Arab League”, the actions are worrying. The focus on MK Bishara and his supposed treason is a bad omen of Israel’s long-term preference.

To paraphrase ex-US President Lyndon B Johnson on J. Edgar Hoover; “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in”. LBJ knew how to keep people close, his potential enemies even closer, and in line.

In Lebanon, we have paid the price of isolating one another, and opened ourselves to such outside “interferences”… Perhaps they can use a look north, and learn from the example of Lebanon’s sectarian politics. An cautionary tale of the road not to travel…


37 comments:

ghassan karam said...

It is true that we have to deal with the world as it is and not as we would like it to be but when I read your post, especially the part about the moral high ground I was reminded of Abba Eban and to a lesser extent Golda Meir. I will be very brief because of the limitations of the medium, by saying that I feel almost certain that had the Mapai been able to avoid the scandal that pushed them out of office then we would not be in this pickle. Mr. Eban was steadfast in his defence of the rights of Israel but yet he dusagreed pationately with thepolicies of the Likud and even the latter day Labour. He was very clear and did not mince his words in denouncing the occupation on the grounds that no Israeli is in a position to commit such an agregious historical error as to become what his forefathers had constantly fought. To him the choices facing Israel were either to incorporate the territories into Isarel or just pull out. To incorporate was not acceptable for him because Israel would then become similar to Lebanon, a land whose inhabitants are deeply divided. . The longer the occupation continued the more it ate at the essence of the Israeli state and the more it transforms the occupiers into prison guards and who mete injustice and cruelty. He wanted Israel to pull out from the territories not for his love to the Palestinians but because of his concern of the corrosive effect of the occupation on the Israeli moral standing. And that is one point of view that Bibi and Olmert do not understand.

But back to the present. I am not sure that the US elections are close enough to play a role this early in the cycle especially if HA manages to start something. I agree that Israel will not initiate the process but if the UNIFIL fails to prevent an attempt by HA to disrupt the peace then all bets are off. One can even argue that HA are in the unenviable position where by starting a war might be the only step to save their cause.

BTW, my remarks regarding Abba Eban are not based only on second hand reports or articles. I did attend either two or three lectures given by Mr. Eban at various synagogues in the NYC area in the 1990's.

Amir in Tel Aviv said...

Jeha,

A good one.!
Didn't comment for a long time, but a devoted reader of yours and AK.

Small correction: A. Liberman does not call for transfer, but to remarking of border lines. Not to move people from their homes, but to move the border, so their homes will be within the suitable political entity, in accordance with their political / religious affiliation.
I do support this kind of solution. And BTW, it's a good idea for Lebanon as well.

Ghassan,
It was a 'Mapa'i' led government, with Aba Even as a foreign minister, who decided to take the "occupied territories", and was un-willing to give it back (sooner) for a peace deal.
It was the 'Mapa'i' Golda, who said: "Palestinian people? .. what Palestinian people.."
and showed her mandatory passport (pre-1948), to prove that SHE is from Palestine.
.

ghassan karam said...

Amir,
I am afraid that you are rewritting history. Abba Eban was never in favour of keeping the territories. His goal has always been to trade the territories for peace and has spent a lifetime arguing eloquently and strongly for that point of view. He was totally opposed to occupation as I said earlier not because of his love for the Palestinians but because of his concern about what the occupation does to the Israeli soul. Holocaust survivors cannot and must not become Capos of sorts. Many of the diplomats of the 1960's give Abba Eban lots of credit in shaping the final wording of UNSCR 242. Any close reading of 242 will reveal that the real and only intent of the resolution was to trade back all the land for peace. I would argue that the Palestinians were ready to accept that trade off but by then neither the Mapai nor the Labour could deliver on their intent. I , for one, am certain that Likud will have to eventually realize the corrosivness of the occupation and decide that the common good of the state is more important than the private good of 250,000 settlers. I think that one of the biggest missed opportunities was when both the Israeli position and that of the Palestinians coincided with each other but none of them had the courage or the foresight to note the coincidence of positions. Naturally after 1948 the Israeli were willing to accept a two state solution and the palestinians were not. Then over time they started , each of them, moving in the opposite direction. The Israelis stare=ted to become more arrogant and wanted to deny the Palestinians even Gaza and the West Bank. At the same time the Palestinians were moving in the direction of accepting a two state solution. At one point the positions crossed without anyone even noticing the other, just like two boats navigating through dense fog.

