| Israel’s Mileikowski too STINGY to go to Mandela memorial!

Some will dispute the Israeli prime minister’s excuse of ‘cost’ issues.

Given the inspiring example of the man whose memorial service was attended by almost every leader or deputy leader of the world’s more significant powers, it is surely time for Jerry Dammers and the rest of The Special AKA to bury the hatchet. The author of “Free Nelson Mandela” and his bandmates fell out many years ago. But if they would undergo a peace and reconciliation process and reform, you have to imagine that Coventry’s finest would wish to rework Dammers’s gloriously upbeat protest song in the cause of arguably the most glaring, and certainly the most heart-rending, Soccer City absentee of yesterday.

Well, something must be done to liberate Benjamin Netanyahu – who cancelled his trip to South Africa on cost-cutting grounds – from the poverty that imprisoned him at home. The profits from a worldwide hit record would, at the very least, be a useful first step.

Regrettably, if predictably, some will dispute the Israeli prime minister’s explanation, divining other reasons for the 11th-hour refusal to attend. They think that $2m – the alleged price of chartering an El Al jet to Johannesburg and deploying a military plane for his security detail – is not, in these unique circumstances, a huge outlay. In real terms, in fact, factoring in any moral obligation to pay respects to Mandela on behalf of the Israeli people, they calculate that it equates to a little less than thruppence ha’penny.

Such sceptics would further point out that this devotion to penny-pinching represents a startling change of heart. Bibi had become well known for his taste for Cuban cigars – who knows, he might have snaffled a box of Cohibas in the VIP zone from Raul Castro – and venerable French cognacs. Long, long ago, in the April of 2013, under a less punishing financial climate in which he felt entitled to go to such events, he authorised the diversion of £127,000 from public funds to equip a plane with a bespoke sleeping cabin for the marathon five-hour flight to London for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. Meanwhile, he has lately dipped into the public coffers to find $1,700 for scented candles, $22,000 for a water bill at his holiday home, and $3,000 for ice cream at his favourite gelateria.

Taking such expenditure into account, and unconvinced by his conversion on the runway to Jo’burg, the cynics and sneerers suspect that Bibi, to borrow from Mrs Thatcher’s Lincolnshire dialect, was frit. That he was scared of being booed in the stadium by those who remember that Israel was the apartheid regime’s last and doughtiest friend in the developed world, and by those who detect similarities, however vague, between the maltreatment of black South Africans and the subjugation of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Others may wonder if he took fright at the prospect of bumping into Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, of whose bona fides on the nuclear issue he remains mildly unpersuaded.

Are they so deaf that they cannot hear, in his insistence that the only thing keeping him away was the cost, the authentic ring of plain truth? He is not so blind, after all, that he cannot see the metaphorical message his self-imposed isolation from his leadership brethren sends to the world about Israel’s growing isolationism and quickening journey towards pariah statehood under his muscular stewardship. And even if he is, what brand of maniac would waste possibly the hottest ticket in human history if a feasible way might have been found to raise the cash?

I like to think that he did not waste it entirely, and sold it on e-Bay (it would have raised enough to keep him in vanilla scoops and Monte Cristos for a while). That, or he generously gave it away, perhaps to some lucky tobacconist, ice cream vendor or aircraft carpenter who played the Tommy Cooper role at the Royal Variety show, when he asked the Queen if she was going to the FA Cup final. She said that she had no such plans. “In that case, Ma’am,” said Cooper, “can I have your ticket?”

Anyway, spare a thought for the anti-FW de Klerk of Israel as he stoically endures his church (or synagogue) mouse existence at the head of the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the region. And  now  sing along as we anticipate the Dammers’s reworking of that protest classic, looking ahead to the day he completes his long walk to freedom  from unflinching monetary shackles,  and feels able once again to honour departed figures of planetary importance with his presence.

Free (free) Bibi Nethanyahu,

Free (free) Bibi Nethanyahu

He’s so poor, you would  not believe

He’s so broke that he could not leave

Penniless, stuck in Tel Aviv

Free-eeeeee Bibi  Nethan-yahuuuuu

________________________________________________________________________

NuttyDivorce

| Conning zion? Netanyahu flies into turbulence over $127,000 bed on plane!

