Amid Chaos of Storms, U.S. Shows It Has Improved Its Response

ATLANTA — The two massive storms brought death and suffering and damage that will be measured in the billions of dollars. They left millions of residents cowering in their homes to ride out pounding rains, and left evacuees — hundreds of thousands of them — scattered across Texas and the Southeast.

At the same time, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have revealed a largely unnoticed truth often buried under the news of unfolding tragedy: The United States appears to be improving in the way it responds to hurricanes, at a time when climate scientists say the threats from such storms, fueled by warming oceans, are growing only more dire. For all the chaos, the death toll from Harvey and Irma remained surprisingly contained: about 85 thus far in Florida and Texas.

“There’s no doubt that we’re doing better,” said Brian Wolshon, a civil engineer professor and evacuation expert at Louisiana State University. “The stuff we’re doing is not rocket science, but it’s having the political will, and the need, to do it.”

Across much of Florida and the region on Tuesday, stressed and exhausted families were assessing damage from Irma, or just beginning the arduous journey home, often grappling with gasoline shortages, sweltering heat, and power and cell service disruptions in addition to downed trees and damaged property. At least 13 people were reported dead in Irma’s wake, although the toll could still rise in the Florida Keys.

The pain was felt where the storm hit hardest, like the Florida Keys, where an estimated 25 percent of homes were destroyed and bleary-eyed residents contemplated a battered landscape of destruction.

And the pain was felt far away as well: in Jacksonville, where there was still major flooding from epic storm surge, heavy rains and rising tides; in Georgia, where at least 1.2 million customers were without power Tuesday; and in Charleston, S.C., where Irma’s effects coincided with high tide, causing some of the worst flooding since Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the area in 1989.

The political will Mr. Wolshon cited has arisen, in large part, from the two defining, and very different, disasters of the century: the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and, four years later, Hurricane Katrina, whose floodwaters put most of New Orleans underwater and left more than 1,800 people dead.

The terrorist attacks in New York and Pennsylvania revolutionized the way American government coordinated disaster response. Katrina stimulated a new and robust conversation about the power of natural disasters, and, more specifically, forced Americans to rethink the growing threats from floodwater.

These issues have become central themes for government in recent years, and Richard Serino, a former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was not surprised that the response to the storms thus far has gone relatively well.

“It’s no accident,” he said. “We’ve been training people for this for the last 16 years.”

These events, and other disasters before and after, have fed into the collective knowledge of how a modern nation should respond to hurricanes, serving as catalysts for improvements in weather forecasting, evacuation policies and hurricane-resistant building practices.

Experts said all of them most likely played a role in keeping the death tolls lower than expected in the last few weeks. The planning and response also benefited from a few lucky turns in the weather, the growing sophistication of personal technology — the iPhone did not exist when Katrina struck — and a public dialed in to the internet and tuned into 24-hour television news.

The deadly problems posed by hurricanes are at once ancient and rather new: Hal Needham, a coastal hazard scientist who runs a private consulting business in Galveston, Tex., notes that it was not until after World War II that populations began to soar in the hurricane-vulnerable states of Texas and Florida. The rise of satellite-based meteorology came only in the 1960s. Before that, hurricanes could still come as a surprise.
Today, lawmakers enjoy better weather forecasts, but now face the problem of what to do with millions of people who may lie in a storm’s path. Mr. Wolshon does not agree with all of the evacuation decisions made in the face of Harvey and Irma, but he said they were made with an evolving and increasingly sophisticated understanding of the challenges.

In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner and other local officials decided not to call for a mandatory evacuation before the arrival of Harvey, in part because of the nature of the threat to the area. Harvey, by the time it reached Houston, was not expected to bring storm surge or high winds, so much as pounding, extended rains. In this case, it was difficult to know which areas would flood and which would not. So officials decided to encourage people to stay put.

It was a marked difference to the strategy of Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, who announced Thursday to 6.5 million people: “Leave now, don’t wait.”
Dr. Needham said that the move was probably the right one. “When Irma was bearing down on Southeast Florida it did appear several days out that we could potentially see Category 5 winds in the metro Miami area,” he said. “When you have a massive flood event, if you can you just go up, if you’re in a condo or an apartment.”

But in whipping, hurricane-force winds, sheltering in place probably would not have been as safe as hitting the road. Evacuation also made sense given the threat of huge storm surges, experts said.

Miami did not end up experiencing extreme winds, though much of South Florida did take a beating. Lives may have been saved because of the drastic overhaul of South Florida building codes after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. That massive storm damaged or destroyed 125,000 homes in the area, and the new codes have forced developers to build structures that could better withstand hurricane-force winds.

Houston, too, has learned from its tragic past. In July 2001, southeast Texas was hit hard by Tropical Storm Allison, which caused serious flooding. It prompted officials at Houston’s Texas Medical Center, billed as the largest medical complex in the world, to undertake a $50 million upgrade that included installing flood doors and putting generators high enough that they could not be inundated.

Dr. Needham said that these changes probably helped keep the death toll down in Texas. “If the power goes out in a hospital with premature babies and elderly people on ventilators, you can really see an increase in the loss of life,” he said.

Both Texas and Florida probably also benefited from the growth and sophistication of the federal Department of Homeland Security, and the training that even tiny communities have undergone since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The storms also unfolded at a time when government disaster response has grown more sophisticated, an evolutionary process that did not necessarily begin with the Sept. 11 attacks: James Witt, the FEMA director under President Bill Clinton, recalls going to Congress to fund a modern operations center after discovering what passed for one at FEMA headquarters up to that point.

“The operations center was so bad that they had telephone wires hanging out of the ceiling and foldup chairs and tables,” he said.

But the federal disaster-response system grew markedly after 9/11. And while the Homeland Security Department has been criticized as being expensive and bloated, it has also insured a system in which local, state and federal officials are inured to the idea of working and communicating together.

Still, few observers were openly celebrating the government response to the storms in the United States. The damage was too vast, not just in Texas and Florida but also in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The response continues, with the rebuilding likely to last years. And everyone knows that Texas and Florida had some good fortune beyond the scope of human influence: The big winds never hit the major urban areas, and in Florida, capricious Irma did not deliver a storm surge as devastating as some had predicted.
“While thankfully the impact on people injured or killed was low, this is largely a factor of luck,” said Ahmad Wani, chief executive of One Concern, a California-based company that seeks to use new technologies to create “next-generation disaster response” systems.

Mr. Serino said that Harvey had introduced another cutting-edge idea: relying on residents, not just government workers, to make significant contributions to hurricane response. “Now we’ve seen images of neighbors helping neighbors,” he said. “They’re the real emergency medical workers.”




Henry Kissinger once quipped that “Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic policy.” It appears increasingly like this aphorism would be more applicable to the recent months of US President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Asians wonder who is more dangerous: President Trump or North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” pondered USA Today on August 12. Democrat Keith Ellison, who came in second in a race to lead his party in February, said over the weekend that Kim Jong Un was “acting more responsible than this guy [Trump].”

