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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 7, 2013 Protests in Turkey: Can Er,5ogan weather the storm? World Economic Forum Can Turkish Prime Min- ister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pictured, weather the storm of Turkey protests that erupted over the weekend? On Sunday and into Mon- day, tens of thousands of protestors again flooded into Taksim Square chanting, "Victory, victory, victory," "Erdogan, you're a dictator, resign!" and "Erdogan thinks he is a sultan," Israel Hayom reported. By Sean Savage Widespread protests in Turkey are threatening the decade-long rule of Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, raising ques- tions over his ambitions to transform his country. The protests, which began in Istanbul's famous Taksim Square over government plans to turn nearby Gezi park into a shopping mall modeled after Ottoman-era army barracks, have turned into a widespread rebuke of Erdogan's Islamist rule, spreading to several other major Turkish cities such as Ankara nd Izmir as well as several cities abroad with Turkish ex-pats. As the protesters swelled in numbers on Friday and then again Saturday night, police began a widespread crack- down, firing tear gas andwater cannons at protestors. Later on, Turkish police retreated, leading to widespread jubila- tion among the protestors. As protests have gi'own and spread throughout Istanbul, numerous reports by pro- testers on Twitter and other social media outlets claim police brutality. Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said 1,750 people were arrested since May 28 in con- nection with the protests. Professor Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and expert on Turkish-Israeli re- lations, told, "There is a large secular population, 'particularly in western Tur- key around Istanbul, that is very frustrated by the Is- lamization of Turkey [under Erd0gan]." "This has accumulated over the past decade into what we are seeing now," Inbar said. "However, the problem is the secular parties have no leadership. This was not instigated by the secular party. This is popular rage." Since the formation of the modern Turkish Re- public from the remains of the once-mighty Ottoman Empire under secular leader Mustafa Kemal"Ataturk," the country has had an uneasy relationship with its former empire and Islamic heritage. The military, which has traditionally been the van- guard of secular values, has intervened numerous times to maintain the country's secular footing. But this has taken a toll on the country's democratic institutions and economy. One of Erdogan's biggest claims to success has been the stability he has brought after decades of military coup d'dtats. Under his leadership, the economy has dramati- cally improved and the coun- try's international profile has grown. Consequently, many experts touted Erdogan's rule as an example of blending Is- lam and democracy together as an example for the rest of the Middle East. But that model has come at a cost. Erdogan has grown in- -creasingly authoritarian, ar- resting dozens of journalists and other activists, purging the military of its secular stal- warts, and jailing hundreds of generals and other officers on charges of plotting to oust his Islamist government, ac- cording to the Economist. At the same time, Erdogan has been gearing up to amend the Turkish constitution to increase the powers of the presidency, and then seeks to run for president in 2014. "We see a lot of autocratic tendencies of Erdogan. We see attacks on the press and other democratic institutions. While it is still a dem0cracy, but a very problematic de- mocracy, this is what many secularists are protesting and afraid of," Inbar told "He is trying to change the system. He is trying to change the constitution to fit his vision," Inbar added. On Sunday, Erdogan went on television to defend his _policies, dismissing criti- cism that he has become a "dictator." "I don't have dictatorship in my blood... I am a servant, I don't have any interest in making provocation," Erdo- gan said, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Erdogan also angered many of the protestors with his remarks, calling them a "bunch of looters" and brand- ing them as a"minority" who are trying to force their will on the majority, the Associ- ated Press reported. Erdogan also blamed Twitter, which has been used extensively in the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, call- ing it a "menace to society." Despite the explosion of protests, Inbar told that Erdogan is likely to be able to weather this storm for now. "He is quite cocky and believes he is quite secure in his position," Inbar said. "I think he feels these dem- onstrations won't really spread. But it really depends on what happens. If someone prominent organizes the demonstrations, they could really turn into an issue for him. But so far it has been very spontaneous." Why did Israel's promising electric carmaker fail? A Better Place customer charging his electronic vehicle in in Ramat Hasharon, Israel. By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA)--It was supposed to be the car of the future, a near-silent, battery- powered vehicle that would wean the West off its depen- dence on Middle Eastern oil and save the environment in the process. And an Israel compally seemed destined to build it. Better Place, founded in 2007 by the exuberantly confident entrepreneur Shai Agassi, was trumpeted as the king of Israeli startups, a company that would keep the air clean and the streets quiet while saving money for its users. Six years and more than $850 million in venture capital later, the dream lies in tatters. On May 26, Better Place declared