Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A Little Story of Shame

It’s a fair walk from the top of Carmel, dropping down almost 500m from the top of the mountain to the main coastal highway running south to Tel Aviv. Just before reaching the junction of Ezel and Hahaganna Avenue, however, there is a small collection of kiosks selling sweets, drinks and flowers. And next to that, on a scrap of waste land, is a small shanty hut, a tent and large home-made banners in Hebrew. Welcome to the home of David Alon and his wife of thirty five years, Rena.

In broken English David tells me their story. In 2001 their son, Shel, was a soldier and, from what I can tell, he was with the Shabak HaBitahon Haklali, or Misrad Habitahon as David called it. This is Israel’s internal security agency, known just as the Shabak in English. While he was on duty in Israel, a Palestinian had attempted to wrestle his automatic rifle from Shel, apparently with the intention of turning the weapon on the people around. During the struggle, the attempt to snatch the weapon failed – a good job since it had three fully loaded magazines with forty five rounds – but Shel suffered a stab wound to the neck. His health has not been the same since. Psychological problems have also led to two suicide attempts since the incident.

As David tells me the story, Rena serves us hot strong silty coffee served in plastic cups. I ask David why is he protesting?

“For my son! They have not given him what he needs to live.”
“Compensation?” I ask.
“Yes, compensation! They give him just a little then forget. For eight and a half years, we try to get what is his by right.”
“How long have you being camped here?”
“For six months. This is now all we have! We camp here so that see us every day. To shame them.” David points out the low office block nearby. “There! There is their office. Where they work.”
“Has anybody come to speak to you?”
“Nobody. Nobody speaks to us. But they see you speaking to us. The is a camera over there.” He points to a little patch behind us where a large black dog is tied up and barking. “There. Maybe they come to talk to you after. What will you say?”
“I will tell them the truth. It’s a free country isn’t it?” I answer sweetly.
David rolls his eyes. “Ha! A democrat!” He then goes on to tell me about the press coverage, or the lack of it. Not one local journalist has decided to run the story.

Posters outlining the campaign, the bottom one showing it has been currently running for six months.

“We sleep here for six months. In the wind, the rain. I was a big man before we come here. I lose twenty five kilos. We have nothing. But we do it for my son. I tell him “Shel, I am loyal to you 100%! They are not loyal. You are family. I do this for you.””
“Why do you think the journalists do not cover the story?”
“Misrad Habitahon tells them not to. From Misrad Habitahon, they get money, they get stories. What can I give them? Nothing!”

"Journalists and TV - Why don't you come here? Are you afraid of the truth?"

David asks me whether I am Jewish or Christian. I am puzzled as to why he asks this but tell him I am a Christian.
“Christ[ian]? Good. I want to become. I am ashamed to be Jew in this country. If a person does bad, they give him medals, everything. If he does good, they walk away from him.”

"Terrorist stab me in the neck. Misrad Habitahon stab me in the back"

During our conversation, David asks me several questions. His English is not great and my Hebrew is non-existent so the conversation is a bit laborious. Rena joins in and they speak in Hebrew, with David returning to me with fresh questions. I make it clear that I am not a journalist, that I am interested because I write a blog. Finally they understand. The Alons are desperate for somebody to pick up on their and their son’s story.
“Tell a journalist to come, and somebody who can speak Hebrew and English. If you could speak Hebrew, I would tell you everything. English is difficult for us.”

The pictures show the banners that are hanging around the camp. The translations are based upon what David has told me.

Finally I bid the couple farewell and wish them luck. As I walk back up the hill I have time to reflect. I am a blog writer and not a journalist. A journalist would have asked tough questions, challenged them about their disillusionment with Israel, asked David if it was sensible to be so inflammatory towards his fellow countrymen. A journalist would have been able to check their story. My next move would have been to speak to the press in Haifa and asked them why they have not given the Alon’s story any space. I would have also gone to the press-office of the Shabak and asked them for their side of the story. I tried looking up the story of the initial attack on Shel Alon and the Alon’s six-month long campaign in the Jerusalem Post, Israel National News, Haaretz.com and Israel Insider but drew a complete blank. It goes to show that the Internet is a valuable resource but is still limited.

