Wednesday, May 14, 2003


Some of you were a bit taken aback by the tone of yesterday's missives. Sorry about that. It will pass.

It's odd, in a way. We have now had 30 months or so of violence, murder and general mayhem and I have to say that I was not flustered during much of the period. Don' take this the wrong way - it was scary and confusing, I took risks into consideration (for example, in February 2002 I stopped riding the bus and bought a second car) and was generally frustrated. At the same time I kept telling myself and nearly anyone who would listen: when the chance comes, Israel won't miss it. Israel has never, really, blinked when real opportunities for imporving the situation existed. Arik Sharon won't either. When the chance comes, Sharon will stand up and be counted. And if he doesn't, Israelis will show him the door.

Well, here we are in mid-May 2003. This is the test, I think. What will happen next week in Washington? Will GWB say words like: "you've got to close those outposts, now"; "all settlement activity must be frozen"? What will Arik do? There is no opposition to Sharon in Israel. The Labor and Meretz parties are both leaderless and have no real message. Thus, I don't think that (other then vis a vis the Americans) Sharon feels any domestic pull to compromise. What would he gain? He could lose the security of his still new coalition. Why risk it? If he doesn't say those words (or other such things) what message will Arik internalize?

So is the call of America and the international community enough? I'm doubtful. At the same time, what makes all of this so difficult is that there is a light here, now. It won't stay for long. The next terrorist attack; the next targeting of a Hamas leader; the developments around the arrests of a number of Arab Israeli leaders yesterday; the Americans getting bogged down in Iraq. This moment will pass. There will certainly be other moments but ...

Here is a very thoughtful comment from Yossi Klein Halevi regarding settlement compromise iin today's Jerusalem Post.

By the way, I'm still on strike. That is the fourth day this week and sixth in the last month. Should bed an interesting salary at the end of the month. If you want to, you could always email me $1,000,000 via paypal. That would work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003


If you are following the big American written media (NYT, WP and LAT - for example) all have spun the Powell visit that it is Sharon that is the problem regarding the Road Map and moving forward. For a recap, see Slate's "today's paper" from yesterday and from today. That is a bad sign. A visiting American media advisor told government oficials similar things the other day. See leak from yesterday's Haaertz. Someone very close to me who was at the briefing reports that the words were sharp and message clear: no one in America has patience with nuance here. Its time to find some closure.

Here we are where much is perception and not necessarily reality. Things may change in Iraq. Much of the attention will shift to the bombing in Riyadh last night killing some twenty people but unless we get with the program, we will get the blame for any failure. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in Washington next week when Arik visits the White House. My pal Azriel thinks I shouldn't hold my breath on the question of putting the pressure on the PM by GWB. However, failure of the roadmap and continued violence here casts a shadow on American interests in Iraq. I hope.

Still on strike and while I am positive that the Minister of Finance and those working with him are not looking out for my interests, I have serious questions about the union. Their messages to the public are unclear and made with a lack of conviction. There are good reasons to be on strike in theory - massive cuts in salary in the lower and middle class, threats of unilateral removal of pension rights and a growing gap between haves and have nots are all bad news. At the same time there are those in the pubic sector (Senior municipal employees, airport officials, electric company, and bank of israel are four examples) who are making obscene salaries for no good reason. Many of my friends beleve that the union is really fighting for them and not for me. They have more (in absolute numbers) to lose because they are earning so much more.

The wost part about all of this is that all of this is another example of the "we'll take care of ourselves" syndrom which is all too pervasive in Israel these days. I think it gets its legitimacy from national politics where yesterday a Knesset committee refused (article here. Yossi Verter wrote nicely in Ha'aretz but I can't transfer the link. Check it out.) to lift the immunity of one of its members accused of election bribery. A number of the members of the committee did not vote because they would potentially find themselves in the same position in the short term. Others voted against lifting immunity literally to challenge the rule of law and the peceived power of the attorney general. Thus, if the public sees our elected officials being (literally) above the law and taking care of their own, what lessons are learned. At Mr. Kesher's place of work, over 80% of the emploees worked yesterday, despite their being a strike. I didn't cross the picket line (Ma Kesher tells me that my late Gandfather would have been proud) and feel like a bit of a sucker.

You all know that old story about the wedding in the shtetl where the guests were all asked to bring a bottle of vodka to the party to put in a common vat. One guest, looking to save a few zlotys decided to bring a bottle of water - saying that no one would notice the diference. In the end, of course, the vat was filled only with water.

What do you think? Does the PM read this blog? Probably not. Actually, I hope not and that he would spend his time doing more productive things then surfing the net. Yesterday, I wrote about settlements and illegal outposts and the message that they send here and internationally. Of course, I suggested that Israel take steps to come closer to the needs of our people and the calls of the world to close illegal outposts and start thinking about what settlements should, in the long run, be closed. This morning's Jerusalem Post has an interview with the PM in which he is pretty clear about the issue. It was a clear backtrack from statements about potentially closing settlements. Does he not think the international community reads the absurdly one sided Post? No. He know they do. Last month, before Powell comes, he speaks of hope and compromise. Today...

