Friday, May 30, 2003


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 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!

Thursday, May 29, 2003


The (steps in the) Road Map have been approved by the government, the revised budget passed in Knesset late last night and all attention can be given to the planning for a super-week of diplomacy starting tonight. A second meeting between PM's will take place today to be followed by the Bush summits in Sharm el-Shieikh (with Arab leaders) and Akaba with (Sharon and Abu Maazen) on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. All of this is dependant on the situation remaining calm, of course. The goal is likely to be the starting of the activity on the road map. That is taking the first steps demanded by the document -- statements by the two leaders. After the problems Sharon got earlier this week and described in my previous musing, will he be able to say, as detailed in the roadmap:
"Israel affirms its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, as expressed by President Bush. Israel calls for an immediate end to violence against Palestinians everywhere. All official Israeli institutions end incitement against Palestinians."
Problem words include "independent", "sovereign", "everywhere". The first two detail the nature of a Palestinian state. While Sharon has said this before, it is unclear how forthcoming he will want to be. Everywhere - does that mean Israel can't act against Palestinians who are planning terror attacks? In the end, Sharon will likely say the words, if only to cause Abu Maazen to say the words demanded from him:
"The Palestinians reiterate Israel's right to exist in peace and security and call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity, terrorism and all acts of violence agaisnt Israel anywhere. All official Palestinians institutions will end incitement against Israel."
Such a strong statement would be a large step towards the key strategic goal of ending the violence of the past 32 months. It would also serve to lead the two sides into actions (and not just words) regarding the road map. Will Sharon offer some sort of gesture at the summit such as ordering a closing of the illegal outposts? Will Abu Maazen take control of specific areas and act against the terror groups? Haaretz says that will certainly be offered, probably tonight.
Conventional wisdom (although it is often an oxymoron coming from many of the sources) is that the Palestinians cannot possibly achieve the benchmarks demanded of them. See Uri Dan in today's Jerusalem Post. A fear could be that despite non-action (or partial action) the Quartet -- especially the Euros and the UN -- will push to move on. See yesterday's J-m Post editorial. Israeli Ministers continue to attack the dangers in the plan.

A keen reader of these lines, a Mr. Rubin of Tel Aviv voiced his unhappiness about the ad nauseum discussions about unimportant issues such as Sharon, occupation and raod maps when his favorite hockey team, the New Jersey Devils are three wins away from the Stanley Cup. At the same time, my favorite Duck, Chuck, from SoCal reports that he did not make the trip to the swamp for games one and two as he was given the responsibility of planning a parade for the Anaheim team when they win the Cup. He noted that he may fly over for games five and seven. He did not include the word "if" in his email. Interesting. While Mr. Kesher sticks with his prediction of Devils in six, he is cheering for the Ducks. Mr. Kesher reminds his readers that he called for a Devils-Ducks final as early as late April. Perhaps a loyal reader will search the archives for the exact date.
We passed 1500 hits (not per day, we have no porn here, yet) yesterday although a majority of them are about six people and you know who you are. I appreciate you willingness to waste a bit of your day with me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003


At an amazing meeting of the Likud Knesset membership yesterday, the Prime Minister of Israel said the word "occupation" FOUR times. Among other things he basically said that it is bad for Israel to continue to occupy 2 million Palestinians. ">See article. Of course, the official position of Israel since 1967 has been that the West Bank and Gaza are disputed territories but are not occupied according to international law. The arguments are based on old legalistic arguments regarding the status of the territories before the Six Day War and basically claimed that the Geneva Conventions should not be applicable. Over the years, the argument convinced no one in the international community. A better argument, which is still, I believe the position of Israel, that the permanent status of the territories must be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. Of course, that point does not change the current status of the territories.

So, he said that. He also said a number of other things that were so reasonable and so forthcoming that I fell off my sofa watching the news last night. What does it mean? Firstly, the passing of the vote in the Cabinet on Sunday (even with all of the whining and hedging) was not only words. It is now the official position of Israel. It has passed the rubicon in regard to a number of key issues. While I don't need to tell you that I have many doubts about Sharon, the fact is (and it must be recognized by Israel's left) that he is standing up to the challenge of peace... at least this week.

Will the Palestinians be able to fill out the details of the first stage of the road map. Concensus here is that it is nearly impossible. Add too, the Israeli government's commentary to the road map that was published in this morning's Haaertz. The exacting view of the demands on the Palestinians are nearly impossible. Here are Akiva Eldar's criticisms. I am not sure that Israel is wrong to make the demand that "there will be no progress to the second phase without the fulfillment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the war against terror". Of course, the road map itself says the same thing.

I think that it is possible. Can you tell that I am more optimistic today? The investment of the Americans is getting greater each day. The key Arab states seem to be on board. The world expected Sharon to reject and take the fall (OK,OK maybe I did, too). That hasn't happened. The Palestinians are nervous as if they were tricked into accepting the road map and are now stuck having to carry it out. The scheduled meeting tomorrow between Sharon adn Abu Maazen was just cancelled - it will happen on Thursday or Friday and Sharon will likely offer the Palestinians security control in a significant portion of the Gaza Strip. He'll say - do what needs to be done there and you'll get more.

Who else is nervous? The settlers. They were trusting Sharon to save them from peace talks. They are already acting to demonize him. Its almost enough to turn one into a Sharon supporter. Almost.

Sunday, May 25, 2003


The news of the weekend was the agreement of PM Sharon to bring the road map to a vote in the Cabinet tonight. Assessments here this morning are that it will pass by a small margin. The domino effect of such a vote witll be interesting ranging from showing what American pressure can achieve, what effect this will have on Sharon's center-right coalition, to the "reality" of Israeli acceptance of a number of concepts in the road map such settlement freeze, closing of illegal outposts, a Palestinian state with provisional borders by the end of 2004, and stopping certain aggressive security measures. If you still haven't read the road map - get with the program. Here it is.

At the same time, this, like a tennis match will return the ball to the Palestinian side and demand immediate statements and actions on issues such as ending terror, arresting terrorists, closing infrastrucures, ending incitement, confiscation of illegal arms and more. Can or will Abu Maazen do these things?

There is talk about a summit next week in Sharm el-Sheikh with GWB. Is that a good thing? Perhaps it would draw the necessary statements from the principals but what will convince the Israeli public is actions. The danger of additional terror in the coming days would also be enormous.

It isn't the Eurovision song contest (won by a group of Turkish women of seemingly ill repute last night, see photo) or even American Idol but somehow the world keeps watching. They are watching but are they understanding or care to understand? Probably not.

How about New Jersey?! You thought it was only Sopranos and Springsteen... When was the last time that two teams playing in the same arena made the NHL and NBA finals in the same season? It was the Knicks and Rangers in 1994 when the Broadway Blues won the Cup and the Knicks lost to Houston when John Starks had that awful game seven. At also happened in 1992 when the Bulls won their second championship and the Hawks lost to the Penguins. Pretty useless info, eh.