The endless turnover at the White House and the constant tweeting by the US president has led to feelings that chaos in Washington is damaging the ability of the US to conduct foreign policy.

Let’s review some of the turnover: national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned in February; there have been two communications directors; FBI director James Comey was fired in May; press secretary Sean Spicer left in July; and Reince Priebus also packed his bags as White House chief of staff in July, replaced by Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly.

So far in August, there have been no major shake-ups, but the investigation against Russian meddling in the elections is slowly progressing and will require testimony by top Trump officials and aides.

So some six months in, Trump is already facing the chaos Richard Nixon encountered after five years and which Clinton faced six years into his administration. The foreign policy of Clinton and Nixon were deeply affected by problems in the White House and chaos at home.

For Trump, the test now comes from North Korea with its tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July. The UN Security Council unanimously backed sanctions on August 5, but the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang has only increased.

Trump has also threatened Venezuela with “a military option” after the country held disputed elections for its constituent assembly. Trump’s threats against North Korea and Venezuela have annoyed China, Mexico, Colombia and Peru; South Korea and Japan are also concerned.

This puts Trump in an awkward place. The more he threatens and doesn’t carry out his threats, the weaker he looks.

In April, when Trump struck Syria’s Bashar Assad, there was a feeling that this unpredictable president might reverse policies of the Obama administration.

In some countries, especially outside of Europe, Trump’s brand of politics was welcomed.

Fifty Muslim-majority countries attended Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia in May.

Although he was criticized for this, speaking to mostly dictators rather than “the people” as Obama had in Cairo, the reality was that, as an expression of American power, the Riyadh summit was a success.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries welcomed a more robust US policy and hoped the administration would turn a blind eye to human rights issues. Similarly, Turkey had welcomed Trump’s ascendancy, as had Russia. China welcomed US Defense Secretary James Mattis’s diplomatic overtures regarding the South China Sea in February.

But there is ample evidence that initial hopes for the Trump administration on foreign policy, especially from authoritarians who think “we can do business with him,” to other countries that thought he might moderate in office, have been dashed in recent months.

Chaos at home means Trump lacks the political capital and united front back home to confront threats.

North Korea and other countries want to test America’s red lines, as they have former administrations.

Assad and others also watch Washington closely. News that the US was shuttering a CIA-backed program to support Syrian rebels may be only symbolic in importance on the ground, but they send a message to Damascus. NATO powers have expressed concern about US commitments, as well.

This adds up to a toxic mix that can threaten US policy. Foreign policy doesn’t turn on a dime, it is like an oil tanker – it moves slowly and cautiously. Foreign countries expect consistency.

That is why some US allies in the Middle East expressed concern over Obama’s Iran deal.

But Obama enjoyed stability at home. There were no leaks, no special prosecutors, no scandals and no “covfefe” tweeting at midnight.

With Trump, countries that thought they might get a new policy are concerned that what they have instead is a chaotic America that is lurching back and forth on policies abroad. Despite having a competent team around him, Trump needs to reassure the world that domestic issues will not affect US policy.

Where’s Paul Ryan (White Freemason) in All the Comey Chaos? In Ohio, Talking Taxes

NEW ALBANY, Ohio — As the fallout from President Trump’s sudden firing of James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, consumed Washington on Wednesday, the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, wandered through an Ohio packaging plant admiring innovations in fish bait technology and smiling at workers as they stuck labels on soap wrappers.

Brushing off questions about the latest drama that threatened to stall the Republican agenda, Mr. Ryan tried to stay focused on a subject that is dear to his heart and his party’s goals: tax cuts.

“We have a tax system that penalizes job creation, economic growth, saving,” Mr. Ryan, tieless with his white shirt sleeves rolled up, said during a round-table discussion with local business leaders and lawmakers outside Columbus. “We want to fix that so we have more of the things we need in this country.”

Mr. Ryan’s optimism that the most sweeping overhaul of the tax code in 30 years would be accomplished this year stood in stark contrast to the chaos he left behind in the capital. That turmoil intensifies the challenge he faces in trying to sell ambitious pieces of legislation in a country that is increasingly polarized and distracted by White House intrigue.

Some analysts warned on Wednesday that the way Mr. Comey was fired was a sign that a tax overhaul could be too big of a lift for lawmakers in this political environment.

“The Comey firing does not kill tax reform,” analysts at the financial services firm Keefe, Bruyette and Woods wrote to clients. “But it does reinforce our view that the Trump administration is not operating as effectively and efficiently as it could be, and that it has been slow to learn important political lessons in the past four months.”

Protesters gathered outside the factory, criticizing Republicans’ tax and health care policies.CreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times

The analysts noted, “Some of its actions continue to appear impulsive and create distractions from achieving important policy victories.”

Surrounded by local business leaders in one of the country’s most critical swing states, Mr. Ryan offered only broad brush strokes about the tax plan. He spoke of lowering tax rates for American companies so that they can be more competitive globally, simplifying the tax code for regular workers and getting an intrusive Internal Revenue Service off people’s backs.

While factory workers in red shirts stood and listened with their arms crossed, the full opposition to Mr. Ryan’s plans was on display outside.

Dozens of protesters from liberal groups marched along the road in front of the building where Mr. Ryan was speaking. They accused Republicans of promoting tax cuts that would benefit the rich and loudly criticized Mr. Ryan for pushing through a health care bill that they said would take away insurance from the sick. “Because of Ryan, people are dyin’!” the protesters chanted.

Prominent Ohio Democrats also gave Mr. Ryan a frosty welcome, organizing an event before his arrival to warn that Republican tax policies would not lift the state’s sluggish economy. David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said the Buckeye State was a case study of why Mr. Ryan’s plans should be abandoned. “He’s coming to a state that has lived through seven years of trickle-down tax policy,” Mr. Pepper said. “It hasn’t worked in Ohio.”

It is not only people outside Washington to whom Mr. Ryan must sell his plan. Congressional Republicans have been in talks with the White House over how to bridge differences between the ideas Mr. Ryan laid out in his “Better Way” plan last summer and the tax outline Mr. Trump released last month. Members of the House Ways and Means Committee are expected to hold their first hearings on tax legislation this month.

One of the main points of contention between the plans is the border adjustment tax on imports that Mr. Ryan and House Republicans want. The tax would be a big boon to American exporters, but companies like retailers that rely heavily on imported parts and products have warned that it would be a major burden for them and their customers.

Workers at the factory watching Mr. Ryan’s remarks. One of the company’s founders and chief executives said she was hopeful that Republicans in Washington would focus their energy on making changes to the tax code that would help small businesses. CreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Mr. Ryan told the assembled group in Ohio that he was working on ways to ensure that the new tax did not harm American industries. But opponents of the idea remain deeply wary.

“We’re gravely concerned with the impact it will have on consumer prices and on retail sales in Ohio,” Gordon M. Gough, the president of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, said in a conference call before Mr. Ryan’s visit.