Netanyahu flies into turbulence over $127,000 bed on plane ~

Outcry in austerity-hit Israel over news that ‘rest chamber’ was installed on plane ferrying PM and wife to London for Thatcher funeral!

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in China this week

Binyamin and Sara Netanyahu in China this week. It was pointed out that the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who will be 90 next month, spent an 11-hour flight to South Korea seated. Photograph: Avi Ohayon/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli prime ministerBinyamin Netanyahu, has encountered severe turbulence after it emerged that he ordered a double bed to be installed on a plane that carried him and his deeply unpopular wife, Sara, to Baroness Thatcher‘s funeral in London last month – at a cost of $127,000 (£83,000).

The revelation comes amid growing resentment over an austerity budget proposed by the finance minister Yair Lapid, a former TV personality who won popular support in January’s election by promising to champion Israel‘s financially squeezed middle class. Up to 15,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities on Saturday night in an echo of the massive social justice protests that swept the country two years ago.

Following an outcry over the cost of installing a “rest chamber” on the chartered El Al flight, Netanyahu’s office said that henceforth no sleeping cabins would be provided on short-haul flights to Europe.

Initially, officials defended the move – disclosed by Israel’s Channel 10 on Friday evening – in a statement that was immediately mocked by commentators for its detailed account of Netanyahu’s schedule.

The statement said: “The prime minister took off for London on the night after Independence Day, in the course of which he attended a reception for outstanding soldiers at the presidential residence, the World Bible Quiz, a reception for diplomatic personnel in Israel and the Israel prize ceremony. The flight was booked for midnight after a day full of events, and afterwards the prime minister was to represent the state of Israel at a number of official international events, including meetings with the prime ministers of Canada and Britain. It is acceptable for the prime minister of Israel to be able to rest at night between two packed days as those.”

El Al, Israel’s national airline, was paid $427,000 for the charter flight, including the cost of the chamber. A smaller plane, without sleeping quarters, would have cost $300,000, according to Israeli media reports.

Channel 10 pointed out that the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who will be 90 next month, spent an 11-hour flight to South Korea seated in business class.

Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, Sima Kadmon said: “We thought that nothing could surprise us anymore when it came to the Netanyahus’ personal behaviour. Well, we thought wrong. It turns out that King Bibi and Queen Sara are entitled to do everything … The double bed that was installed on the plane cost the Israeli public, which is buckling under the weight of the austerity measures, half a million shekels. Is there no shame?”

The disclosure of Netanyahu’s in-flight sleeping arrangements follows the revelation earlier this year of a prime ministerial budget of $2,800 for ice-cream. A contract with a Jerusalem ice-cream parlour was swiftly cancelled.

Meanwhile, the Israeli public is facing a 1.5% rise in income tax, a 1% increase in VAT and a reduction in child allowances as part of an austerity package, which critics says disproportionately penalises the middle class.

Anger at demonstrations on Saturday focused on Lapid, whose party Yesh Atid (There is a Future) came second in January’s election and is now a key partner in Netanyahu’s coalition government. Lapid had pitched his campaign at middle-class voters who were the mainstay of 2011’s social justice movement.

Daphni Leef, one of the protest leaders, called on Lapid to “take from the tycoons, not the people … from those who have and not from those who don’t”.

Lior Tzur, 31, told the Jerusalem Post: “Lapid sold us all an illusion that he’ll change things and help the middle class, when really he’s just going to continue the same policies of money and power that existed before.”

A poll published in the pro-government Israel Hayom tabloid last week found that more than 50% of respondents said their confidence in Lapid had fallen since the election.

_________________________________________________________________

Silence A

netanyahu (3) nuttyUNa

 

| It’s time to bury not just Thatcher – but Thatcherism!

It’s time to bury not just Thatcher – but Thatcherism ~ The Guardian.

She didn’t save Britain or turn the economy round. We need to break with her failed model to escape its baleful consequences.

