Return Envelopes

Until recently, return envelopes in bills,* for instance, have been inserted in mailings with the flaps turned forward.

Not an especially big deal.

I take out a bill and want to replace it in the mailing that I received, but the flap gets in the way.

This should be the worse thing that ever happens to anyone.

Then all of a sudden, I received a few bills from the same businesses, and the return envelope has been inserted turned around in a sensible way.

What happened?

Is the Vast Eternal Plan changing?


  • bills in the mail – Why not? I often pay them electronically, but I like the offline paper copy. Among other things, the paper copies remind me to enter the electronic debits into the register of my checking account. If I were a rich man, perhaps I wouldn’t bother to balance my checkbook.
  • Actually, I am a “rich man.” My riches include children and grandchildren who live practically around the corner, good health (for my age, having reached the milestone of 64 years old as I write this), and on and on.

The Oslo Accord

Doesn’t anyone remember the Oslo Accord of 1995 (known as Oslo II)?

The State of Israel signed a treaty with the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians. Palestinians had officially decided that only Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were authorized to negotiate on their behalf.

Both sides to the treaty signed, with several nations adding their authorized signatures as witnesses. The signing ceremony was televised and received plenty of air-time.

Israel’s military occupation remains intact on land that was designated Area C. Area C’s status has remained virtually the same as it had been since the Six-Day War in 1967.

The Oslo process since 1995 has failed, though. Nevertheless, the Oslo Accord of 1995 is the law of the region.

There has ceased to be a “Green Line” except in terms of defining the extent of the Accord. The Green Line had been the cease-fire line between Jordan’s military, the Arab Legion, and the State of Israel. Since the Oslo Accord, the Kingdom of Jordan signed a treaty with Israel and thereby renounced its illegal annexation of the West Bank (after 1949). Jordan has committed itself not to violate its international border by sending troops across this border.

Since its treaty with Israel, Jordan has conducted itself according to international law.

When Israel builds security barriers, it builds them within Area C where its military makes security decisions in accordance with the Oslo Accord.

Plaintiffs have brought a few cases before Israel’s High Court of Justice. This court has consistently ruled that the principle behind the security barriers is legal. On a couple of occasions, this court has elaborated stipulations that barriers not create undue or unnecessary hardships for Palestinians.

A couple of rulings of Israel’s High Court of Justice have ordered Israel’s military to develop plans for relocating a barrier according to the court’s stipulations. The court has exercised its authority to examine and approve the revised plans.

Palestinians still don’t recognize the legitimacy of the designation Area C. It is, according to them, “their land” even before any future negotiations with Israel.

The international community, especially the United Nations, have blithely ignored articles in the Oslo Accord. When Israel tears down new Palestinian construction, this construction is in Area C.

A popular refrain from Palestinians has been how hard it is for them to get building permits. This is not surprising since they have no standing to receive permits to build  anything in Area C at all.

Most journalists are blissfully ignorant of law when they cover issues, wherever in the world an issue arises. Even Israelis who receive information from domestic journalistic sources seem to remain ignorant of the terms of the Oslo Accord.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “there are lies, damn lies, and journalism.”

Reading Books about Physics

It’s not unusual for me to go through a phase of reading about the particles and forces that make up our universe.

I have one measure to prejudge the author’s content, though. Is there an entry in the index for ‘plasma’?

Plasma is a state of matter just as solid, liquid, and gas are. At high energies, atoms lose some coherence and separate into positive and negative ions. Freed electrons and negatively charged particles can flow like electricity.

In our experience, electricity flows through wires. The flows in the plasma state resemble descriptions of liquid flows. For us, the most common flow of a liquid is flowing water.

Apparently, there is an affinity between studying fluid dynamics and studying plasma physics.

I’ve written the previous three paragraphs as a layperson who has some understanding but plenty of misunderstanding about the subject. Be that as it may –

About 98% of the universe exists in the plasma state.

Nevertheless, authors of popular works about physics often fail to mention the subject of plasma altogether. I take a look at the index of such books and regularly find an entry for ‘Planck’ followed by an entry for ‘Plato’ or ‘Pluto’. What this tells me is that the author is married to an orthodoxy.