The flip side of this of course is what if David is right? That the local journalists won’t touch this story because of vested interests and because, although true, it shows Israel in a bad light. How else can such a story be brought to the world, except through a random meeting between a curious foreigner and a family struggling with an indifferent and powerful state?

Israel is a free country. The Alons are free to campaign and the State is free to ignore them.

 David and Rena Alon, outside the tent that has been their home for six months

*  *   *  

The next day I go to work offshore.  When I return the taxi picks me up and on the way to the airport we drive past David and Rena's camp.  
"I'm sorry," I say to the taxi driver.  "But I can't read Hebrew.  What do those posters say?  Is it some kind of protest?"
"It will be to do with the elections," replies Lulu.  "We have an election on the 10th."  He looks over at posters.
"Ah, they are just election posters?" I ask innocently.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Berlusconi Really is an Idiot

“You are kidding Joe! He said what?”
“I know!” Joe was smiling in disbelief. “How can such a man be the Italian Prime Minister? It’s incredible! What an idiot!”

It was during an afternoon walk with my friend that he told me what Silvio Berlusconi had said yesterday. The comments had not been reported on the BBC news so I had missed them.

Following several brutal rapes in the Italian capital, Berlusconi put forward plans to deploy up to 30,000 troops on the street. But when criticised that these measures would be expensive and ineffective, he replied:

“We could not field a big enough force to avoid this risk [of rape]. We would need so many soldiers because our women are so beautiful.”

As Joe pointed out to me, the logic is we might as well condone bank robbery because it is the fault of the banks having all that money in one place. I just cannot believe the depth of ignorance displayed by this individual.

I’m not going to harp on about why Berlusconi’s comment is so damaging. You are a smart person, dear reader. I’m writing about it really as a follow-up to my earlier article The Shadow Within. In that I discussed the challenges of racism and sexism that we are still facing in the 21st. Century. Berlusconi’s stupidity has given me another opportunity to illustrate the point. There are a lot of human rights issues that seemed to have been won some time ago. That is obviously not the case.

Naturally Berlusconi is unrepentant. Apparently his comment was meant as a compliment to Italian womanhood. “People should have a sense of good humour," he said. We do Silvio; that is why your comments are so appalling.

If a British Prime Minister had said such a ridiculous and insensitive remark, I hope he would have had the decency to resign.

But of course, that thought wouldn’t even cross your sexist mind, would it Mr. Berlusconi.

Selected sources



Thursday, 22 January 2009

What Does Israel Want?

I like trivia. Especially quizzes. And the one in the Jerusalem Post that morning in early December was particularly tough. I only got four out of ten correct. One of the questions stuck with me though as particularly curious. “Outside which town is the proposed site of the new Palestinian airport.” I didn’t have a clue. Ramallah perhaps? Isn’t that the capital of the West Bank? No, the answer was Netanya. Now I know that Israel is really a small place, but I’ve been there and that is definitely still in Israel and not the West Bank. A curious fact which I have been pondering since.

* * *

By a telephone call, I had just been snatched from working on my house, again, flown overnight from Edinburgh via London to Tel Aviv and frankly I was pessimistic. My driver Momi was pumping me with questions “Martin, will they find anything? Is there gas there?” Having just left the rig six days previously, I had seen no indication of the major find that was about to take place. But that is the nature of exploration: one day there is nothing, the next the whole world wants to be your friend.
Gas was not the only thing on Momi’s mind that morning. “Our attack in Gaza will be a failure if the Hamas leadership survives. But what do they do? They hide under the hospital! We don’t want to kill civilians. Why can’t they hid somewhere else?”
Perhaps they weren’t very enthusiastic about being killed, I thought to myself. What did people expect? Hamas to move into a field so that they could be decently bombed?
“But Momi,” I said. “All the Arab states have said that if Israel retreats to the pre-1967 borders, there will be peace.”
“Why can’t these people accept that they lost! We won, they lost. Get over it and move on!”

