September 23, 2007

5768

New Year Message to Likud-Herut UK

This time last year our brothers and sisters in Israel limped into 5767 in a state of shellshock in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War. For many the bombshells were real as they fell on Israel’s northern towns while they cowered in totally inadequate shelters. But even for the elites living in the relative quietude of Ramat Aviv, there was shock at the scale of the government’s miscalculation of Hezbollah’s missile threat and the mishandling of the war itself by one of the most inept, unprincipled, and scandal-ridden governments imaginable.

Whatever Mr Olmert may have lacked as a leader, he made up in heaps of pure chutzpah and utter contempt for his people. He brazened out the most damning indictment of Winograd’s initial report. He made light of mass demonstrations calling for his resignation. He spurned poll ratings lower than the margin for error. He thumbed his nose at the justice system by reinstating his convicted friend as a top minister within weeks of finishing his soft community service at a riding school in the Sharon. What must the world think of the Middle East’s only democracy? What kind of light is this to show to the nations?

Despite the unpleasant reality of Olmert’s continuing hold on power - with the connivance of coalition parties corrupted by cabinet posts, perks and grants - there have been many reasons to be cheerful. It has been a relatively quiet year in which the economy and shekel have continued to strengthen. With the exception of the January attack on a bakery in Eilat, we have, thank G-d, seen no further suicide bombings in our streets. And whilst the Kassam threat to Sderot continues, we have seen more pre-emptive and retaliatory strikes on Gaza terrorists behind those launches.

All this has to do with other positive developments, not of Olmert’s making but rather forced upon him. There is the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as a strong and charismatic chief of staff to lead the IDF in its re-training and new direction. And, for all his faults, new labour leader Ehud Barak is clearly a safer pair of hands to hold the defence ministry. You can be sure that if war breaks out again before the next election, Mr Barak will be running the show without tolerating any interference from Olmert. Just in the last few days we have seen a major intervention in Syria over which both Ashkenazi and Barak showed dignified satisfaction, while Olmert was quick to take the bows.

Alas, for Israel a period of quiet often means trouble looming. And there is no doubt that Iran’s proxies in the north and south are restocking for another missile war. We pray that next time we shall be ready and inflict nothing less than total destruction on those who seek to wipe our nation off the map.

A fitting message to the world for our 60th year of statehood.

Wishing you and all our wonderful people a Shana Tova

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