Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Pope Benedict has left the Holy Land bequeathing a message of peace, tolerance and love between all religions and peoples.
We hope that message also filters through to the eternally fractious relationship between journalists and security men – which gets even more strained when a high-profile visitor like the Pope is in town.
Months of elaborate preparation went in to ensuring the Pope’s visit was safe and successful and also to ensure journalists got controlled access to major events to tell the stories their readers and viewers want to see.
This planning process is hostage, however, to a simple dichotomy which pits journalists against bureaucrats and security officials.
Pope Benedict has crossed through the imposing concrete wall that separates the West Bank town of Bethlehem from Israel to visit the town of Jesus’ birth. The wall is part of the nearly 800 km security barrier that Israel is building in and around the West Bank in a series of walls, fences, berms and ditches. He was accompanied to the checkpoint on the Israeli side by Israeli security before driving through the barrier to meet up with his Palestinian security escort.
Crossing back and forth through the checkpoints that dot what Israelis call the “separation barrier” – and which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the pope was “the apartheid wall” – is a routine part of life for many people here. Yet it can shock newcomers to see this physical manifestation of the conflict in a region that is just a pocket-handkerchief on the map of the world. It is a measure put in place for security (as per the Israelis) or annexation and grabbing of land (as per the Palestinians). One wonders what the Pope was thinking as he crossed through.
Israel’s economy is, in large part, mirroring what is happening elsewhere in the world – with job losses, factory closures and all the other symptoms of the global financial meltdown.
One sector though is defying all the odds.
Elbit Systems – an Israeli company that makes electro-optics, airborne systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and command and control systems – announced this week a record 4th quarter with profits rising 32.6 percent and strong forecasts for continued growth in the year ahead.
There’s an old joke that goes “If Moses had turned right instead of left when he led his people out of the Sinai desert - the Jews would have had the oil and the Arabs would have ended up with the oranges.”
The Land of Milk and Honey it might be – but over the years one major problem for Israel, a tiny strip of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, has been energy security.
Israeli newspapers are abuzz this morning as they mull over the possibility that ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman could be appointed foreign minister in the government that Benjamin Netanyahu is working to stitch together.
The strong showing by Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel our Home) party in last month’s election – where it won the third most Knesset seats ahead of the Labour Party - has put the Moldovan-born former nightclub bouncer turned bureaucrat in a strong position in the lobbying for top ministerial posts in the new government.
from Global News Journal:
Who remembers the Google Wars website that was doing the viral rounds a few years back – a mildly amusing, non-scientific snapshot of the search-driven, internet world we live in?
It lives on at www.googlebattle.com where you can enter two search terms, say ‘Lennon vs. McCartney’ or ‘Left vs. Right’, and let the internet pick a winner by the number of search hits each word gets.