The attack on Gaza is now over. Momi didn’t get his wish: the Hamas leadership did survive. But the effect on the people and the city are terrible and it will take years to rebuild. Personally I don’t think that matters much to Israel, even less now that the Tamar gas find is looming larger and larger in the public consciousness. The Saudi’s have already pledge $2 billion worth of aid to rebuild the territory. As I outlined in my previous article “Israel and Gaza – it’s a gas!”, the Palestinians could be a lot richer than they are if Israel had not been consistently blocking the development of the gas fields offshore Gaza. But on the grounds that profits would go to finance weapons for Hamas, negotiations were ended with BG Group and the company closed it’s offices in Tel Aviv in 2007. That was not the end of the story however: talks were restarted in 2008 in an attempt to convince BG Group to sell their stake in the Gazan gas fields to a new consortium, the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).

Israel needs gas in order to secure water. The chosen method is the building of new desalination plants which are very energy-intensive. So Israel wants energy in order to deal with the effects of global warming. There is even an alternative to this however. Since I last commented upon this issue, I have been contacted by Terry Spragg who has been kind enough to outline to me a new technology for moving large volumes of fresh water across oceans without the need for container vessels, potable water tankers or laying pipelines. Known as the Spragg Bag, each individual section can hold up to 17,000 tonnes of fresh water, with what is claimed to be the world’s strongest zip fastener linking together up to five of these bags. The real smart trick however is that these bags can then be towed by a vessel as modest as a standard-powered tug boat. I can certainly see the value of this remarkable technology, especially in emergencies such as the one that Gaza is facing at this moment. Whether the Israelis will go for it to solve their own water issues, that is a matter which shall be considered in a moment.

There are a few more apparently random thoughts that I would like to add to the mix before struggling to some kind of conclusion. The first is Israel’s recently built security fence, or apartheid wall as it has been called by it’s critics. I think there is truth in both labels. As far as security is concerned, it seems to have worked. Well I was here in 2000, people were a lot more nervous. I was in a bar in Natanya which was then bombed the following week. Security was very tight within Israel. Now it is a lot more relaxed. But there are negatives to it as well. The routing of the wall was little more than a blatant land grab in many places. It’s main function however is to control, absolutely, the movement of people and goods into the Palestinian West Bank.

Likewise the withdrawal from Gaza. It was true that Israelis did withdraw people, but that is nothing like the same as granting the Palestinians within autonomy. The reason being is that the supply of goods and services remain in control of the Israelis. The bombing of the supply tunnels were justified on the grounds that these were the routes by which weapons were smuggled into the territories. Probably true, but they were also the way that most other supplies moved into Gaza too. Laying siege is not the same as granting freedom.

We finally return to the proposed Palestinian airport and why I love trivia. If the airport is built outside Netanya, it is obvious that Israel intends to remain in full control of the movements of people and goods into the West Bank. Just as in Gaza. Just as it was unhappy with the attitude of BG Group and is now pressing that company to sell out it’s stake to the Israeli-controlled IEC. What Israel wants more than anything else is total control over it’s land and resources. The political implications are even more obvious: there will never be a viable two-state solution because an independent Palestine will be outside the control of the Israeli government and this can never be tolerated.

Let us return to water. The gas is so valuable to Israel because it will allow the planned desalination plants to be powered independently of Egyptian supplies. The is an alternative however in the form of mass-importation of water from Turkey (a close ally of Israel) via giant water bags. But we have already seen the case for Israel’s love of control. I therefore think that importation of such a vital resource will not be looked upon favourably by the Israeli government. The only ray of hope I can offer Terry Spragg is this: it is Israel’s stated aim that the planned desalination plants are intended not only to supply the country with it’s water but are also to be used to replenish the depleted aquifers beneath the land. What if the fast-track to refilling the aquifers was not the desalination plants but by limited term importation from Turkey? This would mean that the desalination plants would not have to produce so much water and that the new finds off Haifa will last the country even longer. Hell, it would even be good for the environment!

Selected sources

IEC control

Spragg Bags (and photo credit)

Please refer to my previous article “Israel and Gaza – it’s a gas!” for other references.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Shadow Within

This blog entry will not be a comfortable read. The title of this article isn’t about the inauguration of Barack Obama. That for me at least seems to be a joyful and hope-filled occasion in a world where hope has been having a hard time of late. No, the shadow that I refer to is the racism that one still encounters.