Anonymous said...

I don't like Lieberman. At all.

But Amir is correct. Rather than driving Arabs across the border, Lieberman's chief proposal is to swap land with the Palestinians and to allow the populations living in those swapped areas to continue to live where they are.

E.g., Lieberman talks about giving the Triangle (a part of Israel that has a heavily Israeli-Arab population) to the Palestinians in exchange for certain areas of the West Bank that have heavily Jewish populations living in them (i.e. big settlement blocks).

That's a race-based policy, and I don't particularly like it, but with proposals like that, this man who is considered a dangerous extremist because he is on the Israeli side would, if he were on the Arab side, be considered so moderate as to be virtually a collaborator.

The official Palestinian negotiating position is that Israel must commit national suicide. The openly espoused policy HAMAS is the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of all of its Jewish inhabitants.

Many Jews abroad don't spend a lot of time attacking Lieberman because 1. they don't want to give him additional press and credibility, which will only help him, and 2. most Jews who actually know what he is proposing don't want to defend a demagogue but also don't want to base their condemnation on the global media's deeply flawed reports about his proposals.


It is indeed sad that things have gotten to this point. I agree with Mr. Eban's assessment as discussed by Mr. Karam. Unfortunately, hindsight has 20/20 vision, but foresight is nearly blind.

Roman said...

Jeha,

As others said, Avigdor Lieberman may be a nationalist but one falls into a oversimplification trap when one dubs him as 'just a fascist-racist'. For a racist and one who supposedly wants to kick out *all* Israeli Arabs, Lieberman's relationship with the Israeli Druze, Bedoin, and even Arab Christian communities seems to be quite good.

His offer is indeed a land swap, though at some point he echoed Rehav'am Zeevi's ideas. That appears to gone with the wind now that he has bigger political image to protect, though he's still a nationalist as far as I'm concerned, and that's bad enough for me. His ideas of 'adequate military response' aren't exactly nice either.

His land-swap idea is bad as well, as far as I'm concerned, though it isn't based on race but rather on national affinity. Still not good, so no need to demonize Lieberman when he's bad enough as it is.


And indeed, though Akiva Eldar, Uri Avnery and company may view Lieberman as some kind of great big boogie-man he's far from it. Not a pleasant individual at all, but not the boogie-man.


By the way, as for Azmi Bishara... Jeha, certain Arab MK's have at times acted in ways that are not just completely illegal, but actually against Israel in total. These certain MK's have done nothing, NOTHING at all, to support coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, NOTHING to improve the lots of their voters, and sometimes everything to support just the opposite.

I'm sorry, but dearest Azmi is not liked in the Israeli Jewish street for good reasons. He wants a bi-national state? That's nice, though not something I'd support. A pity his actions and his words so far have done nothing at all to support his own agenda, and helped alienate the two communities.

And no, we don't like our Arabs to be traitors. We want them to be like Nadia Hilou. We want them to be constructive rather than destructive. Unlike our, somewhat self-blinded at times, political Left commentators I see severe issues in the current Arab parties in Israel, and like Nadia once said there's a lot of self-criticism they should exercise.


Ghassan,

Abba Eban is one of my personal favorites in Israeli politics, being one of the few capable diplomats this country ever had. But equating him with Mapai as a whole is false. And I fear it had more than one internal scandal over the years. Oh, the favourism, oh the racism... The party stagnated over the decades, with little real competition. I could go over the various issues, many of them with huge impact, but suffice to say that while Mapai was good on foreign policy it made several grave errors in internal policies. And when they screwed up foreign policy as well it was only a matter of time for the Likud to rise.

And funnily enough, the Likud was the one that made peace with Egypt. Mapai threw Sadat's offer away before 1973.


And while perhaps in hindsight one can, with great difficulty, see a Palestinian people that was ready to build a state of its own in the 67-90 period, the issue wasn't as apparent back then. Rabin and the Oslo Accords saw a time when the Palestinian people were obviously ready, as was the Israeli people and leadership, yet the Palestinian leadership was obviously lacking. I hope that factor will change eventually. We made a grave mistake with Yasser Arafat. The right dialogue with the wrong person.