Domenic Federico, the president of BriskHeat Corporation in Ohio, warned that his global business, which produces heating components, would face substantial headwinds if a border tax were imposed on imports. He said it would probably force him to cut up to 30 percent of the 300 workers he employs at the company’s Columbus offices.

“Imports and exports are not a zero-sum game,” said Mr. Federico, whose company sources parts from around the world.

Even Tara Abraham, a founder and chief executive of Accel Inc., the contract packaging company that hosted Mr. Ryan on Wednesday, said she was concerned that a tax on imports would have a problematic “trickle-down” effect on her company.

However, she said she was hopeful that Republicans in Washington would focus their energy on making changes to the tax code that would help small businesses, and would not be consumed by political squabbling.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Ms. Abraham said. “But I’m always worried about the distractions.”

Dems in chaos as leadership void leaves them unprepared to challenge ‘radical’ Trump (VERY VERY VERY GOOD!!!)

Democrats face some major internal obstacles as the opposition party to President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which have been gathering power since his surprise election win.

The Democratic National Committee won’t get a permanent chair and staff until March, which is more than half of Trump’s first 100 days in office — when he and GOP lawmakers are expected to launch a blitzkrieg attack on outgoing President Barack Obama’s legacy, reported Politico.

Democrats were so certain Hillary Clinton would win that no detailed contingency plan was set up, and that looming leadership vacuum is already hindering their response to the Trump transition.

“It’s a very serious concern,” said Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor and 2008 presidential candidate. “I just went on TV twice (Sunday) on Fox and MSNBC on the Cabinet appointments, and I winged it.”

He said the party doesn’t have a game plan at this point, as Trump fills out his Cabinet and attacks the CIA over evidence that Russian hackers aided his presidential campaign.

“You need something right now,” Richardson said. “Trump every day is doing something outrageous. What do we do? Criticize everything he does? Hold back a bit? I know we need to develop an economic message, but that’s long term. We need something now. Most of the Democrats I talk to are down, and they’re asking who’s in charge.”

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown have taken the lead in attacking Trump, but Democrats say the party needs a more organized and unified response.

“It’s bigger than his first 100 days,” said Boyd Brown, a South Carolina Democrat. “If Trump controls the message, which he has continued to do and will only do more as the sitting president of the United States, this could snowball into a very big issue for Democrats and independent voters out there.”

“We are totally letting him control the message and control the story,” Boyd continued. “He’s setting traps and we’re taking the bait. Carrier? Prime example. We’ve got him on this Russia deal, but we’ll find a way to mess it up.”

R.T. Rybak, the DNC vice chairman, said the situation is urgent.

“The importance of these first few weeks is illustrated by my memory of the first few months of the Reagan administration, where radical change came so fast that it was difficult for opponents to know where to fight, which battles to pick,” said Rybak. “There’s a need to affect these issues immediately, and there’s also the related issue of how to re-position, how to be the party we need to be.”

One Democrat who frequently appears on TV said others are too timid to speak out against Trump without guidance from party leaders.

“People are afraid to go out there,” the Democrat said.

Chaos in Caracas: Venezuelans opt for aliya as situation deteriorates


In the past decade, Jerusalemites, like many Israelis, have embraced Latin American culture – be it eateries in Mahaneh Yehuda or natives conversing with Spanish speakers in the streets, having learned the language from “telenovellas” (Spanish soap operas).

Strikingly few Israelis, however, question what is prompting hoards of Latinos to move from their homes.

Be the first to know – Join our Facebook page.

This is particularly the case for Venezuelan immigrants, whose stories are untold and the situation in their country of origin unknown by their fellow citizens. This piece offers an insight into a country in crisis, and its residents, who have decided that aliya is their last remaining option.

Kidnappings, bulletproof cars and the black market are now common in the Venezuelan Jewish community.

While they are generally far better off than most of the population, who are suffering from lack of food and medicine, many Jewish Venezuelans have reached their limits given the ever-declining state of the country and are choosing to move away from the chaos unfolding before them.

Those who choose to make aliya face all the immigrants’ usual problems: financial uncertainty, unfamiliarity with the language and a foreign culture, with one main distinction: they do not have the option of returning home.

The stories of Israel’s Venezuelan olim are untold. This article offers an insight into a country in crisis and its residents who have decided that aliya is their last remaining option.

In the early 20th century Venezuela discovered its oil reserves. Since then, this resource has served as the country’s primary income, dominating exports and government revenues.

Fluctuating oil prices and worldwide economic crises have severely affected Venezuela’s economy through the past few decades. The situation only worsened with government decisions to devalue the national currency – the bolivar – under the rule of Hugo Chavez, who governed the country from 1998 to 2013, when he died of colon cancer.

Chavez was a controversial leader, who promised “a peaceful and democratic social revolution” and, in the eyes of many, delivered anything but. Many of his policies triggered protests throughout the country, due to his rewriting the constitution to allow himself a wider range of power; an energy and water crisis that resulted in rationing; and price controls on basic produce that often resulted in shortages.

Following his death, vice president Nicolas Maduro took over and was elected president in a narrow victory in 2013.

President Maduro has declared a state of emergency, for the second time this year. The government points its finger at American efforts to destabilize Venezuela and at the country’s elite, who are accused of taking more than their fair share of supplies, and are said to be the cause of an “economic war” between social classes.

Most economists agree that the combination of drastically decreased oil prices and the government’s failure to save money for hard times are to blame. Most, if not all, of the Venezuelans who were interviewed for this article would add the government’s more “questionable” policies – implemented under the guise of socialism – as a factor.

The sad irony is that while citizens can fill up their petrol tank for a dollar, there is a shortage of toilet paper and milk, among other basic commodities, leaving Venezuelans no choice but to purchase these items at black market prices, or queue for days at a time outside supermarkets, hoping both for a delivery and that there would be products left by the time they enter.

Forbes recently dubbed Venezuela “the Country with No Coke,” due to the company’s decision to halt production there because of the sugar shortage.

The bolivar is virtually worthless and, according to research conducted by Simon Bolivar University, 87 percent of Venezuelans say that they do not have enough money to buy food.

Maduro has begun to ration water and electricity, the latter causing government offices to open for two half-days per week. Outside of Caracas, hospitals are struggling to help patients, due to a lack of medicine and even gloves and soap. The situation is decidedly grim.

Historically, Venezuela has had a strong relationship with the Jewish people and with Israel. It was among the few countries to welcome boatloads of Jewish immigrants escaping from the horrors of Nazism in Europe, and in 1947 voted for the establishment of a Jewish state. In the past 15 years the situation has changed.

Jewish Venezuelans, limited solely to the capital, Caracas, tend to have access to American dollars, worth far more than the bolivar, meaning their financial situation is much more comfortable than those who rely on the country’s flaky currency. Dollars allow members of the Jewish community to maintain a fairly normal life, with the ability to purchase expensive or rare products on the black market, and ensure that they can afford luxury apartments, expensive cars and numerous maids – a lifestyle that they are well aware they would not enjoy should they leave Venezuela.