When I was growing up, I was taught by my father that people are people and that basically we all want the same thing: a reasonable standard of living, good health and education for our children. That was somewhat at odds with what some of our neighbours were willing to grant us, growing up as we did in England of the 1970s during the Troubles of Northern Ireland. Having a Irish-Catholic background, people were not racist to our face, but often were behind it. My father was not perfect himself: he thought South Africa was the best-run country he had been to on that continent since it brought a better standard of living to more people, both black and white. On that basis, he was content to support the white apartheid government there. Being a marine engineer, he also did not have much time for Indian radio officers and electricians he encountered; considering them mostly lazy and inefficient. For that reason, I came to learn that he too was considered a racist.

It was when I was in my early twenties however, I took a trip down to London with a couple of friends. I had known one of them for years, but the other was relatively new to me. It was all very nice and very civilised until we got to the outskirts of Brentwood. There, they saw the first black man of the day. These nice, civilised people changed instantly. “There’s a nigger! You smell! You stinking gigaboo!” It wasn’t meant as a joke: there was real hatred in the voices. Sometime they were almost screaming. I had heard racist jokes before and had repeated them myself. That was the first time I had encountered serious, heart-felt hatred and I did not find it attractive.

When I was twenty four, I joined the oil industry. I liked it instantly as it was the first really decent job I had and also background did not seem to matter; as long as one could do the work, you would be accepted. Just what I needed. It is one of the aspects of the industry I still like today, but I have to temper my enthusiasm somewhat. Things were not and are still not today perfect. I was told by Pat, a wily and tough accountant, that I could go far. I pointed out to her that she too should be leading her accounts department, as her boss was considered weak and ineffective. “Yes Martin,” she corrected me. “But unlike you, I don’t have a pair of balls.” She was right. When I left the company to go to university, I was enlisted by my otherwise excellent boss to help select my replacement. We got the shortlist down to two and the outstanding candidate happened to be female. I pressed him upon his reluctance. His reason was that he “would not feel comfortable working with a woman.” At least she was hired, but only after intervention from above. Even when I rejoined the industry, sexism still continued to be an issue. I still remember managers who, when faced with a c.v. from a female applicant for an offshore position, would instantly throw it in the bin. I am glad now that things are changing, but female workers are still under-represented in offshore roles by a considerable degree.

As a strange coincidence, the last location where I spent both Christmas and New Year away from home, was also the place where I first witnesses hard-edged racism in the industry. That was in Cabinda, geographically part of the Congo but politically belonging to Angola. Not all the white fellows there were racist but many of them were. When challenged about it, or signs of disapproval were made, the stock reply was something like “I can be racist because I have to work with the fuckers ever day.” It was at that time a local employee had turned off an alarm that had sounded at the oil storage depot at one o’clock in the morning. The result was a discharge of up to 40,000 barrels of oil into the Atlantic, which polluted 180 miles of coastline. I raise it in context here because of the reaction of many of the ex-pat workers. Chevron would only admit in public that thirty nine barrels of oil had leaked, thereby avoiding the need to announce an international pollution incident. A government minister was reported to have angrily said “We may be black, but we are not stupid!” You can imagine the response that this brought privately among many of the white workers.

President Obama taking the oath of office withMichelle looking proudly on. Photo credit AFP

So we come to today’s inauguration, or “niggeration” that it has been called among most of the American employees on board this rig. Note I write “most”, not some. And it doesn’t seem to be a generational thing; all age groups are represented in voicing abuse. Most of the humour centred around President Obama potential for being assassinated, with one view that “I hope he gets a year in power so people can ask “what have we done?” before he gets offed.” I guess the new president didn’t receive much support from the eligible voters on board.

I hope such comments represent an decreasing view point, not just among Americans but among the peoples of the world. Obama spoke today of boundaries falling, of people realising their common humanity. I’m reminded of another fellow from Louisiana. It was a couple of months after Hurricane Katrina had devastated large parts of the state. I attempted to commiserate with him about the damage and loss of life, especially in New Orleans. He looked at me as if I was mad. “Them people were told to get out!”

None of us are perfect; even I have been, correctly, brought to book recently for one of my comments that showed poor judgement and understanding. But President Obama and his staff still has much work to do. I support him in the struggle ahead and wish him luck, success and a very long life.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Gaza and Israel: it's a gas!