Roman said...

The above was mine, by the way. My auto-Gmail sign-in screwed up my Blogger ID again.

And great post, Jeha. Overall it was a good read, and I like the cartoons. ;)

Roman Kalik said...

And here it does it again...

Stupid Gmail...

ghassan karam said...

Roman Kalik,
In my mind the original Mapai ceased to exist in 1968.

another_someone said...

What do you make of this piece?

Syrian missiles tipped with VX nerve gas wait in the wings

Roman Kalik said...

Ghassan, the seeds for its demise were planted in the early fifties. In a country with a more united political opposition and non-partisan press, Mapai would have fallen back then for any of its numerous scandals. But that wasn't yet the case, so it stayed. And stagnated some more. Until Golda and the 'great analysts' of her time gave us the big one.

Anonymous said...

Hi J it is Hazbani. Mapai is not dead I am the last Mapainik. I liked the fellow who said in my name, he said "we", "We like our Arabs to be that and that" remined of some body who wanted his jews to be so and so. Now for water, you write you are an engineer or am I wrong?. Here I realy do know what I am talking about, some thing about water. Now facts. You are using totally wrong frame of refference. The problem is not aquvifer (my spelling is atrocious). Simply there is not enough rain for 8 mill. souls. Also the same 8 mill. produce pollution. also the wells are getting deeper and pumping is becomming more and more energy consuming. Even if today you steal water from the Jews or the Pal. or the Leb. what about next year? The model of this dis-balance is Gaza, they are already now drinking sea water. Most if not all wells there have been penetrated by seawater and they are still drilling and still getting more seawater in. Already some crops can not be grown because of salinty. This is going to happen in all of Israel,if not this year than next. As I said Jews and Arabs are pumping more than the rain is supplying. Pumping water from the north is expensive and stealing watr from Leb. is war and war is very very expensive. Already Israel has decided that the problem is to be solved by desalination. And is acting accordingly and building mega disalination-Electricity complexes. Shipping water from Turkey is a con job, a 100% crooked deal. All this is simply 1+1 = 2. It is Math. not politics. The sad thing? In the gulf area there is as much knowledge about desalination as in any other place and more. Also a lot of money. Off shore Gaza there is gas. The gas is just there and some body is going to make money selling it to Israel which use it as energy source and then, as now, will sell water to the pal. in gaza, what a ripoff. The best business in the world, where oh where is Hariri,is to build (with almost free UN money) in Gaza a gigantic elecrticity-desalination complex. Create the most intensive fresh Ag idustry + a lot of Jobs and sell premium green produce to Europe and Israel. But more, Israel does not have now enough water or electricity. the builder of this complex, building it will create several 1000 jobs already, will make a lot of money selling water and electricity, which will always be cheeper than in Israel to Israel. Dreams. Anyhow please tell this story to your friends in Leb. do not belive me and then go check the basic water ballane if it is what I told you and so is the solution.
Hazbani.

Jeha said...

Hazbani,

I am merely describing the prevailing resource-centered frame in the region, which focuses on exclusive access to ever-shrinking resources.

I know all too well about the mess, but talking to people in Lebanon is pretty much like preaching in the desert... Still, there are solutions, as you suggest, but they cannot be limited to the "supply-side". However, as long as the region does not have an integrated resource management as in what started the EU, it will get worse.

Anonymous said...

And today we have the Syrian answer to Nancy Pelosi's naive idiocy.

Gee, thanks SO much, Nancy.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1176152808626&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

another_someone said...

Jeha I hope you did not miss the link I posted above.

I wonder if they are growing balls because of their reading of the current U.S. situation which is at a turning point? i.e. if Eye-rak is now this century's Vietnam, they can afford to huff and puff like a bull.
Or is it the same baa'thist game the old man used to play?

These people (spineless regimes of thugs) are also responsible for global warming, as much as G.W. has been accused of such. They are a big waste of oxygen on this planet.

Amos said...