“The primary force in the universe is gravity.” Really? Perhaps electromagnetism is as important if not more important.

Granted that us Earth-bound creatures a very aware of gravity. Granted that the human race had little knowledge about electricity until fairly recently. Certainly, using electricity was not part of the human toolkit until recently.

I expect more from physicists. Their orthodoxy is earth-bound where gravity prevails – unless a lightning storm is passing through.

I look forward to a time when earth-bound physics is as outmoded and quaint as saying scientifically that the Earth is the center of our solar system or not.


Geocentricism is a tenet of the Torah, of religious revelation. According to the theory of relativity, though, no scientific verification exists to determine if one body is stationary and another is moving, or vice versa, or that both are moving.

We’ve seen this before

In the last months of the U.S. President’s last term in office, he wants to leave a legacy of having negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu (June 27, 2016, in Italy). They discussed a range of issues including efforts to advance a two state solution, Syria, and developments in the region.

Of course, Mr. Netanyahu would want to discuss events in Syria and “developments in the region” – whatever this refers to.

As for a “two state solution” – that boat sailed about ten years ago.

Jews evacuated Gaza during August and September 2005. This was an Israeli disengagement – Gaza was no longer occupied by the Israeli military.

Gazans regularly had been firing Qassam rockets before the Israeli withdrawal, and the frequency of Qassam attacks increased after the withdrawal.

Neither the U.S. or the UN paid attention to how each rocket was a violation of Israel’s sovereignty. I’m not researching the details of other violations such as tunnels and incursions by terrorist troops.

Israel attacked Gaza with full force several times since 2005 between periods of patience over Gaza’s aggression.

On what basis does Gaza deserve to be a nation state?

Now let’s examine the possibility of a pluralistic Palestinian state. Just as Israel has Arab citizens, a pluralistic Palestine would have Jewish citizens.

This is unimaginable for Palestinians. Jews must go.

What this amounts to is an evacuation of 100-120 Jewish villages (called settlements) whose combined population was about 104,000 (as of 2011). We see that the average population of each village is about 1,000 Jews.

Israel on its part has no intention of evacuating the handful of cities along the east side of the 1949 cease-fire line. The Camp David negotiations proposed that these cities or blocs of towns would become part of Israel, be annexed. Since then, no diplomatic proposals have considered anything other than annexing these urban regions to Israel. The population of these blocs of cities is about an additional 148,000 (as of 2010).

The idea of a Palestinian state – the two state solution – was never a proposal for peace. It has been a resolve by Palestinians to reverse time, moving back almost 50 years. Each American president knew this or should have understood this.

In the last months of President Obama’s last term in office, it seems that he wants to leave a legacy of having negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the last months of President Clinton’s last term in office, he wanted to leave a legacy of having negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That was the abortive Camp David Summit of July 2000 – an effort to end the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

For some reason, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel agreed to attend this summit. What was he thinking?

Now, 16 years later, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

What are Mr. Kerry and PM Netanyahu thinking? A new president will be elected in a little more than four months from the time of the Kerry-Netanyahu talks (as I write this).

In a little more than four months from now, Mr. Kerry will be transitioning the State Department for a new administration.

Every Representative in Congress faces an election except for the few who have chosen not to run for reelection.

One third of the Senators face an election except for the few who have chosen not to run.

For Mr. Clinton, in his time, the summer until the election and then the period before the inauguration the next winter were his play time.

President Obama hasn’t been much of a player, and he and Mr. Netanyahu don’t play well together. But, Secretary of State John Kerry discussed efforts to advance a two state solution.

Haven’t we been here before?

The Golan Heights have not always been part of Syria

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, Britain and France divided an immense sweep of Southwest Asia (the Near East or the Middle East in European parlance) into two mandates, the spheres of influence that they coveted. The French were to administer Syria and Lebanon. The British were to administer Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and Iraq (again in European parlance).