They have only themselves to blame. Protests were always likely at any official sendoff for the most socially destructive prime minister in modern British history. But by turning Margaret Thatcher’s funeral into a state-funded Tory jamboree, puffed up with pomp and bombast, David Cameron and his acolytes have made them a certainty – and fuelled a political backlash into the bargain.

As the bishop of Grantham, Thatcher’s home town, put it, spending £10m of public money to “glorify” her legacy in the month benefits are slashed and tax cuts handed to the rich is “asking for trouble”. What’s planned today isn’t a national commemoration, but a military-backed party spectacle.

It’s a state funeral in all but name, laid on for none of the last seven prime ministers. Nothing of the kind has been seen since the death of Winston Churchill, who really did unite the country for a time against the mortal threat from Nazi Germany. Thatcher did the opposite, of course, though every effort will be made today to milk her short but bloody colonial conflict in the south Atlantic for all its jingoistic worth.

It’s hardly a surprise that 60% of the population oppose the public subsidy, or that Buckingham Palace is alarmed at the funeral’s regal dimensions. Now the decision to silence Big Ben has tipped the whole saga into the realm of offensive absurdity.

There’s been much talk about a need for dignity and respect. But the prospect of the leader of a class war government being treated like a respected head of state is itself an insult to the half of Britain that recoils from her memory and the millions of people whose communities were devastated by her policies.

From the moment the former prime minister died there has been a determined drive by the Tories and their media allies to rewrite history and rehabilitate a deeply damaged brand. For a few days of fawning wall-to-wall coverage it seemed like that might be working, as happened in the US after Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004.

But a week on, it’s clear the revisionists have overplayed their hand. Anger and revulsion keep bursting into the open. Simply raising her record reminds people of the price paid for unrelenting deregulation, privatisation and tax handouts to the rich; why she was so unpopular across Britain when she was in power; and the striking similarity with what’s being done by today’s Tory-led coalition.

So there’s been no polling bounce for Cameron, even as he claimed that Thatcher “saved our country”. And while people recognise her strength, polls show clear opposition to many of her flagship policies, including privatisation (only a quarter think it’s delivered a better service). Most don’t believe she “put the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain” at all, her economic policies are seen to have done “more harm than good”, and her legacy is regarded as one of division and inequality.

Which is what the facts show. Far from saving Britain, Thatcher’s government delivered rampant inequality, social breakdown, disastrous financial deregulation, pulverising deindustrialisation and mass unemployment. A North Sea oil bonanza was frittered away on tax cuts for the wealthy and a swollen benefits bill as public services were run down, child poverty escalated and social mobility ground to a halt.

But for all that, her apologists insist, Thatcher did what was necessary to turn Britain’s economy round. But she didn’t. Growth during the 1980s, at 2.4%, was exactly the same as during the turbulent 1970s and lower again in the post-Thatcher 1990s, at 2.2% — while in the corporatist 1960s it averaged over 3%.

And despite claims of a Thatcher “productivity miracle”, productivity growth was also higher in the 60s (and it’s gone into reverse under Cameron). What her government did do was redistribute growth from the poor to the rich, driving up profits and slashing employees’ share of national income through her assault on trade unions. That’s why it felt like a boom in better-off Britain, as the top rate of tax was more than halved, while real incomes fell for the poorest 40% in her first decade in power.

You only have to rehearse what Thatcher’s government unleashed a generation ago to recognise the continuity with what’s been happening ever since: first under John Major, then under New Labour, and now under Cameron: privatisation, liberalisation, low taxes for the wealthy and rising inequality. Thatcher was Britain’s first woman prime minister, but her policies hit women hardest, just as Cameron’s are doing today, while Tony Blair says he saw his job as “to build on some of the things she had done rather than reverse them”.

But Thatcherism was only an early variant (following her friend GeneralPinochet, the Chilean dictator) of what became the neoliberal capitalism adopted or imposed across the world for the next generation. And it’s that model which imploded in the crash of 2008. As even the free-market Economist conceded last week, while demanding “more Thatcherism, not less”, her reforms could be said to have “sowed the seeds” of the current crisis.