Jeha,

Reading your post and Hazbani's comments reminded me again how ridiculous and irresponsible the continuation of our various conflicts is. I know, in the long term we will all be dead. But hopefully our children won't be. We are wasting so much time on conflicts over ideology and marginal territorial advantages, instead of thinking about the role that our respective countries and the Levant as a whole will be able to play in the global economy (of commodities as well as ideas) over the longue durée.

Roman - I liked your comments, but I am tending more toward Jeha's critique of Israel's treatment of the Bishara affair. I don't like the guy anymore than you do, and I agree that he has done a great deal of damage to the country. But I think this obsession with the loyalty of Arab Israelis to the state is crazy. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as suspicion breeds more suspicion on the other side(s). Even if it were true that the majority of the residents of Umm al-Fahm despise Israel and want to end the Zionist project, as long as they are not breaking any laws, we have to defend their rights as citizens of the state. You may disagree with them, call them hypocritical or bigoted or whatever, but they should never be placed outside the pale of the liberal democratic state.

Sorry, I'm not trying to say that this is what you were suggesting - just thinking out loud about the principles to which we need to commit before things get any worse.

Anonymous said...

It is Hazbani. No No No. No need for regional integration. Just leaders, leaders leaders. Johnson plant still work, in the evolutionary sense. Because then the people on top were leaders not the present nincampoops. There were leaders then. Half the energy of Azmi B. is enough to start building such project in Gaza. Fence the area, how good are we at fences. Cover it with UN flags and Russian and USA and Saudi flags. Start building. It is much cheeper than rearming the HZB, probably less than 10% how many jobs is being produced by this and by that?. It is million times more feaasible more logical more economical than the Red sea to Dead sea idea. The national water pipe in Israel was then more complex. The great dams in Egypt. Such a plant is a turn key Job. With the right people it can realy work in surprizingly short time. Look at the dams in the USA just prior to the WW II Look at other national endeavours. How much Nuc. electricity is being produced in France, 40%, 60% 80% ? of the national consumption, how much-little pollution and heat are these producing? . Indeed we are living in FU times with FU leaders. So much free privet money so much potential ability, so little practical ability. Sad sad sad.

Jeha said...

I fear we're beyond the Johsnton plan, which was already a limited framework. Importing water from other sources is not practical either.

Because we're all "interconnected", we need more integrated solutions. But you're right, we definitely need another crop of leaders, all across the board.

ghassan karam said...

"Because we are all interconnected, we need more integrated solutions".
Jeha, am I to understand that I am not the only "ecologist" on these pages? :-) What a pleasant surprise especially if you turn out to be the Arnes Nasse / George sessions / Georgescu Rogen variety i.e. the current environmental crisis does not essentially lend itself to a technological solution.

Jeha said...

Ghassan,

In short, Yes.

However, I would also add to that list Adam Smith, Krugman, Julian Simon, Rosen, Tony Allan, as well as a few Lebanese iconoclastic academics (we tend to produce proportionally more of them).

A bit eclectic, but there is method to the Chaos (as always...). Since I am an engineer, I am essentially essentially a "problem solver", with a few provisos;

1- Not all problems need to be solved, because some can be simply due to our own human foibles. Better work on fixing the foibles; for example, car driving is nice, but it does not have to be that extensive... We can do with a little more public transportation without falling into a ant farm model.

2- We need to never overlook the "Precautionary Principle". Some solutions can bring in a host of other, unforeseen problems. And we cannot foresee everything. Genetic engineering is a great tool, but we can tend to overdo it... Maybe liberalizing farm markets can obviate the need for higher yields in some areas; food can be grown in regions with a comparative advantage.

Basically, I am no peacenik or tree hugger, but I am convinced things like biodiversity are valuable for their own sake. Just because you cannot value it at the present does not mean you should waste it; as knowledge progress, you never know what new uses can come of it. An example is the loss of the Cedar forest in Lebanon due to the short term actions of the Phoenicians; we lost much more than a few trees. We lost the topsoil, micro climates, and huge tourism revenues... Back then, the Phoenicians had no tourists to consider, but the loss tho later generations far outweighed the gains to the previous ones; losing your inheritance is bad capitalism.

Roman Kalik said...

Hazbani, the "we don't like Arabs to be traitors" reference was due to an article Jeha linked to on Haaretz. Where the author insinuated the exact opposite. Those links aren't working for me anymore though... Odd.

