Initial media reports (Haaretz) on last night's meeting between PM's are quite positive. In this morning's Yidiot Ahronot, Abu Maazen is quoted saying that he said ten years ago that the one who would make peace here would be Sharon. I don't believe the quote but the message is that the two are trying to build a repore and a relationship that could allow the talks to move forward.
Apparently the meeting lasted three hours and included dinner. Sharon offered a range of gestures both security and humanitarian related and emphasized the need for the Palestinians to make their move in terms of security. Some prisoners will be freed, the IDF will pull out of the major cities and significantly pull back in Gaza. Debka file is a bit less optimistic and questions whether Abu Maazen will be willing or able to fight the terror organizations. Facinating article in this morning's New York Times by Ethan Bronner retelling the story of the attack on the Altelana ship in 1948. The message for Palestinians is clear. If they want their national movement to reach the next level, they will have to break the militias and terrorist groups. Here's a sobering thought though. What is the back-up plan to Abu Maazen? If something goes wrong or if he has a heart attack (or worse) tomorrow, what is plan B? I don't think that there is one.
Apparently having read (not really) this page yesterday, the Americans are sending senior advisors from the White House and State to TELL the Israelis and Palestinians what they need to say in Aquaba next Wednesday. It is clear that GWB doen't want to take any chances and will drag the two sides along to make this first stage work. As I've said before, I think that is a good thing. There has been much discussion lately of the old maxim of "the Americans can't want this more then the sides" is not true right now. See Tom Friedman from Wednesday. See Saul Singer in the Jerusalem Post. The need for the Americans is so great that they have to make the sides act. Similarly, the need of the parties for American approval is unprecedented. Mybe so great that that interest outweighs (!!) peace process positions. GWB gave an interview to an Arab TV network last night emphasizing similar points about his vision and how he keeps his promises. The key part, for him, is showing the Arab world that all of this is not about oil, settlements and destroying Islam.
Again the Israeli stock market went up, the Shekel is strong against the dollar (at its highest point since late 2000), under 4.4 to the dollar. The talks and the budget passing has developed an optimism that is clearly an overreaction but a yardstick to measure both feelings and another reminder of how connected the issues of the economy and peace talks are. The hyper-pro Bibi editorial in the Jerusalem Post pretty much misses that point. Not that that should surprise readers of that dying and useless paper. [Disclosure: the Post employs Mrs. Kesher and thus helps feed the mini Keshers so we still love it].
While that banned baseball team will not be discussed, it is important to note that one of the conditions of returning them to the discussion on these pages seems near. See article on espn.com. The seond condition is a bit far as they are still five games under .500. Another loss for the Ducks last night as Marty Brodeur shut them out again in Jersey. Chuck! Have the parade anyway!