Like other true believers, the magazine’s editors fret that the pendulum is now swinging away from the neoliberal model. So does Blair, who remains locked in the politics of the boom years and whose comfort zone remains attacking his own party. So he’s launched a coded assault on Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, for supposedly thinking a crisis caused by under-regulated markets will lead to a shift to the left.

There’s certainly no automatic basis for such a shift. As history shows, the right can also take advantage of economic breakdowns – and often has. But more than 20 years after Thatcher was forced out of office, the evidence is that most British people remain stubbornly resistant to her individualistic small-state philosophy, believing for example that it’s the government’s job to redistribute income across the spectrum and guarantee a decent minimum income for all.

And crucially, the economic model that underpinned the policies of Thatcher and her successors is broken. As the Labour frontbencher Jon Trickett arguedthis week, we need a “rupture” with the “existing economic settlement” – the Thatcher settlement. That’s the challenge of the politics of our time, not only in Britain. As we remember blighted lives and communities today, it’s time not just to bury Thatcher, but Thatcherism itself.

Link to video: Margaret Thatcher’s coffin arrives at Westminster

_______________________________________________________________

RIP Thatcher

| Margaret Thatcher: the lady and the land she leaves behind!

Margaret Thatcher: the lady and the land she leaves behind ~ Editorial, The Guardian.

___________________________________________________________________

Her legacy is public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed that together shackle the human spirit.

___________________________________________________________________

Whether you were for her or against her, Margaret Thatcher set the agenda for the past three and a half decades of British politics. All the debates that matter today in the public arena, whether in economics, social policy, politics, the law, the national culture or this country’s relations with the rest of the world, still bear something of the imprint she left on them in her years in office between 1979 and 1990. More than 20 years after her party disposed of her when she had become an electoral liability, British public life is still defined to an extraordinary degree by the argument between those who wish to continue or refine what she started and those who want to mitigate or turn it back. Just as in life she shaped the past 30 years, so in death she may well continue to shape the next 30. These are claims that can be made about no other modern British prime minister. She was in many ways the most formidable peacetime leader this country has had since Gladstone.

The fact that Mrs Thatcher was Britain’s first and so far only woman major party leader, chosen entirely on merit, and then Britain’s first woman prime minister, were of course huge landmarks. But her gender, though fundamental to her story, was in the end secondary. It was at least as significant, in the evolution of the late 20th-century Tory party, that she came from a petit-bourgeois background, a shopkeeper’s daughter, though the man she overthrew in 1975, Ted Heath, had similarly middling origins and John Major an even humbler start. There was something of the rebel and outsider about her, as well as much that was stultifyingly conventional.

Mrs Thatcher’s transcendent quality, however, was that she was a political warrior. She had a love of political combat, a zealotry for the causes she believed in, a reluctance to listen to advice, a conviction that she was always right and never wrong, and a scorn for consensus that set her apart from almost all her predecessors and, with the occasional exception of Tony Blair, from those who came after.

Mrs Thatcher was proof positive that personality matters in politics. As a young minister she did not seem destined for greatness. Even her election as Tory leader was something of a surprise, though her audacity in going for the top job while so many more senior figures hesitated was an indication of what was to come. Early on in her leadership, she was much patronised by male colleagues and adversaries. But as the social democratic consensus faltered in the 1970s and then cracked in the 1980s she rode the wind of history with an opportunist’s brilliance. A Britain led by Willie Whitelaw or Michael Heseltine would have faced most of the same challenges that the one led by Mrs Thatcher faced. But the response would have been completely different. For good or ill, she made a difference.

The late Guardian columnist and Thatcher biographer Hugo Youngreflecting on her overthrow in 1990, identified five large events that would not have happened the way they did without her.

The first was the Falklands war of 1982, which Young described as “a prime example of ignorance lending pellucid clarity to her judgment”. Surrounded by sceptical men who had fought in the second world war and knew what combat involved, she went for it. The result was an astonishing and absurd military triumph followed by an electoral one, which elevated Mrs Thatcher from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

A second, which would not have been possible without the authority conferred by the first, was the dethroning of trade union power. Once again, against the instincts of ministers – and the grandest of grandees, Harold Macmillan – who all preferred compromise to confrontation, she fought the miners’ strike to the bitterest of finishes, in a contest that was always about industrial strategy rather than just coal.