Life, however, is certainly not easy.

Economic unrest prompts robberies at gunpoint and kidnappings, where the kin of wealthy families are held hostage until a ransom has been paid. Moreover, anti-Semitism, which peaked with Chavez, who publicly condemned the State of Israel, is an ongoing threat.

Gabriel, who began university studies in Caracas, found that wearing a kippa on campus was a very uncomfortable experience – particularly in light of the events during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, which prompted vandals to enter the main Sephardi synagogue and throw the Torah scrolls to the ground, as well as graffiti anti-Semitic sentiments on the walls. The Chavez government then expelled the Israeli ambassador, leaving the two countries with no diplomatic relations.

Anti-Semitic graffiti outside Caracas’s main shopping centers (photo credit: HEBRAICA VENEZUELA)Anti-Semitic graffiti outside Caracas’s main shopping centers (photo credit: HEBRAICA VENEZUELA)

The government’s narrative, which holds Venezuela’s economic elite accountable for many of the country’s hardships, finds a natural scapegoat in the wealthy Jewish community, contributing even further to the rising anti-Semitic attitude. The community’s numbers have, accordingly, decreased from 25,000 to fewer than 9,000 in the past 20 years.

While lifestyle and livelihood appear to be the only redeeming features in a bleak situation, the country’s slow decline means that the situation often goes unnoticed. “When you cook frogs,” explains Roberto, a Venezuelan oleh, “you put them in cold water, alive, and you boil the water so that they won’t notice the temperature rising, and then they die. If the water was boiling, they would jump out. It’s the same thing that’s happening in Venezuela.” By the time Roberto left, his family had to go through four doors just to enter their house, and an electric gate surrounded their property for security. Such measures were added so gradually that it took them a while to notice they were effectively living in an extravagant prison.

For those who decide to leave Venezuela, the question is, leave for where? Popular destinations include Miami, Panama City and Israel.

The younger twenty-somethings are the first to move, with college or entering into the professional world serving as an ideal gateway. Out of Gabriel’s 120 classmates at the Jewish high school, around 100 have moved abroad.

“I think the Jews will leave Venezuela, eventually,” predicts Roberto, lamenting that had the 40-year-olds with families left with him 10 years earlier, “they would have had a chance at a new life; now, it is much harder.”

Daniel is still living in Venezuela, with plans to move to Miami in the upcoming months. The promise of business opportunities and many friends already settled there determined his decision.

Daniel, still living in Caracas, feels a sense of helplessness ‘in what everyone has to go through to get the most basic commodities’ (photo credit: DANIEL AZULAY) Daniel, still living in Caracas, feels a sense of helplessness ‘in what everyone has to go through to get the most basic commodities’ (photo credit: DANIEL AZULAY)

“It’s impossible to make any goals or predictions for your personal life and for any business [in Venezuela]… and it’s definitely not somewhere I would build a family in the future…. Every day is getting worse, and I personally don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel or even a slight chance of improvement anytime soon,” he says.

His parents, however, have chosen to remain in Caracas. “[My father] has his whole life there…. He built his business from scratch 45 years ago and has put all his efforts into it since then, so now he is not willing to leave, unless it gets to the point that it’s completely impossible for him to maintain it and he feels forced to shut down.”

The Venezuelan Jewish community is strikingly idealistic in regard to Israel and often cynical about the rest of the world.

Leon, who left Venezuela four years ago, planned to attend law school in the States before realizing: “I was in love with this country…. [Israel] is like family; it’s tough, but it gives me freedom that you can’t find in other countries.”

Leon left Venezuela four years ago and found a sense of freedom in Israel (photo credit: LEON MARKOVITZ)Leon left Venezuela four years ago and found a sense of freedom in Israel (photo credit: LEON MARKOVITZ)

Gabriel had a similar decision-making process. After accepting a scholarship to Yeshiva University, he decided to make aliya instead, much to his parents’ discontent.

“I really felt like this was my home, this was the place that I should be. All other places, like Miami, would be another station, when the final destination is Israel.” Roberto notes that “Israel is not for everyone,” identifying the economics and language as the toughest challenges, whilst concluding: “Everywhere else in South America is like rolling the ball; eventually you would have to move.”

In fact, he made aliya with his family due to medical reasons. His father was diagnosed with cancer, and to receive treatment in Venezuela, he would have had to wake up early in order to travel to another city to receive the actual medicines, while jumping through numerous bureaucratic hoops, and then later in the afternoon would have had the treatment itself. Their family was among the first to leave, after which a big wave of emigration followed.

Hebraica, the Jewish Club in Caracas (photo credit: HEBRAICA VENEZUELA)Hebraica, the Jewish Club in Caracas (photo credit: HEBRAICA VENEZUELA)

“[Even 10 years ago] everyone could see that there was no future in Venezuela,” Roberto says.

One of his contemporaries, who was employed at PwC business advisers, was making five million bolivares each month, which then was worth around $150. Taxi drivers held PhDs which were worthless in securing financial stability.

Years later, after serving in the IDF as an officer in the International Relations unit, he is happy with the choice he made, and while he wishes to take his two daughters to Caracas “to see where I grew up, my culture, my language,” he seems to have accepted the deterioration of his hometown. More recent olim are not as resigned to Venezuela’s fate.

“It’s just sad to see how in 17 years of ‘revolution,’ we’ve seen a country with the highest petrol reserves and the second- highest gold reserves – as well as a lot of talent and other natural beauties – turn into the laughingstock of the world, with the highest inflation and homicide rate in the world,” laments Leon.

Daniel feels a similar sense of helplessness, fed by daily connection with the population. “The thing that affects me the most is the general vibe of the people, the impotence you feel every time you see what everyone has to go through to get the most basic commodities.”

The road ahead for Venezuelans is unclear. In May last year the opposition managed to gather 1.85 million signatures demanding a referendum vote regarding which party would rule the country, which many people believed would be the trigger for much-awaited change. Progress, however, has been slow, with Maduro citing problems with the validity of the signatures and with the procedures of the referendum as an explanation for the lack of progress. The opposition argues that he is deliberately stalling the inevitable.

Ask any Venezuelans for their predictions for the future, and they will give you a wry smile, shrug, and say that they are ever hopeful.




The clock is ticking for America. There are 70 days remaining until the presidential election, and after the results are counted, America will be a tinderbox ready to explode no matter who wins.

What follows is an educated analysis of the political friction now escalating in America. Note carefully that nothing in this article should be construed as any intention to call for violence of any kind. I do reference such acts, however, as part of human history as well as likely outcomes in our near future. What I’m offering here is an analysis and a warning, along with a call to prepare for what’s coming.

If Trump wins, the left goes full terror

As I’ve publicly predicted numerous times over the last year, if Donald Trump wins, the radical extreme leftists go on a violent rampage that leads to the rest of us begging for martial law. After half a dozen cities burn with riots and looting, Trump invokes a national emergency, deploying National Guard troops across the most devastated urban areas, and the radical left finds itself in a shooting war with the government.