bankruptcy, its t. management transferred to a liquidator and the future of its 38 battery switching stations in Israel thrown into peril. Thousands of vehicles built specifically for the company's network sit unsold in lots, their future uncertain. "We stand by the original vision as formulated by Shai Agassi of creating a green alternative that would lessen our dependence on highly polluting transportation tech- nologies," said a statement from the company's board of directors. "The technical chal- lenges we overcame success- fully, but the other obstacles we were not able to overcome, despite the massive effort and resources that were deployed to that end." Better Place had raised hopes that someone had fi- nally figured out how to bring an electric vehicle into mass "Attention Investors & Home Owner's" The Real Estate Market is Back! Earn 10% Net Short Term 1st Mortgages! Sell your house fast! = Top $, Quick Sale! Call J.E. "Jack" LeMieux 305-607-7886 or 407-599-5000 43 Years Experiencefl Roni Schutzer/Flash90/JTA the company's headquarters usage. The company appeared to have hit on an innovative solution to problems that had long bedeviled electric carmakers: limited range, lengthy recharge times and consumer reluctance to shell out big money for an experi- mental technology. The company adopted a model similar to the cell phone industry: Drivers would pay a monthly fee for access to a network of stations where they could swap batteries in about the amount of time it would take to fill a tank with gasoline. Customers also could charge their cars at home for free. Agassi was the face of the company, a relentless booster who was named to several l is.ts of the world's most influential people. But what is arguably the highest-profile flop in a country legendary for suc- cessful startups comes as no surprise, those familiar with the company's operations say. Former employees, cus- tomers and industry experts paint a picture of a company that grew too big, too fast, built a car too expensive and impractical, and chafed under management with a penchant for burning through cash. "I don't think Better Place failed due to a mistake in technology," said Sam Solo- Roni Schutzer/Flash90 Shai Agassi, founder of Better Place, standing next to one of the company's electronic vehicles during the opening ceremony in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, February 2010. mon, a venture capitalist and the chairman of Mobideo Technologies, which sold charge-station software to Better Place. "It ran too fast with too much. They did not get enough of a critical mass in a single market in order to demonstrate success." The company's downward spiral began last year; Better Place lost more than $450 mil- lion in 2012. Agassi was ousted as CEO in October, and the company would go through two more chief executives before falling under control ofastate-appointed liquidator. Israel was the company's principal market, its system seemingly well suited to a country where most drivers stay within a densely popu- lated central region and the price of gas is high. Investors believed in Agas- si's vision, buoying him with $850 million in funding. Even before the Israeli venture launched, Agassi had started a second network in Denmark and was planning others--in Australia, the Netherlands, China, Japan and the United States, in San Francisco and Hawaii. Solomon said itwas Agassi's first and possibly biggest mis- take, thatthe company should have focused on Israel before going global. "What he needed to do was focus on a small core success," said Solomon, who drives a Bette.r Place car. "He basically ran it like a big company when he had to run it like a lean startup. It was way over-exlanded. He was trying to run too many projects at once." Agassi exuded confidence, predicting that by 2010 there would be 100,000 Better Place cars on the road. The actual number turned out to be zero. The first charging station was opened in 2008, but the cars, manufactured by the French Company Renault but sold by Better Place, were not avail- able for purchase until 2012. And instead of building a compact car meant to travel short distances, Better Place offered only a family sedan. "They needed a smaller car built for cities, a cheaper car," said Yoav Kaveh, an automo- tive columnist for Haaretz. Better Place sold fewer than 1,000 cars in Israel. And when sales hadn't picked up by the end of 2012, the board cut spending ind replaced Agassi, who is.not speaking to the media. But one of his defenders, former Better Place director of policy Yariv Nornberg, said Israel could have done more to help the venture get off the ground by providing tax credits for electric car drivers. Denmark offers a $40,000 tax break to promote electric cars. "We could have expected. better from the public inter- est," Nornberg said. "Things would have looked different if there was more help for the user." Better Place's 38 switching stations in Israel may close by June, but some customers say they'll still happily drive their cars, which they say provide a cleaner, quieter and smoother ride. Without the stations, they will have to charge their cars at home. "The service I've had up until now makes it a complete replacement for a petrol car," said Brian Thomas, who- bought his car a year ago. "It's so quiet and fast and nice to drive." Despite the setback, Norn- berg still sees a bright future for the electric car industry. Better Place, he says, was ahead of if its time. And even though it failed commer- cially, it succeeded in getting battery-powered rubber to meet the road. "It's not about buying the gadget," he said. "It's another means of transportation that's better for the general public. "The dream is not over. It's only the beginning."