The emergence of China as a major oil importer is feeding geopolitical tensions throughout the world, North Korea and Iran being the most blatant and recent examples. The solution to this problem lies in the ending of oil’s monopolistic status by promoting the use of biofuels and electricity for transportation, something in which Israel can assist thanks to its technological lead in electric cars and second-generation biofuels.
Oil is at the core of global geopolitical tensions because of its monopoly as an energy source for transportation (land, sea and air). US dependence on oil is not related to power generation. Only 1-2 percent of the electricity used in the US is generated by oil. Similarly, only 4% of the EU’s electricity is produced from oil. The US is nearly self-reliant for power generation but entirely dependent on imported oil for transportation. 
The only way to really reduce oil dependency in the United States is to change the energy consumption of engines. There are two realistic alternatives: electricity and biofuels. Israeli technology is revolutionizing the use of electric transportation and biofuels. Israeli scientist Yitzhak Barzin founded GreenFuel, a company that produces biological fuel from seaweed, in 2002. Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi founded Better Place in 2007, with the purpose of spreading the use of electric cars worldwide.

In January 2008, Better Place signed a partnership agreement with Renault-Nissan to launch a new electric car project. Renault-Nissan is building the vehicles while Better Place is building the electric recharge grid, which will enable its customers to recharge their cars wherever they park. More significantly, battery switching stations will enable drivers to switch their car battery in less time than it would take to fill a gas tank. These stations will be spread out just like gas stations, and switching batteries will not involve any extra cost for the customer.  One important remark about the use of Biofuels. They do not need to be produced from crops such as corn or other food crops. “Second generation” biofuels as promoted by GreenFuel,  are produced from waste, algae and non-food vegetation.

 Over recent years Israel has been at the forefront in dealing with the challenges posed by Islamic terror, today most Western countries have acknowledged this threat to world peace and are responding to this threat. In a similar fashion Israel can lead the technological revolution to end oil’s monolpoly over Western nations. Beyond the practical solution of energy consumption, this effort will not only strengthen Israel’s strategic value vis-à-vis the United States and Europe, but it would also provide its oil-producing neighbors with a good reason to be more pragmatic as far as Israel is concerned.

Learning from our mistakes

Now is the time to address the lessons of the megafire in the Carmel forest before the next one flares up.

The fires in the Carmel forest are out. The victims have been laid to rest. The injured are being treated. The process of emotional and physical rehabilitation has begun. The question of who bears responsibility for the disaster is being and will continue to be discussed.  At this moment, however, it is critical to address the immediate lessons that can be learned from the fire - before the next one flares up.

The first lesson is that firefighting, fire rescue and fire prevention fall into the realm of para-security. Only when this distinction is recognized can the issue be given a higher place on the national agenda.

The second lesson is that firefighting should not be under the jurisdiction of the  Interior Ministry, a ministry under Shas control for the last decade and probably for the coming decade. The amount of attention payed to local governments by the reigning minister Eli Yishai is overly dependant on local political considerations. The Israel Fire and Rescue Commission must be moved to a different ministry.

The third lesson is that the Ministry of Public Security performed very well in the Carmel fire disaster. If reinforced, it could control, in addition to the Israel Police and the Israel Prison Service, the fire and rescue commission. The commission itself must be reconstituted, with a professional national command structure and access to proper resources.

Forest Fires have become a strategic threat for Israel, as in the case of the Carmel Fires, hundreds of smaller forest fires over the years are the work of Arab arsonists. Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran are the major funding and ideological backers. Israel’s response should answer the national security aspects of this current threat to Israel’s national security interests


A suggestion from the former Shas chairman, Aryeh Deri

As the flames in the north died down, former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri came up with a surprising proposal to counter the storm surrounding the Haredi yeshiva student law: Recruit Haredi yeshiva students into the firefighting services by way of national service. “They will bring blessings,” Deri said during an interview with Channel 10. “Just as there are organizations like ZAKA, there could also be an ultra-Orthodox organization of firefighters.

Deri’s opinion is unusual and daring since only two weeks ago MK Chaim Amsellem was ejected from Shas for his opinions, which included support for yeshiva students working and leaving their studies, as Deri suggests.

Aryeh Deri, who once held the position of interior minister, and who still has a large and loyal political support base throughout Israel can redefine the political map in Israel should he decide to reenter politics.