If Hillary Clinton wins, all the Trump supporters who have been violently assaulted, spat upon and physically attacked by the radical left un-holster their concealed weapons and start shooting back. This quickly escalates into open warfare between lunatic leftist Hillary supporters and armed Trump “Second Amendment” people who basically figure they’ve got nothing left to lose anyway, so why not fight to save America?

This was all pointed out in an insightful reader comment posted to The Burning Platform on August 29th:

With the rise of Donald Trump, the plan of the political elites has been to provoke violence and blame it on him, thus scaring the normal populace. Early-on there were the road-blockings, the threatened riots, the cancelled events in Chicago and Cincinnati, the beatings, the police ordered to “look the other way”…and it has continued: The screaming harassment and physical attacks on Trump supporters as they leave his rallies. The spitting. The intimidation. The thrown eggs. The shoves and punches. The cars blocked and damaged. The hats snatched off people’s heads, stomped on, and then burned on the ground…

The people who support Trump are increasingly well-armed, and increasingly seething with justifiable rage. For now they hold back. Donald Trump himself has repeatedly observed that “the safest place in America” for anti-Trump protesters is at Trump rallies. And that is true. For now (except for the one old cowboy who punched out the protester, he was an octogenarian outlier). Why is this? Why the docility in the face of clear provocation?

It is because Trump supporters understand that any retaliatory violence now will be instantly, widely, and incessantly portrayed by the whorish mainstream media as proof that “Trump is dangerous” and “Trump’s movement is violent” and “Trump invites violence.” So his supporters endure the abuse. They endure the spittle. They endure the shoves and punches. They endure the theft of their possessions. They endure the damaged cars and the incessant harassment. For now, for the sake of their political movement and the candidacy of Donald Trump, they do not strike back…

But what happens after the election? It matters not who wins. If Hillary Clinton is elected, by hook or by crook, the mass movement harnessed by Donald Trump will be free to respond to physical attacks. If Donald Trump wins the Presidency, there will similarly be no reason to continue to endure physical attacks and humiliations by the street thugs of the Democrats. Whether Trump or Hillary Clinton is in the White House, there will be no reason to hold back.

Hundreds of millions of guns across America are now in the hands of people who are fed up with being stomped on, ridiculed and marginalized by a corrupt leftist regime that’s destroying America

Do the math on this one: You’ve got 44% of U.S. households that now own guns (and not just one gun each, but several different types of guns). Over the last 8 years, President Obama’s anti-gun rhetoric has resulted in the largest surge of gun sales to private citizens ever recorded in American history. As a result of Obama’s criminal efforts to try to destroy the Second Amendment via false flag operations such as Operation Fast and Furious, more Americans than ever now own battle rifles such as ARs, AKs and PTR 91s.

People bought all these guns for a reason. And they sure didn’t buy them just to turn them over to a corrupt criminal government.

The reader comment continues:

Whatever happens after this Presidential election, it will have been unleashed by the corporate elites and their servants in the media and elsewhere. They will be responsible for blood in the streets… And many will cheer it.

What the author is saying is, essentially, America is quite likely just 70 days away from the start of the next revolution… or even events that could escalate into Civil War.

A Hillary victory would set off an immediate popular revolt

If Hillary wins the election, it’s hard not to imagine some sort of popular revolt across America as the citizens reject the obvious criminality and corruption of not just the Clinton crime family but also a complicit mainstream media. The same media that has funneled millions of dollars into the Clinton Foundation also intentionally downplays all the Clinton scandals. The entire system is a corrupt, incestuous, rigged f–kfest that benefits the deceitful plutocrats whom the voters are sick and tired of seeing remain in power.

As world history teaches us, it would only take a tiny fraction of the American people marching on Washington to overthrow the corrupt regime and install a new interim government while arresting the mainstream journalists and calling for new, open elections. So much of America is already at the breaking point now that such a move would very likelyenjoy widespread support from the population at large.

Such actions are far more common than you might suspect in other countries around the world. When the masses reach their limit on corruption and criminality at the highest levels of government, history has shown they frequently march on the capitol, arrest the traitors, and install new officials to run the government. Sometimes, these people end up being dictators or tyrants who make things worse, so such actions should never be taken lightly. Revolt should only be the very last, reluctant option after every legal, democratic method of restoring the law has been attempted and denied.

If any of this sounds surprising to you, you probably need to study world history and read about the French Revolution, the Bolivar campaign across South America, the Fidel Castro takeover of Cuba, the CIA-instigated revolutions of Central and South American nations, the Cultural Revolution of China, and of course the American Revolution. If you don’t know anything about history, then you have no clue how history reliably repeats itself as human populations re-experience the same tyrannies, the same political deceptions and the same inner call for freedom that our ancestors already lived through (or died for).

There’s nothing new under the sun… everything we are about to experience has happened before. (And the Clintons are nothing new, either. They’re the same old corrupt crony tyrants and sleaze peddlers we’ve always seen seeking power to rule over others.)

If Trump wins, the globalist banksters crash the debt bubble to unleash mass chaos

Now let’s shift gears and explore what happens if Trump wins the election. The day after the election results show Trump to be the clear winner, radical leftists break out into mass protests across America. But Obama is still in power at this point, and Trump won’t actually occupy the White House until early 2017. So for the remainder of 2016, Obama will open the borders wide open and even encourage as many illegals as possible to invade the USA in a final “mad dash” to the USA.

Very soon after Trump takes office, the globalist criminal bankers willdeliberately crash the global debt bubble so they can blame it all on Trump. Supported by the lying, wholly dishonest propaganda media (CNN, WashPost, NY Times, etc.), global info-terrorists like George Soros will call for Trump’s impeachment.

Trump, in turn, will likely call upon “Second Amendment people” to defend America against the globalist attempts to bring it down and destroy his presidency. This situation quickly escalates into a variety of skirmishes across America, which might include many events that could seem unimaginable today: Armed patriots taking over mainstream media broadcast centers, leftist terrorists bombing federal buildings, a rash of sudden “suicides” of high-level Trump loyalists, organized gang assaults on local police stations, the United Nations unleashing “blue helmet” troops on U.S. soil, a “surge invasion” of illegal aliens from Mexico during a time of national vulnerability, international cyber attacks on America’s power grid infrastructure, and even widespread calls for states like Texas to secede from the union.

Once the globalists declare open warfare against the Trump administration, all bets are off and anything could unfold over the next few years. Expect things to get very nasty, very desperate and incredibly violent. Life as you know it in America is about to be disrupted in a serious way.

By the way, I also predict that Edward Snowden, Julian Assange andAnonymous will all play key roles in these unfolding events, exposing mind-blowing government secrets that spur populations across many western nations into escalating their action against the corrupt government regimes they’ve foolishly allowed to rule over them. Much of the real war taking place across our globe right now is a cyber war… a “war of secrets” where the hackers and cyber activists are increasingly exposing all the corruption and criminality of governments, which maintain their power by constantly lying to the public and withholding the truth.