And personally, I wish all of our MK's were more like Nadia Hilou. More time doing your job in parliament, less time flying around on the taxpayer's money. Or taking bribes, as our kind Minister of Treasury is apparently so inclined to do.

Amos, in general you are correct. But in the particular case of Azmi dearest, he's treated exactly like he should be. Bishara acts as the representative of the Arab street here, and the true flaw here is to take him as such, to take his personal views as those of all the people who voted for him. And at the same time, the Israeli Arabs should do well to not elect idiots like him, in the same way as we shouldn't elect Liberman.

I take Bishara as a fucked-up individual, and little else. In the same way that I wouldn't take Hassan Nasrallah's personal views to be the same as the Lebanese Shi'a.


And Jeha, I tend to agree on the need for a more integrated solution. But that would require us to stop trying to kill each other constantly, wouldn't it...

Amos said...

Roman,
Agreed on Bishara.
Regarding your praise for Nadia Hilou - there really aren't too many MKs like her left. I find it curious that the ones who do remain, are mostly women. I'm thinking of legislators like Zehava Gal-On (even if you disagree with her ideologically - I don't - her phone is on 24h for constituents to call) and Shelly Yahimovich (we never hear about her - that's because she's doing real stuff!). I also like Yuli Tamir. This list is admittedly slanted to the left.

Roman Kalik said...

Amos, not all of them are women. From Labor, take Braverman. Poor fellow really did a mistake when he joined the political game, but though he's completely inept at it he's at least trying to be productive. A few of the younger Likud MK's also show promise, and I hope that trend will continue now that the infamous Likud Party Center has been castrated.

Then you have Shas. As a rule, half of their MK's are some of the best people we have. And at the same time, the other half doesn't know what its doing there. I like Yisha'i, his record is that of an extremely efficient and capable individual in whatever ministership you put him. It's only a pity he has to clean up Olmert's mess these days. Then there's Atias, he's possibly the first Comminication Minister for the past three decades to actually *do* something.

And Shas tend to keep their phones on too. You may not agree with their overt focus on religion (;-b)...


By the way, Shas has even drawn in some votes from the Arab sector, mostly religious Muslims and those who still remember Yisha'i as Minister of Infrastructure. That's almost miraculous for a party that focuses on a very defined religious Jewish group. ;)

Oh, and Yehadut Ha'Tora has one capable person. Litzman.


That's about it, really. There was some hope for the Pensioners, but it would seem that that hope was moot.

Amos said...

Not sure I am as sanguine as you seem to be about Shas. We'll see. It's clear that they are doing a better job of representing the interests of their voters than Labor or Likud have (not to mention Kadima). Some of my relatives are Shasniks (send their kids to the schools, etc.). Much of their base's affiliation to the party is based on identity politics though ("we're mizrahim and we keep Shabbat, so we'll vote Shas") - the party will be torn between people who care, at least somewhat, about the public good, and those who want to use it solely to get specific grants for pet projects.

Having said that, yes, Shas even gets votes from the Bedouin sector - see my brother's pre-election post from last year. Evidence that they clearly have moved beyond a constituency based only on ethnic and religious affiliation.

Back to work.

Jeha said...

another_someone, Anon 23:04

I did some reading and checking; there is nothing really exceptional about this bluster, and I suspect they would have done some of it anyway, albeit potentially at a lower tone...

I read more about the VX thing. I do not think this is a new threat; it's been on record for a while. To put it in perspective, the Syrians consider their 300 or so VX missiles a strategic asset to balance Israel's nuclear arsenal. Though I would be surprised the Syrians have that many warhead... Also, I do not think the Israelis have anywhere near 100 operational Warheads; that Namibian test detected by the U.S VELA satellite on September 22, 1979 would have validated the basic design, but not enough for to form the basis of an extensive arsenal...

In any case, contrary to Egypt, Iraq, or Iran, they do not appear to deploy tactical warheads. I am not sure, however, if those Scuds have a good enough range; sometimes range comes at the expense of payload.

another_someone said...

Jeha,

I agree with your assessment, thanks for taking the time.