The semi-submersible drilling rig on location over the Tamar-1 well

It was bound to happen. Israel can’t carry on indefinitely it’s ruthless bombardment of Gaza. With only three days left before the inauguration of Obama and the 44th President of the United States of America, it wouldn’t look good if there wasn’t as least some form of ceasefire on the table by then. The last thing that Israel needs is to get off to a bad start with the new president.

It is therefore by total serendipity that the upcoming ceasefire follows on from one of the most fortunate events in Israel’s recent history: the discovery of potentially the largest hydrocarbon reserves the country has known. Since I am directly involved in the project, I cannot say much. But I can refer you to the various press releases made by partners and a government website, The Israel Export and International Co-operation Institute.

“The Tamar-1 drilling, some 90 kilometers west of Haifa, is considered the most promising of the potential drilling sites off Israel's coast. Initial estimates were of a 35% chance of finding a reserve of 87 billion cubic meters of natural gas.”

This is relevant to Gaza, as Michel Chossudovsky points out in his article The Israeli Invasion & Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields, there has been a long-running feud between Israel and Gaza as to the exploitation of the large gas reserves that were discovered off the coast of Gaza in the late 1990s. To this day, these gas fields lie unexploited because of blocks put on development by various Israeli governments. Following the election of Hamas, efforts were redoubled to ensure that the Palestinian authorities would not see any of the estimated $2 billion that the project would yield for the Palestinian people. These blocking efforts culminated in the intervention of Tony Blair with the operators BG Group (formally British Gas) when they finally lost patience with the Israelis and approached the Egyptians instead.
Chossudovsky puts the case that Israel, increasingly desperate for natural resources, planned Operation Lead Cast to be rid of Hamas, not to prevent a few rockets being fired, but to install a Palestinian authority which would be a more suitable partner for the exploitation of Gazan gas. In other words, effective annexation of the most valuable resource the Palestinians have.

Why does Israel need this energy so badly? On top of the normal needs of a modern society, Israel is having to face another more pressing crisis: the lack of water. With climate change leading to less rainfall in recent years and an increase in population (a growth of over one million, mainly from Eastern Europe in the 1990s), the country has been growing increasingly thirsty. Development of existing aquifers has met with limited success so the authorities have turned to desalination to solve their water needs. A plant opened at Ashdod in 2006 with supply five percent of the country’s needs and more are planned. Desalination has long been used in the Arabian Gulf, where the energy required for this process has not been an issue. The same cannot be said in Israel. As the old joke goes, Moses may have led the chosen people to the land of milk and honey but it seems to be only place in the Middle East without oil. Israel is already dependent on Egyptian gas supplies and are willing to do anything to avoid becoming even more dependent on a neighbour which is still viewed as a potential enemy.

If the hopes for this discover are realised, the Tamar project may be just what Israel needs: a large supply of energy, independent of Arabic sources.

In the meantime, the people of Gaza are still dying. Expect the number of sorties to increase right up to the ceasefire being signed because there is a lot at stake. But the Tamar gas project may not just benefit Israelis but may supply what all the people of the region need: a little respite.

Let us all hope the time is used searching for a long-term peace, and not just another ceasefire.

Selected sources:

Tamar gas project
www.waterwebster.com/documents/desalinationreportjune2007.pdf (page 28 - Israel)
Gaza gas

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Traveling Back

From the East, flights to London always seem to demand getting up at ungodly hours.  Flying from Israel is no exception, even when the airplane’s departure time is a not unreasonable 07:30. 

My alarm had been set for 02:30 but as it happened I was awake way before that.  Working offshore without a back-to-back means one has to be ready to work when they need you.  A couple of nights previously I had started my surveying at midnight so my sleep patterns, having to switch on demand from day to night and back again, do get messed up.

The taxi was ready at 03:00hrs outside my hotel.  The night receptionist had kindly made me a cup of hot instant coffee, which I carried into the leather-upholstered Mercedes cab.  A good job it was, as I managed to spill some of it onto the front seat.  Not a good start but many apologies and the use of a ‘wetwipe’ later, we were off.

I didn’t get the name of my driver but like all those on contract to the oil company, he is from Ashdod in the south of Israel.  He had already had a two-hour drive up to Haifa but at least Ben Gurion Airport, just outside Tel Aviv, was en-route back home. 