The political establishment as we know it today will not survive intact

When it’s all said and done, if Trump wins the presidency, the political establishment as we know it today will be obliterated on multiple levels. For starters, the people have already lost faith in the establishment system, and if things escalate, it’s not difficult to envision a near future where Hillary Clinton is imprisoned while people like Huma, Lynch and Eric Holder are tried for treason.

Even if Clinton does win the election and occupy the White House, the global end game is fast approaching anyway. A Clinton White House only further encourages the calls for revolt across the population, and Hillary’s deep corruption and criminality is so despised by nearly all soldiers and police officers that it’s hard to imagine her being able to demand respect from either of those groups. In fact, it’s a lot easier to imagine a military coup against President Clinton that it is to imagine a successful eradication of the Second Amendment by her presidency. Even if Clinton ordered police across America to go door to door and confiscate all the firearms of private citizens, what cop would be stupid enough to even attempt such a suicide mission?

I can’t overstate this point: Things are at a breaking point in America, and the only thing holding back a mass revolt right now is the looming election, which presents at least a glimmer of hope to the people of America that they might beat back tyranny and government oppression with a Trump victory. If that possibility is taken from them — either by the election being stolen at the ballot box or already pre-stolen by outrageously biased media deceptions — many of them will conclude that they really have no remaining option other than “refreshing the Tree of Liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants”, to quote Jefferson.

America has nearly reached the fulcrum of rebellion

“We Are at a Point Where the Encroachment of Government Power Has Historically Resulted in Rebellion,” explains this article at The Daily Sheeple (originally from ZeroHedge).

What Washington elites utterly fail to realize is that for many Americans, they have nothing else left to lose if they lose this election. They’ve already lost their job and their health coverage. In many places across America, they’re losing their own national flag and national pride. They’ve been ridiculed, condemned and spat upon by the dishonest media and the crybully leftist f–ktards, and they realize full well that if they don’t draw a line in the sand right here, right now, they’re going to be disarmed, enslaved, impoverished and named “enemies of the state” in the very same country they once fought for (and pledged allegiance to).

The psyche of real America has reached its last straw. With the culture under attack, the Constitution demonized, religious beliefs targeted for merciless condemnation and the industrial base of America utterly gutted beyond restoration, there is nothing left to surrender to the demands of the tyrannical left. It is at that breaking point where, in the minds of many citizens throughout history, they pick up pitch forks and march en masse against the oppressors in power.

We are very, very close to that day in America. It may, in fact, unravel in just the next 100 days. No matter who wins this election, mass violence breaks out across America in one way or another.

Never hope for Civil War… be careful what you ask for

Remember: Civil War would be a disaster for America, which is one reason why globalists like George Soros are pushing so hard for it. We should never wish for open bloodshed and nationwide chaos.

As one voice of reason commented on The Burning Platform page:

The last civil war was disastrous for the US – not just in lives and destruction of property, but in turning what had been a truly positive political structure instantly into something much more corrupt. I see no reason to think that another civil war won’t do the same.

Yes, we are being pushed towards another civil war quite deliberately. Resist the push. Figure out the real problem and go after it. I do not know exactly what the problem is, but it certainly seems to be a small group of fantastically wealthy and evil people who are using the rest of us like a sociopathic 10-year-old might fry ants. These people need to be identified and blocked from power. Soros seems to be a prominent person among them, but the various other usual suspects seem likely to be the problem as well.

Questions to ask yourself in all this

How will you feed yourself if social chaos halts food deliveries to your local grocers?

Do you possess a means of self-defense that does not depend on dialing 911 and praying somebody shows up to save you?

Do you live within walking distance of the inner cities? If so, prepare to be overrun by raging, violent, angry extremists who respect no law and actually murder police every chance they get.

Do you depend on financial payments from the federal government? How would you survive if those payments stop coming?

If you own firearms, do you know how to use them effectively and safely? When was the last time you practiced with them, or cleaned them? Do you have spare parts? Ammo? Cleaning supplies? When was the last time you checked the battery on your red dot sight?

Stock up on supplies now at the Health Ranger Store, offering storable organic food, laboratory verified water filters, essential oil emergency medicine kits, Ranger Gear survival tools and much more.

Chaos at GOP confab as delegates look to derail Trump nomination

A tense Republican National Convention erupted in turmoil Monday amid a loud revolt by delegates opposed to presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, furious over being denied a floor vote on the event’s rules.

Several hundred anti-Trump delegates seeking to change the convention rules so that they could opt out of voting for the real estate mogul roared their disapproval after being denied the chance to debate the changes or have a full vote on them.

“Shame! Shame!” some shouted, as pro-Trump delegates yelled back. Some of those opposed to Trump even walked out.

The interruption highlighted the divisions within the Republican Party as it struggles to unify behind Trump in the run-up to the November election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, introduces Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, during a campaign event to announce Pence as the vice presidential running mate on, Saturday, July 16, 2016, in New York (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Convention delegates were moving towards approving a rules package, and when the convention chair declared the rules approved after a tense and loud voice vote, the Never Trump movement rose up in a chorus of boos.

When a convention chair, congressman Steve Womack, failed to restore order, the convention ground to a halt for several tense minutes.

Anti-Trump delegates had said earlier in the day that they had sufficient signatures to force a roll call vote on all-important rules governing this week’s event that will see the provocative billionaire anointed as the party’s nominee.

It was one of the final efforts by the Trump opponents, including former US senator Gordon Humphrey, who presented the petition signatures from a majority of delegates in nine states.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette speaks during the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Womack said there were insufficient signatures to force the roll call.

Humphrey told AFP that it appeared the effort, while sparking tense minutes on the convention floor, failed to generate sufficient support.

“I’m not surprised but I am disgusted,” he said.

Republican leaders hope the convention centers on the glue that unites the party’s factions: disdain for Hillary Clinton. Convention speakers planned to relentlessly paint the presumptive Democratic nominee as entrenched in a system that fails to keep Americans safe.

While safety and security was the focus of Monday’s opening session, Trump was also trying to shore up Republican unity, in part by assuring party leaders and voters alike that there’s a kinder, gentler side to what many see as merely a brash businessman. Trump’s family is playing a starring role, beginning Monday with an evening speech by his wife, Melania Trump, who has kept a low profile throughout the campaign.

In a surprise, Trump announced he would come to Cleveland and go onstage on opening night to introduce her.

The convention comes amid a wrenching period of violence and unrest, both in the United States and around the world. On the eve of the opening, three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the city where a black man was killed by police two weeks ago.

Rein Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, announces the rules of the convention during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus welcomed delegates with a brief acknowledgement of the “troubling times” swirling outside. The chairman called for a moment of silence out of respect for “genuine heroes” in law enforcement.

“Our nation grieves when we see these awful killings,” he said.