Arguably even more important than these headline events was the third example, the conduct of economic policy. There had been a New Right before Mrs Thatcher, but it was the ideas of Friedrich von Hayek, as articulated to her by a series of domestic rightwing ideologues, on which she seized. It was Mrs Thatcher, abetted by her chancellors Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson, who drove the policy that the public sector was an unproductive burden on the wealth-creating sector and on taxpayers, and must therefore be reduced and privatised. It was she who insisted that the chief aim of government economic policy should be price stability, and that it should not give priority to reducing unemployment or to stimulating demand.

And it was she again who seemed to believe, far more than those around her, that the market economy required not a minimal state to protect it but a strong state, marked by everything from the abolition of local government autonomy to the enhancement of police powers, intolerance towards gay rights, the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin, and increased defence spending. She made enemies without flinching, and they reciprocated. Her rule was marked by the most serious urban riots of the 20th century, one of the most divisive strikes in recent times, and the century’s most audacious prime ministerial assassination attempt, which thankfully she survived.

Mrs Thatcher’s unique mark was also felt in the two confrontations that ultimately undid her. The first was the poll tax, which was disastrous, unjust and was her policy alone. The poll tax came to embody a prime minister who ruled from conviction not sense, and who did not care about, indeed gloried in, a confrontation that destroyed the Tory party in Scotland and may indirectly come to destroy the union she otherwise championed. Similarly, and less easily disposed of after her fall, was Europe. Mrs Thatcher began her prime ministership as a pragmatic, if often acerbic, European. But as she became a bigger figure on the world stage, feted both by Mr Reagan and by Mikhail Gorbachev, she became increasingly strident and disruptive towards Europe. Her style became the policy, cementing the love affair with an already overmighty press but with disastrous effects for her leadership (which was ended by Sir Geoffrey’s resignation over the issue), her party (which became obsessed with the subject) and for Britain. Except for Mr Blair in his early years, every British leader since has felt Mrs Thatcher at his shoulder in dealings with Europe, to the lasting national loss.

When she arrived in Downing Street in 1979 she talked about replacing discord with harmony. She may briefly have meant it, but the harmony she sought in the long term was one whose terms were set overwhelmingly in the interests of the British business class as she perceived them. She disdained the public realm and presided over the growth of the cult of marketplace success as the foundation of a good society – a low-tax, home-owning, privatised, high-carbon, possessive, individualist, winner-takes-all financial model whose failure haunts the choices still facing this country today. Much was wrong with the Britain she inherited in 1979, undemocratic union power among them, and many things, though not wrong in themselves, were unsustainable without radical change, including some nationalised utilities. Britain would have had to alter radically in the 1980s and 90s, and the process would have been hard and controversial. But, as Germany and other northern nations have shown, economic dynamism has been possible without the squandering of social cohesion that Mrs Thatcher promoted.

In the last analysis, though, her stock in trade was division. By instinct, inclination and effect she was a polariser. She glorified both individualism and the nation state, but lacked much feeling for the communities and bonds that knit them together. When she spoke, as she often did, about “our people”, she did not mean the people of Britain; she meant people who thought like her and shared her prejudices. She abhorred disorder, decadence and bad behaviour but she was the empress ruler of a process of social and cultural atomism that has fostered all of them, and still does.

The governments that followed have struggled to put a kinder and more cohesive face on the forces she unleashed and to create stability and validity for the public realm that yet remains. New Labour offered a first response. The coalition is attempting a second draft in grimmer circumstances, and there will be others. There can certainly be no going back to the failed postwar past with which Margaret Thatcher had to wrestle. But there should be no going back to her own failed answer either. She was an exceptionally consequential leader, in many ways a very great woman. There should be no dancing on her grave but it is right there is no state funeral either. Her legacy is of public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed, which together shackle far more of the human spirit than they ever set free.

___________________________________________________________________

Tolerance