In the first treaties after the war, the British were to administer the lower slope of Golan Heights as part of Palestine. In 1923, a comprehensive agreement, the last Treaty of Lausanne, included negotiations with the new Republic of Turkey. At this time, France and Britain adjusted the border by exchanging the Golan – to France – for a nearby region around Metula – to Mandated Palestine.

For sources see: National Geographic. 2008. Atlas of the Middle East, Second Edition (Washington, DC) p. 98.  Also: Dan Smith. 2016. The Penguin State of the Middle East Atlas, Third Edition. New York: Penguin Books, p. 36-37.

The locals who lived on the Golan slope – who were not Jewish – were unhappy. Either they did not want to live under French administration or they didn’t see themselves as having much in common with Syria.

As has been typical, the Great Powers drew and have been drawing Middle Eastern borders without consulting the people most closely affected.

When Israel conquered the Golan Heights in 1967, remaining descendants of the post-World-War-I residents no longer had to live under Syrian rule.

Also in 1967, virtually the entire watershed of the Galilee was contained in one jurisdiction. When the State of Israel applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights in 1981, the entire region, on both sides of the upper Jordan River, was unified politically with defensible borders and one legal system.

In 1967, the Jordan Valley Unified Water Plan, originating in the 1950s, began to serve the primary stakeholders – Jordan and Israel. The Syrians and Lebanese had only been interfering by diverting water from both Israel and Jordan in violation of their agreements to the Water Plan.

In addition, Syria and Lebanon had not been interested in eradicating malaria from the Huleh Valley. Again, they were not stakeholders. I shouldn’t have to note that mosquitoes carrying malaria do not recognize political arrangements.

I do note that the Hasbani River rises in Lebanon and runs for 25 miles before it enters Israel. Lebanese stakeholders are partners in the Unified Water Plan, but the Arab League does not recognize this agreement and encourages mischievous violations within Lebanon.

Also of note:  People who live in the Dara’a Governorate of southwestern Syria, as well as Jordanians, are stakeholders in the water resources of the lower reaches of the Jordan River. Syria’s Dara’a Governorate abuts the Golan Heights south of Syria’s Quneitra Governorate. The Quneitra Governorate lies partly in the disengagement zone between Syria and Israel along the plateau ridge of Israel’s upward slope of the Golan. Dara’a was an early site of conflict in the Syrian civil war, 2011.

Palestinian Refugees

The refugee camps for Palestinians during and after the Israeli War for Independence were set up between 1948 and 1951.

This means that the youngest refugee is about 65 years old (in 2016). The life expectancy of Palestinians is around 72 years old.

Those younger than about 65 years old in these camps is a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of the actual refugees, but not refugees themselves.

The youngest of the refugees have no or little memory of having lived in Palestine, unless one considers life in refugee camps as life in Palestine or Gaza.

I am not writing this glibly.

Almost everywhere else in the world, refugees have been resettled within a few years. In addition, they are rarely given political grounds for demanding a right to return to where they used to live. Some refugees do return, but this is rare.

When the Indian sub-continent was partitioned into separate Hindu and Muslim areas in 1947, becoming the nation states India and Pakistan:

The separation from Hindu-dominated areas granted to India was accompanied by widespread Hindu-Muslim rioting, the transfer of about 8,000,000 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan (especially from the Punjab) to India, and the forced relocation of about 6,000,000 Muslims from India to Pakistan. War erupted with India over Muslim dominated Jammu and Kashmir and ended in 1949 with a cease-fire line. . . .

(“Pakistan,” Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier, 1991. p. 193)

Note the words ‘forced relocation’ and ‘transfer’. Neither of these two words is used when describing the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.

Of the roughly 14,000,000 people who were transferred or relocated between 1947 and 1949, the youngest are now about 67 years old (2016). The life expectancy in the region is around 60 years old.

The current cease-fire line in Kashmir is called a “line of control.” India and Pakistan have fought a couple of wars since the first cease-fire. China, for its part, invaded India and took over the region of Kashmir to the east of the Karakoram Range in 1962.


The United Nations makes decisions from majority, political considerations. The United Nations defines a refugee from Palestine as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration.

When the UN Agency – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) – began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services. (“Who We Are – UNRWA“, retrieved May 9, 2016)