In a matter of weeks, Americans have seen deadly police shootings, a shocking ambush of police in Texas and escalating racial tensions, not to mention a failed coup in Turkey and gruesome Bastille Day attack in Nice, France.

Trump has seized on the instability, casting recent events as a direct result of failed leadership by President Barack Obama and by Clinton, who spent four years in the administration as secretary of state. But Trump has been vague about how he would put the nation on a different course, offering virtually no details of his policy prescriptions, despite repeated vows to be tough.

Campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Trump would “eventually” outline policy specifics, but not at the convention.

Clinton, during remarks Monday at the NAACP’s annual convention, said there was no justification for directing violence at law enforcement.

“As president, I will bring the full weight of the law to bear in making sure those who kill police officers are brought to justice,” she said.

Clinton was expected to be a frequent target of the eclectic group of lawmakers, military service members and entertainers headlining opening night of the convention. They include Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, actor Scott Baio and Willie Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty, as well as immigration advocates and a Marine who fought in the Benghazi attack that occurred during Clinton’s tenure at the State Department.

The line-up of speakers and no-shows for the four-night convention was a visual representation of Trump’s struggles to unify Republicans. From the party’s former presidents to the host state governor, many leaders were staying away from the convention stage, or Cleveland altogether, wary of being linked to a man whose proposals and temperament have sparked an identity crisis within the GOP.

Trump’s team insists that by the end of the week, Republicans will plunge into the general election campaign united in their mission to defeat Clinton. But campaign officials undermined their own effort Monday by picking a fight with Ohio governor John Kasich, who is not attending the convention and has yet to endorse Trump.

Manafort called Kasich “petulant” and said the governor was “embarrassing” his party in his home state.

Even some of those participating in the convention seemed to be avoiding their party’s nominee. When House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke to Wisconsin delegates Monday morning, he made no mention of Trump in his remarks.

The roll call vote on the nomination is expected Tuesday, with Trump scheduled to close the convention with an acceptance speech Thursday night. Vice-presidential pick Mike Pence, who left Indianapolis for Cleveland on Monday, is to speak Wednesday.

The summer disturbances had tensions running high outside the heavily secured convention site in Cleveland.

Hundreds of Trump supporters and opponents held rallies a half-mile apart, with a few of the Trump supporters openly carrying guns as allowed under Ohio law. The president of the police union had asked Kasich to suspend the law allowing gun owners to carry firearms in plain sight. But Kasich said he didn’t have that authority.

3 Chiefs In 9 Days: Oakland Police Department In Scandal Meltdown

The Oakland Police Department is now under civilian control after a series of incidents of misconduct recently came to light. Multiple police chiefs stepped down after allegations that officers raped an underage sex trafficking victim, covered up crimes, and sent racist text messages.

Oakland has gone through three police chiefs in the past nine days. The latest acting police chief, Paul Figueroa, resigned from his post on Friday but Mayor Libby Schaaf did not say why. She only said that Figueroa would take a leave of absence because he was “unable to fulfill the functions of the Acting Chief of Police,” according to CBS News. The department’s command staff now reports to Sabrina Landreth, the city administrator.

The latest controversy is over racist text messages, such as a text obtained by NBC News that showed a picture of a Ku Klux Klan member on a cereal box. The box message read, “Brad, I heard you got boxes of these in your cupboards” as well as a text using the n-word. Schaaf said that the texting scandal is not widespread throughout the department. Yet racism within the department has been a longstanding issue. Stanford researchers found that during a 13-month period, looking at 28,000 field reports of stops, 17,000 of those stops involved officers halting black people on the street.

The department is still under federal oversight after incidents in 2000 where veteran police officers, known as the “Rough Riders,” planted evidence and beat citizens. In 2012, the department came under scrutiny from a federal judge for its handling of the Occupy Oakland protests. The department was supposed to engage in a number of reforms since then and had begun to rebuild trust with the public as violent crimes and use-of-force complaints were down, the Mercury News reported.

High on the list of the serious investigations facing the department: a number of officers may have raped an underage sex trafficking victim. The woman, now 18-years-old, said the sex trafficking involved 14 officers from the Oakland Police Department as well as officers from other police departments in the area. Two officers at the San Francisco Police Department may also have been involved in the scandal.

The discovery of the officers’ alleged rape of an underage trafficking victim happened after an Oakland police officer, Brendan O’Brien, died by suicide and left a note mentioning details of a sex trafficking scandal. The alleged victim, Celeste Guap, said O’Brien “saved” her from a pimp who was chasing her. She was 17 years old at the time. But as the East Bay Express, which broke the story, reported, O’Brien did not temporarily detain Guap as a sex trafficking victim for her safety, as some departments do, but instead let her go.

When they saw each other again a couple weeks later they exchanged numbers and began, as Guap puts it, “dating.” She was trafficked among O’Brien’s fellow officers for half a year. Guap herself said she saw the acts as a form of protection from arrest, the East Bay Express reported, and as the publication states, this amounts to coercion from officers. Guap said that at the time, she thought the officers were giving her protection, and recently said, “I do see myself as being a victim, because I do feel like I was taken advantage of.”

There was an internal investigation into the possibility that officers trafficked the then-17-year-old. Then a federal judge ordered another investigation into the alleged trafficking, where officers admitted that they lied about their interactions with Guap during the first investigation and an officer also admitted he knew she was underage.

In June, Police Chief Sean Whent stepped down after three years of serving as chief, due to what he called a “personal choice,” but there are reports that Whent’s wife knew O’Brien was engaging in statutory rape. Guap said she contacted Whent’s wife, Julie, to tell her she was “dating an officer” while she was 17 years old, the Bay area local television station, KRON reported. Ben Farrow followed Whent as interim police chief but Mayor Schaaf said she discovered information about Farrow that would not allow him to continue as chief. The latest controversy over racist text messages is unconnected to the investigation of sex trafficking, Schaaf said.

Making matters more complicated, there have been reports questioning the police department’s investigation of the death of O’Brien’s wife. O’Brien’s wife died in 2014, and although it was investigated as a homicide at first, it was then ruled as a suicide. Family members of O’Brien’s wife, Irma Huerta Lopez, believe that O’Brien was responsible for her death, saying that the evidence didn’t add up.

MIDDLE ISRAEL: Turkey’s deepening entanglement in Middle East chaos

‘The Turks have no hours to mark the time, and no milestones to mark distances,” reported an amused Austrian ambassador from the court of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1554.

Today’s Turkey has plenty of clocks and milestones, but they indicate that the border is cracking and time is running out.

Never since the abolition of the caliphate 92 years ago next month has Turkey’s international situation been nearly as chaotic and explosive as it has become in recent weeks. This week, as if the conflicts with seven neighbors and one superpower were not enough, even the United Nations joined Ankara’s list of adversaries.

It is against this backdrop that Ankara’s rapprochement with Jerusalem is steadily heading toward an improbably happy end, even while the Islamist government’s grip on power remains ironclad.

