Thursday, May 08, 2003


As Israel and the Palestinians get ready for our visit from Secretary of State Powell, it is interesting to look back on the Secretary's visit to Syria and Lebanon last weekend. It seems that in the few weeks since the end of "hostilities" in Iraq, the Americans have been giving young Bashar a lesson (or more exactly, clarifying the main points, since there is a risk that the young man may not understand) in the nature of the Middle East after the fall of Saddam. The list of issues supposidly raised by Powell make even the most moderate Israeli almost giddy: leaving Lebanon, stopping support for the Hizzbullah, closing the offices of the Palestinian terror organizations in Damascus, handing over additional playing cards (er, Iraqis) who have slipped into Syria, not playing a negative role in regard to the Road Map.

At the same time, there has been talk of renewing direct talks between Israel and Syria. This is not a coincidence. It is clear that Bashar is in grave danger of being next on the GWB hit list. The regime life expectency for those on that list is shorter then Michael jordan's post-playing days relationship with the Washington Wizards. The Syrians think (hope) that this will be the fastest way to get the Americans off their backs. They missed opportunities in the 90's during negotiations and maybe the talk of negotiations will stop the talk about terrorism.

So, class, what do you do? On the one hand, the natural move is to be open to peace talks. On the other hand, Israel has enough problems with the Palestinians and the hope of getting the violence stopped without turning energy in another direction. It seems to me that Israel should be in no rush to reach out to Bashar. We have bigger fish to fry and more pressing issues. The relationship with the Syrians is not unbearable as it is with the Palestinians. The Syrians are not offering anything that we can't refuse. The pressure is on them, there is no reason for us to make it easier for Syria.

Over the years, there have been attempts to play the negotiations off each other (both Barak and Rabin reached out first to Syria) and only moved on to the Palestinians when Assad the elder would not be pliable enough. Perhaps it would be better, this time, to deal seriously with the Palestinians and lower the intensity before we look in other directions.

Monday, May 05, 2003


So we are at a fascinating moment. It seems that both we and the Palestinians are exausted. Sadaam and his threat to the east is gone. The Americans are teaching the facts of life to young Bashar. The road map (here is text) has finally been published and talks more than anything else about reciprocity and "performance based" responsibilities. As an attorney, I do not want to ignore the details and the words.

The document is certainly not perfect. Since the Gettysburg Address (in Hebrew, Arabic, Serbo-Croatian) there has not really been one. OK, OK MLK's "I have a dream" was good. Chaim Herzog's response to the UN vote calling zionism racism was OK, too.

If you want or have an interest, there are things that are problematic in the Road Map. What is a state with "provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty"? What can be done if the Palestinians back-track? How do we make sure the Euros and UN types don't try to run too fast? How can things be done "in parallel when one act is dependant on building trust and security? I can give you more, many more. Israel should continue to quietly, diplomaticly deal with the problematic points.

At the same time, this is not (yet) a holy text. The words are important but so is the spirit. The spirit here is that there are things that the Palestinians must show the world. Actions they must take now. These things will be judged by a post-September 11 and post-Iraq international community which won't help build a terrorist state. Israel has to believe that, even a little. Things have been done - some reforms have started, Arafat is slowly but surely being pushed aside. The money is being more carefully watched. The issues of incitement and education are being discussed. These issues must stay on the agenda and be work on. The fixing of these things is the key, for Israel, to a path towards peace, ceasefire, non-violence. Whatever.

But still, now is the time for Israel to act. Not a grand gesture. Not by risking security. Not by ignoring the continued threat of suicide bombers or attacks on Israeli civilians. No one is discussing resolution of the conflict this week. A full range of options are open to Israel to show that we are ready to try. The upside is so large and the risks are comparatively small. Even if it doen't work, it is Israel that tried.

Even if it is not perfect, but improves the situation, we will be healthier with renewed tourism, with an improved economy, with less money spent on security, with more spent on education on infrastructure. With soccer home games played in Israel instead of in Europe. With hope.

Last week I wrote about the Holocaust and its memory. Tonight Israel starts is pyschotic combination of sadness (Memorial Day) and joy (Independence Day). We have to try to make sure that next year on Memorial Day there are less widows, less orphans, fewer fresh graves.

Sunday, May 04, 2003


The Executive Committee of Kesher Blog (that is me), in its monthly meeting which took place this morning has decided to ban the New York Mets from the blog until further notice. This decision was taken based upon the continued inferior play over the first month of the season. The E.C. authorized its chairman (that is me) to change that decision should the Mets reach .500 or release Mo Vaughn.

In a separate decision reached by the E.C. in honor of passing our 1000th page view, it was decided that Alex from Geneva (athough she is rarely there and what is up with that?) should be awarded Kesher Blog's viewer award for the month of April. There is no "kessef" in the award and no other value other then the fact that she is smiling when reading these words. At the same time, she is warned (again) that losing badly in shesh-besh may cause a revoking of this award.

Chuck's Ducks are up 3-2 in the NHL playoffs. Kesher continues to offer our support and hope that they will continue their surprising play and are able to move on and play the Canucks (more rapping... as the kids call it - Ducks vs. Canucks) for the Western Conference championship.

I will not get into Mideast diplomacy today. There is so much going on so quickly that I want to internalize all of the manouvering before adding my two cents. The question I would like the class to consider before our discussion is what are the interests (short, medium and long term) of the main actors: GWB, Powell, (also note nuanced difference between White House, State, DoD and Congress), the Europeans (again nuanced differences?), the UN, young Bashar, the Lebanese and of course Sharon, Abu Maazen... and yes, Arafat. I won't assign any reading but expect some thought out discussion. See you tomorrow.