IMO Junior is becoming more adept at playing dad's old games (yes we want peace and the Golan, and we are ready to sign a peace treaty tomorrow [for 'western' consumption], we can kick Zionist ass under great lion's leadership [for internal consumption]). It guarantees backside covering on all fronts. And if he nails it, expect 30 more years of stalemate. Senior was a great tight rope walker, lets see what this one can do.

Different players, different cards, different conditions, and different rules, but the same attitude.

BTW caught a Debka wire (sorry do not have the link, also it is Debka so...;)) saying 500 (?) HA members just got major ground to Air training, support and ammo. from the MidgetJad regime, to add their arsenal and counter the IDFAF.

As usual interesting times ahead in middle earth. Someone should start charging money for this political dramatic movie thriller. They'd be trillionnaires in no time.

fubar said...

Debka report at: http://www.debka.com/

But it is Debka where they are also reporting incorrectly that a British Officer has been relieved of command a Prowler squadron on the Ike. The Commander relieved of command is USN.

Anonymous said...

The lebanese people in their vast majority support hezbollah.
This blog is nice in form but the content is really crap and full of... Wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

Oh great. Some thing to realy talk about. Phoenicians and trees. J. Why are you blaming them for neglegence and uncontrolled use? . From the voyage of Wanamon in the LBA on to Assyrian times,Persian times, Hellenistic times (why did Alexader destroy Tyre? Sur, trees and ships and trade). If we read carefully all the evidence, and there is a lot, we can see that the Phonicians are guarding the trees.It is the Emperial powers that are harvsting them with out account. 1200 BCE Egypt, Then Assyria, some beautiful letters about Assyrian control of timber trade. Then after years Roman forest markers. See : John Pairman Brown, 1969, The Lebanon and Phoenicia, AUB, Beirut. what a great Book. Did the second volume ever come out? By the way did you people see the research on the Lb. Cedars from El-Akza? people thought that they might have come from Herod temple. They probably did not but it was an interesting research. We do find Lb cedar all the time in Arch. excavations in Israel. These forests can be revived and even the act of revival can pay it self by eco-tourism. Why the geat Leb diaspora can not start like we the Zionists and for every Leb child born abroad plant a cedar at home?As for tourisms, Going to Temples, like the Hadz today, was the tourist industry of the past. Bal-Bek was a center of tourism then. And people from the whole Levant went there and spent a lot of money. Better talk about things like that than politics, it is a good therapy. Hazbzni

Jeha said...

Anon 17:48

stating that the Lebanese in "their vast majority support" Hezb will not make it so. The fact is that sectarian nation of ours, Hezb is a sectarian party par excellence, and their support is limited to at most 80% of the Shiite community, and therefore less than 25% of the inhabitants of the country. Any support from outside the community is purely short-term, cynical opportunism. In any case, I am convinced that time will prove me right.


Hazbani

I am not "blaming" anyone; I am only stating facts as they have been established.

The references you cite are excellent, but recent work looked into additional parameters. It has been demonstrated that Lebanese Cedar's forests were overexploited, from 74%, we're down to less than 5%. Israel is not a very good example. To be sure, there is a lot of growth in forests growth thanks to the replanting of trees, but they are far from back.

The main problem is two fold; shifting rain pattern, and loss of topsoil when trees are removed. In Lebanon, we have about 40% of barren land. Israel is limited by the fact that rain clouds are shifting away, towards the north/north-east because of climate change.

Anonymous said...

Jeha, interesting stuff. Can you provide some references for the newer climate change information?

