Thursday, May 22, 2003


According to this morning's Israeli media, the US Government is putting pressure on Israel to say "yes" to the road map and to close the illegal outposts in the West Bank. See Aluf Benn's report in today's Haaretz here. This is a clear change in the American message over the past few days. You remember that during the Powell visit, the emphasis was on steps and not on the road map. It is now clear that our lack of clarity on the subject of the road map is seen to be problematic. It is scary how quickly the spin about terror attacks pass - already on Wednesday (yesterday) the talk is how to get things going again.

You may remember that last week (on May 13) I wrote about a leak about media advice Israel is getting ffrom the USA. Akiva Eldar in today's Haaretz quotes from the documents given to Israeli officials. The message of the document is clear that after the American success in Iraq (although that may change in time), there is a desire in the USA for balance and progress towards success here. The thought is that if Saddam can be defeated in three weeks, a solution to peace between Israelis and Palestinians must also be achievable, too. Of course, this is an overly simplistic view of the world in general and the situation here. At the same time, it means that Israel has to be aware of the perceptions in Washington and accross America.

Of course, I am not sure that this is a bad thing. Sharon may even WANT the Americans to tell him to do things that may be difficult to push through domestically, such as arguing with the settlers about closing illegal outposts and freezing settlement expansion. And even if he doesn't, its still good. I read an interesting quote from then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres from the summer of 1995, in connection with negotiations on the Interim Agreement within the Oslo accords. While the world is in many ways a different place then it was eight years ago, some things remain the same. The quote is taken from Uri Savir's book, The Process:

"I'm fed up with your fear of what the settlers will say. What gall! You want 150,000 Hebronites to remain under our control because of 400 Jews? There's a limit to arrogance and a limit to timidity. I'm telling you that we can break Arafat if that's what you want. But we'll be left with Hamas, an intifada and terror. We've made a decision to strive for a political settlement. Today we must decide who's in charge of this country: the government or a handful of settlers. And to you generals, I say: you too must weigh this matter from the standpoint of security. Enough of this dread of how the settlers will react!"

Monday, May 19, 2003


As I wrote yesterday, the events of the past few days which even included a foiled Hamas attempt to hijack a passenger bus and kidnap soldiers have set us back to the situation where we were a year ago. The government cancelled all of the CBM's (confidence building measures) announced during the Powell visit and all of the proposals raised during the Abbas-Sharon meeting. According to the media, the Prime Minister fought off calls from the right to exile Arafat.

The feeling today is that the road map has crashed even before it started. I don't believe that is true. Giving up so quickly is not likely and time will move the sides back towards the only path imaginable - dialogue. It will not come so fast and the impression one gets here is that we are in the midst of (yet another) terrorism wave. But it will come.

Yesterday night I took part in a meeting dealing with issues relating to Jews from the Arab world. There is so much talk about Palestinian refugees and an alleged "right of return", there has been talk about finding a way to re-raise the issue of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who left a variety of countries in the Arab world over the years. In stark contrast to the Palestinian refugees who have suffered in squalor, the majority of the Jews were absorbed - not as refugees but - as immigrants in Israel. Three examples include Israel's President, Foreign Minister and Defense Minister. The idea is not to claim that the Palestinian refugees have no rights or legitimacy: they do. The goal, however, is to say that there are many who have suffered and that all of these issues must be taken into consideration when "solving" the Israel-Arab conflict.

One topical issue was the Jews of Iraq. What was once a great community, numbering over 100,000 after WW2 is now just a few old people. It is clear that in the coming months that some sort of Truth Commission or War Crimes Trials will take place in Iraq. Wouldn't it be cool if some of the vanguard of those speaking out about the suffering of the Iraqi people at the hand of Saddam were Jews? According to experts there is more evidence of a legal sort about Jews then about some others. Thus, they may be in a position to speak out and tell their story. It could bring to the forefront of public conciousness the suffering of Jews in Arab countries.

Chuck's Ducks are in; Rafi's vision (at least vs. the Kings) worked; We are still boycotting that team from Queens and it seems that Vijay Singh is scared of Anna Sorenstam and pulled out of the PGA (mens') golf tourney that she is playing in this week. This will be a fun story this week. I hope she kicks some butt.

Sunday, May 18, 2003


What is one to make of current events? I am glad that Sharon and Abbas met least night here. Danny Rubinstein in Haaretz thought it was useless. I think he's wrong and progress or even its perception can have a dynamic. Sharon didn't cancel the meeting despite a suicide terrorist attack killing a settler couple in Hebron a few hours earlier. There was no inside media coverage of the talks yet. No Israeli or Palestinian briefings arguing about the meeting.

Then again, this morning we woke up to the news of the suicide bombing on the 6 bus near the French Hill intersection killing seven, mostly senior citizens. Apparently, a separate suicide bomber killed himself at a check point near Jerusalem (no Israelis were hurt). Sharon cancelled his trip to Washington and who knows what is coming next.

Add to that the attacks in Casablanca and Riyadh and there seems like a real terror buldge in the last week. While the Palestinian terror might be seen to be different - that is only because the rules seem to be different here. The fact is that we were all hoping that Afghanistan and Iraq had changed the rules. They haven't.

The fact is when these things happen, it is hard to argue with the Prime Minister and the military leaders who say that there is nothing to talk about until the terror stops. The Palestinians seem like they have not found away to clearly mark for all of their people that terror is not an acceptable tool. It is unclear that who will step up and disassociate themselves from the continued violence. Abu Maazen says the right words; Sari Nusseibah is a serious guy. However, Palestinian TV still is cheering jihad on. The schools are still teaching about a world without Israel and last week's marking of "Nakbah" Day, the anniversary of the disaster of the creation of Israel, highlighted by an Arafat speech to continue fighting and fighting and fighting. It seems to me sometimes that maybe they are not as ready as I might want them to be. This is certainly not only about occupation.

Look, I haven't become a Likudnik today. The Israeli rejectionist side is still wrong. Flat out wrong. We have to always have our hand out. At the same time, the demands being made from the Palestinians are not sooooo great. They have to decide that terrorism is evil.

I just finished reading Margaret MacMillian's book "Paris: 1919, Six Months that Changed the World" about the Paris peace conference. The part about Arab nationalism and diplomacy seems straight out of current events. The next book, Michael Oren's Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, is also great. I just started it but just read about Ben Gurion becoming nervous about Arab manouvering (and terrorism) of the early 60's. So (among other things) he bought some heavy water. Nevertheless, he told the Americans that he'd meet Nasser, any place at any time. That's the right message.

By the way, the strike ended early this morning. It is unclear what was agreed upon and what it means. I'm back at work and that's good. At least something is good in Israel today.