Turkey has come a long way since the Mavi Marmara Affair in spring 2010, when nine Turkish nationals were killed in a clash with IDF naval commandos.

Back then, half-a-year before the outbreak of the Arab civil wars, Turkey was allied with Syria, building bridges to the rest of the Arab world, friendly with Iran, and harmonizing with all superpowers.

That was then. Now Bashar Assad is Turkey’s sworn enemy, relations with Russia, Israel, Egypt and the Vatican are ruined, the conflicts with Cyprus and Armenia remain intractable, and the peace Ankara began building with its Kurdish minority has given way to a new cycle of violence.

Worse, the latest developments in the Syrian battlefield are decidedly against Turkey, in the most profound strategic sense.

LESS THAN half-a-year since it was detected, the Russian aerial buildup in western Syria has matured, and is now spreading from Latakia to the opposite end of the Turkish-Syrian border, to Qamishli, near the Iraqi border.

The reported arrival this week in that town of Russian engineers assigned with expanding a local airstrip means that Turkey’s southeastern underbelly, already bubbling with restive Kurds and displaced Arabs, is now also laced with what it sees as imperialist Russians.

Worse, the Russian army’s four-month-old intervention is showing results, and experts now believe that after five years of retreats and defeats, the tide is turning in Assad’s favor. Aleppo, prewar Syria’s commercial heartbeat, this week came almost fully under siege, with local opposition militias showing signs of exhaustion and civilians fleeing in droves.

If Aleppo falls in their lap, Assad and his allies will have consolidated their grip over all of western Syria. Within that, Syria’s entire coastal strip will be a de facto Russian protectorate.

Already now there are sizable areas between Russia’s naval base in Tartus and its air base outside Latakia where ordinary Syrians cannot set foot. All this is happening on Turkey’s doorstep, a situation Ankara has not faced since the Cold War, when it bordered on the Soviet Union where it now borders Armenia and Georgia.

Worse, Syria is casting an Iranian shadow, as Ankara finds Tehran on the winning side of the war, in which Turkey is on the losing side.

And worst of all, the intensified fighting around Aleppo is sending new waves of refugees to the Turkish border. Now, with a siege psychosis sweeping northwestern Syria, Turkey took the drastic measure of building tent cities on the Syrian side of the border, effectively occupying Syrian land.

This is what the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees William Spindler this week decried, making Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sound like an Israeli diplomat when he called the UN “two-faced” for failing to condemn Russia’s bombardments of civilians, while ignoring Turkey’s admission of 2.6 million refugees, in Davutoglu’s count.

The Russians, meanwhile, seem to be teasing Turkey as a matter of policy, following the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter bomber 10 weeks ago.

After having imposed trade sanctions on Turkey, Moscow this week loudly disparaged the possibility of a Turkish invasion of Syria, as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Turkey was making such preparations, and called those plans “crazy.” That statement, and his assessment that Ankara’s American ally will “not allow it” to invade Syria, were his boss Vladimir Putin’s way of challenging President Recep Erdogan to a duel.

Turkey responded by rattling its own saber, as Davutoglu warned Russia this week that it will leave Syria as defeated as the USSR left Afghanistan.

Turkey, in sum, is seeing its neo-Ottoman quest to build bridges across the Middle East unravel: In Syria, its archenemy is prevailing; on its southern border, a hostile superpower is sinking roots; north of there, Turkey is challenged by massive refugee pressure; north of there, it is fighting a Kurdish insurgency; and south of all this, it is at loggerheads with Egypt’s powerful President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, openly siding with his Islamist archenemies.

On top of all this, Turkey feels that Washington has abandoned it to Russia’s devices, and also failed to back it in its war with the Kurds.

Accusing America’s passivity as the cause of regional bloodshed, Erdogan this week asked: “What kind of a relationship is this?” Turkish foreign affairs, in short, are one big mess, and Ankara is scrambling to trim the broad front along which its multiple crises sprawl. The most convenient place to start this process is Israel.

OF ALL the rifts in which Turkey is embroiled, the least natural is the one with the Jewish state.

Turkey’s tensions with Russia follow centuries of imperial wars between the two, its conflict with Cyprus and Greece is underpinned by bloody wars before, during, and after the Ottoman downfall, Arab hostility follows 400 years of Turkish subjugation, and tensions with Iran are fueled by a historic antagonism underpinned by religious rivalry.

There is no equivalent to any of this in Turkish-Israeli relations.

Moreover, Erdogan’s hope to impress the Arab world with anti-Israeli broadsides never delivered the intended results. At the same time, Israel can deliver to Turkey the gas it currently buys in Moscow, a strategic supplier Ankara no longer trusts.

Turkey followed closely last week’s unprecedented summit in Nicosia between the leaders of Israel, Cyprus and Greece. The agreement there to jointly exploit Mediterranean gas constituted yet another setback for Turkish diplomacy, which now saw its victims fall in each other’s arms.

That is why a cool calculation of Ankara’s regional situation begs mending fences with Israel.

Compared with what it faces elsewhere, a rapprochement with Jerusalem is cheap. The two countries share no border and Israel has no dog in the fights on both sides of Turkey’s borders.

This week signs have grown that Ankara has already taken the decision to reconcile with Jerusalem, as Erdogan hosted a 20-person delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s confidant Malcolm Hoenlein.

Normalization talks between the two states have been held for nearly half a decade, when the contours of a deal boiled down to payments for the families of the flotilla incident’s fatalities, which Israel has agreed to make; an apology, which Israel has already made; lifting of charges against IDF officers in Turkish courts; restoration of full diplomatic ties; and some kind of change in Gaza, where Turkey wants to play savior.

That was before Turkey found itself boxing with Russia, fending off refugees and thirsting for gas.

Now Israel is in a position to make new demands, like Hamas’s eviction from Turkey and the return from Gaza of fallen soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul’s remains, before striking the deal that will lead pipelines from Israel’s Mediterranean gas fields into Asia Minor.

Talks between Turkish and Israeli representatives were reportedly held this week in Geneva, and diplomats are confident a deal is imminent.

The best indication of this was Erdogan’s recent pronouncement that “normalizing ties with Israel will benefit the entire region.”

The worst, then, is already behind the Turkish-Israeli relationship.

Back in summer 2010, with Turkey, Egypt and Iran led by Erdogan, Mohamed Morsi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Israel faced simultaneously, for the first time since its establishment, hostile governments in Ankara, Cairo and Tehran.

Now the isolated country is Turkey, which is up to its neck in the region’s multiple conflicts. Israel, at the same time, is emerging as an island of neutrality in a Mideast that is bending under the weight of tribal, ethnic and religious wars while craving politically impartial trade.

Curiously, Turkish-Israeli bilateral trade remained brisk even while diplomatic relations soured. Lost were only the military dimension and tourism. The former is not expected to be restored anytime soon, but Israeli tourists will soon be returning to Turkey, and in due course a pipeline transporting Israeli gas will stretch under their flight routes. The Turkish effort to domineer Israel, the pipeline will attest, has failed.