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the blame. Overexploitation is a managerian problem. It is never caused by the people who actually subsist on the forest resources or even those who live, as farmers,in the margins and partially depend on the forest. As were the Phoen., I think. Generally natives with little outside contact manage forest resources better that under intensive allien influence and much much better than under Empirial commercial domination or even worse under local agent working for far away commercial interests. Shell I say Brasil and Burma ? The topsoil problem is not directly associated with deforestation. Cereal Farmers and fruit tree growers can do good work of top soil conservation after forest clearing. As the terraces in Leb. Isr., Peru and SE Asia show. But you must have a central govenment that will back this back breaking job of terraces building and even more maintaining. I did some research on 1/2 life of terraces in Isr. It is a log process, it is less than 100 years. Not counting catastrophic events. So after an intensive period of terraces building taking care of them is the basic problem. It is a vicious cycle. No terraces, no food, no people, no terraces, no food, out migration, no terraces, no food.....The top soil in Leb. was lost because of complex set of circumstance not because of just local mismanagement. As for the rain shifting well I did not get your time span. But research in Israel seems to show flactuations in precipitation, like a drying period just before the muslim conquest, there were others. But Hungtinton`s theories about close dependance of cultures on weather are not universally accepted. I think that any decline in ag. that is also erosion and loss of top soil that is not in the desert fringes, that is ~ 200 mm. a year, especially in Leb. west of the mountains watershed has more to do with politics than with precipitation, but this field of research is very active now, as any body who read papers know why. But like the other fellow a reff. to the shift in the circulation and rain paterns will be appreciated.
Most sincerely yours Hazbzni

Jeha said...

Hazbani,

Ye3mar dinak! Sobta... You hit that nail right on the head. We are indeed facing a tough managerial challenge, paradoxically related to our past successes in thriving in the region; in his excellent work, Hillel touches on this topic when he discusses the pitfalls of the Plowshares and Terracing.

As to the shift in rainfall patterns, I have yet to re-find that reference; I am not as organized as I like to think... Sorry... :S

ghassan karam said...

Availability of fresh surface water is scarce and is increasingly becoming so all over the world. That is an inevitable by product of the seriously flawed policies that have failed to lower fertility and that are bent on pursuing economic growth at any cost, even the health and integrity of the biotic community.

The water problem in Israel is more severe than it is in some countries but less severe than it is in others. I will spare you the detailed data but Israel is not suffering of a great water shortage and is not projected to do so any time in the next two decades. The water resources of the two acquifers and Lake Kinneret are essentially sufficient to meet all Israeli non agricultural demand for water. Agriculture will have to make do with water of lower quality; recycled sewage brackish suppliesetc... It is fool hardy to deny the potential of a water crisis of significant proportions but the current facts are not as dire as some claim them to be. Israel is building and will continue to build desalination plants, develop crops that are not as water dependent, continue to innovate in more efficient irrigation techniques and a better and a nore efficient recycling plans from the sewage treatments. Israel is estimated to be able to supply sustainably close to 3000 MCM per annum of water while its demand in all sectors is also expected to be contained at under 3000 MCM each year by around 2025.

As important and as essential of a resource as fresh water is I do not believe that it is enough of a scarce resource yet to be allowed to derail potential peace arrangements for the very simple reason that regional precarious balance between supply and demand for this precious commodity will not be immeasurably upset by either war or peace. Peace on the other hand offers a better chance to coordinate efforts and resolve the water crisis. Lack of abundance of water resources is a cause for concern but must not be allowed to create mistrust and strife.

ghassan karam said...

Jeha/Amir?Hazbani ...
I would like to bring to your attention an article/column that appeared in the Financial Times of April 19, 2007 and written by Henry Siegman. It is so relevant to the discussion of the "Israeli High Moral Ground" or lack of it that we have been having that it could have been written as a commentary to this blogs current post. I recommend reading it especially because one can posit that such an opinion piece would have been unthinkable by a strong advocate of Israel a few years ago. Simply Mr. Siegman thinks that Israel and the Arab League have exchanged positions yet one more time. The Arab League has become the genuinely interested peace party while Israel has adopted what used to be the Arab Leagues' rejectionist Khartoum position of the three No's!!!

Jeha said...

Ghassan,

This may well be a side-effect of the Arab-Iranian struggle, and the unpopularity of the current Israeli government. While the Arabs move to settle their "rear-guard" as they prepare for confrontation with Iran, an unpopular idiot struggles to remain at float in Israel.

There are many such "counter hedges" in the Middle East...

Anonymous said...

GK you asked my opinion? on this subject J is speaking for me. Espcially about the idiot. However ! I, being a Levantine, add that this transfer of authority is a one time revokable situation no use as a precedence is implied or advised. Hazbani

Jeha said...

Hazbani,

Being a Levantine as well, I understand this was a one-off. Though I am flattered, I will not ceded to our modern Arab foibles in considering the situation irrevocable.