The radio was tuned into a late night phone-in show to which the driver was listening intently.  Being in Hebrew, I had no idea as to content, so I asked him what the topic was.

“It’s about Gaza,” he replied.  “It’s people phoning in from all over the world.”

“What are they saying?”

“It is messages of support.  Prayers for the safety of our kids who are fighting and hope that the rocket attacks are stopped.”

“What do you think of the attack on Gaza?” 

There was a silence for a while.  I thought that he would not reply but then an answer came.

“I live in Ashdod with my family.  I have four children, the eldest of which is eleven.  Three boys and a girl.  Ashdod and the other towns have been closed for business in the past week. No schools, nothing.  Nobody goes outside because of the rockets.  My wife says to me tonight “Don’t go!  Stay inside where it is safe.”  But I have to work.”

I agreed with him that life has to continue but didn’t he think that it was heavy-handed for the IDF to be killing so many when Israeli casualties had been so low?  At that point in time, four Israeli deaths had been reported.  Of course, that was four deaths too many.

“Yes, but you have to understand we have been getting rockets every day, every day for the past six or seven years.  Our argument is not with the Palestinian people but it is with Hamas.  They hate us and it has been worse when they came to power.  What else can we do?”

This fatalism by the Israeli people seems to be the attitude of pretty much every Jewish person I spoke to on the subject.  The new bout of blood-letting seems to be accepted as part of the cycle of things.  “What else can we do?” is the usual reply from pretty much every Israeli I have heard voice an opinion on the topic.

I have been wondering about this attitude of acceptance.  On the Friday night before travelling I had met a couple of guys in the Bear Bar in Haifa, Anwar and Carmel.  Really nice lads; age-wise probably in their late twenties, maybe early thirties. Anwar had been a commander in the IDF for five years.  But as their names may suggest, they are not Jewish, rather they come from the local community of Druze Christians.  In childhood they had not been sold any dream of ‘a little piece of land for our own.’  But I am certain that if they had still been in the military, they would have played their required part in Operation Cast Lead.

It seems to me that it is their time in military service of the state that unites the people of Israel, regardless of ethnic or religious background.  Those three years (minimum) does more than anything else instil a sense of nationhood and solidarity.  It also allows individuals in Israel to look on at the suffering of their closest neighbour with detachment because these people do not have that shared experience.  They are in effect, “other.  Not one of us.”  After all, that is exactly what military training sets out to achieve.  I cannot see what else it can be because otherwise the Israeli people are warm, friendly and so hospitable.

The killing in Gaza has been continuing all week now.  Since the friendly-fire incident of a few days ago, I have not heard any news of further Israeli casualties.  Really that is a good thing.  But I so wish I could say the same about casualties and suffering of the Palestinians of Gaza.  The Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ron Proser, was on the Today Programme (BBC Radio 4) this morning, defending the IDF’s attack on the UN school which killed sixty and injured many more.  He made the claim that several days prior to the attack, Hamas had used the school compound as a site for mortar battery.

Meanwhile, in this morning’s Independent, Robert Fisk has written these lines

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians.”

At least the BBC presenter on Today had the gumption to question the ambassador on who had really broken the cease-fire.  But really even that is missing the point.  The real question should have been “why was there a siege around Gaza to begin with?”  Let me offer a possible answer.  In recent history a blockade has been used to “soften up” a country or territory prior to war being waged against it.  Iraq is the best example of this.  So, with this in mind, it can be presumed that eighteen months ago, Israel knew that they were going to attack Hamas in Gaza at some point in the future.  The ceasefire of the past summer held reasonably well; at least the rocket attacks upon the southern towns were much reduced.  It was only following the two Israeli attacks in November (killing ten Palestinians) that the vast majority of the three hundred or so rockets were fired before the cease-fire was officially ended.

There is an election due soon in Israel.  Before Operation Cast Lead, the ruling coalition looked set for defeat.  Now the polls show that they have a fighting chance of being re-elected.

There is nothing more cynical than politicians laying down the lives of people simply to win an election. 

Cited report:

Robert Fisk in the Independent newspaper, 7th. of January 2009.http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-why-do-they-hate-the-west-so-much-we-will-ask-1230046.html