The reason I am so upset about all of this is that I really believe that there is a chance now to change things a little. Don't we want to do that? Don't we want tourism to improve? Don't we want international investment to return? Having guards walking all over the university and in front of every coffee shop lowers unemployment but adds ZERO productivity to the economy.

The really sad thing is that this could be a great place to live and raise a family. It doesn't feel like it these days.

Monday, May 12, 2003


Still on strike.

So, the SecState visited and is now on his way to Jordan and Egypt. The Israelis seems to be happy because the visit passed without incident or calls upon Israel to act and there seems like a meeting between Abu Maazen and PM Sharon is scheduled for Friday. The Israeli media is filled with the messages that Sharon gave to Powell - coalition problems, no real action by Palestinians and lots of words about willingness. The question is, will the words ever become actions? When will Israel act to close the illegal outposts on the West Bank and Gaza? If we are a law abiding state that values the rule of law, how is it possible to ignore this continued vigilantism? The short answer is that we cannot. It is damaging to any hope here, making a gesture for closing them would be a great message internationally and more importantly their continued existence is significantly effecting the democratic nature of Israel.

So what's next? As I noted, the respective PM's are set to meet. In fact, this meeting is a prize for Israel. It certainly won't strengthen Abu Maazen unless he recieves something tangible to show the Palestinians. Sharon is the one who needs to market himself as a peacemaker internationally and to convince the Palestinians that there is an option to suicide-murders, to armed struggle, to hopelessness.

Look, we are not the bad guys here. The Palestinians created this situation from some real opportunities (even if working with Ehud Barak can hardly be considered "an opportunity". We are usually acting how rational people would act in a totally irrational situation. We are standing up and fighting for what is ours. We are doing our best to protect ourselves from an existential threat. We have convinced the world (OK, OK, Al Kaida and September 11th had a big role) that terrorism is evil and must be defeated. All of this is true and at the very heart of the matter. Any discussion must accept these terms and go from there. I believe that GWB and Co. understand this and even the Euros do, too.

However, especially after Sadaam, the world and even many in the Arab world are looking for new ways to act. We have to find ways that include some compromise. We have to make "sacrifices" because whether it is perception or reality, there aer millions of Palestinians who have to get what is theirs. That is a key to fighting terrorism in other places in the world.

Israel has to make the steps. Now. I am dubious on how the Palestinians will respond. They will likely miss another opportunity. But, for now, it is our turn. Arik, make a gesture, take a step, take a chance. I believe that in this casino, it is the best bet there is today.

Sunday, May 11, 2003


So those wacky government workers (present company included) are out on strike again. As if we needed more days off following Passover, Independence Day and two strike days a few weeks ago. So, I am back in the law school on Mount Scopus, supposed to be finishing up a seminar paper on the role of a legal advisor in peace negotiations. Alas, the muse for you, dear reader is stronger then the muse for the seminar paper. We'll get to it in a little while.

I am not really sure why I'm on strike. All I know is that fighting Bibi is a good thing. Actually, the fight is about how much the union and the government will agree to cut my salary. As if they are not getting away with paying me to little already. I can't imagine the strike going on more then another day or two - we'll see.

Saw the Colin and Silvan show last night. The SecState in the 'hood trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians to make nice. I've bored you enough already on the subject. Tom from the NYTimes weighs in on the need to push Israel. He's right, as usual, especially about the Council of Presidents and the Christian right in the USA. This is one of the few opportunities where the ball is in our court. We can make actions that could have a significant effect to improve the situation. The big question is do we want to? If my one vote matters, we should want to. The best reason (beyond the usual stuff like improving the odds that my kids will be safe) is to examine who the people are who fighting most vigerously: Arafat, Syria, Hamas... and the settlers. It is an amazing coalition of interests.

Ed from Fort Lee (some people call him dad) pointed out about Syria that they haven't seemed to have done anything that Colin "asked" them to do last week. Well, we don't know that at this point. At the same time, my argument was only that we should not change the discussion to "peace talks" until Bashar antes up by doing the things that the Americans demand and until we deal with primary business with the Palestinians.

Chuck's Ducks won game one of the western finals while Sim's Devils lost in the east. Both in overtime. We'd love to see that match-up in Stanley's finals. Then again, we don't really care that much. Saw this morning's Kings-Mavs NBA playoff double overtime game. It was great. My man Rafi had a vision that the Mavs would win the series... I'm not big on visions but couldn't he have a vision about the road map succeeding? Or at least letting the union win its battle with Bibi?