Letter from Israel: When will they ever learn?

After months of playing a game the likes of which have few comparisons in modern history, the war in Iraq is now a reality. From a personal point of view I gave a sigh of relief. This may sound callous, but living in Israel one is more or less on the front line, and the tension for me had reached a point where it was almost unbearable. So now the mighty war truck of the United States will go forward eventually achieving its object, with the British van bringing up the rear. No doubt Tony Blair will be rewarded with a few miserable rebuilding contracts, like a begging dog being thrown half eaten food from the dinner table.

Now, although the threat of Scuds falling out of the sky has not entirely disappeared most people here seem to have started to relax. But in Israel one can never really relax! As the fear of ordinary working class Israelis of being hit by Scud missiles recedes, a new monster has just appeared on the stage, more evil and more threatening than any delinquent dictator in Iraq, its name: THATCHERISM.

Israel's economy is in a mess and this state of affairs appears all the worse when one harks back just a few years and remembers that Israel had achieved what, as far as I know, no other country had achieved: ZERO inflation. But that was in the old days BS, (Before Sharon), that is before Sharon embarked on his quest to become Prime Minister and "solve" the Palestinian problem. Ah the Palestinians, they crop up everywhere! Even in the midst of this current war they are mentioned. And it is they (or rather the relentless fanatical approach of Sharon and the nationalistic clique in Israel to this problem), that are supposed to be at the heart of Israel's bankrupt economy. But all is not lost folks. Who is this I see on the horizon? None other than Benjamin Netanyahu wielding the flag (or is it a handbag) of the Iron Lady, and all our problems will soon be solved. He is going to sell off all the state run utilities, privatize Israel's small but very good rail system. And even more good news, he is going to split it in to THREE systems. Now where have I heard of that before?

I have lived here in Israel for over thirty years, and have seen all the pitfalls that each government has lurched into before they happened. It's easy, all one has to do is refer to history. But it seems that politicians like to make their own mistakes rather that learn from others.

So last night as I watched the live broadcast of Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu our new rightwing hawkish finance minister, who learned his capitalistic ways in that bastion of free (go to the wall if your poor, black or some other minority) enterprise, the US of A. I felt like a prisoner waiting for his sentence to be handed down. You see both my wife and I are invalids living on pensions. Would this man, who had never known poverty, who had always had everything, touch our only source of income? The answer was NO. But inevitably as this new financial policy will fail, as it has everywhere else that it has been tried, will we be safe in the future?

I write this article from the security room of my flat. I am sure that its concrete walls, airtight window and door, and the new gas masks on the floor in the corner, will protect me and my wife if Saddam Hussein, in the last of his dying throws, has the ability (something I doubt) to launch some terrible weapon at us. But this room will not protect me and all the people who will lose their jobs, or be forced to work without union rights, from the financial madness that is about to be unleashed upon us.