Thursday, June 12, 2003


As angry as I get when we do things that I think are dumb. [See yesterday's blog for exhibit A], I find that outrages like yesterday's suicide bombing of the 14 bus leave me without much to say. I have a very difficult time watching the news which is always the same and listening to the radio the next day (like right now) as the names of the victims are relaeased one by one and the times of the funerals are announced. Other then that the usual talking heads are all over Israeli TV, CNN, BBC and FOX saying nothing because there is not much to say. If you aren't depressed enough, read Danny Ben Simon in today's Haaretz, about Jerusalem's pain.

I don't believe that the bombing was a "result" of the Israeli idiocy of Sunday. It all happened too fast. But, at the risk of sounding cynical and continuing to beat the horse from yesterday, had we not "done" Rantisi we could have said "we're trying and the Palestinians can't/won't control the Hamas. We lose that chance when we act in a wild manner. The key, even if you don't believe that the plan can work is to give it every chance and avoid being the side that could be blamed if/when it fails.

The hardest part though, and one I perhaps take too lightly because it isn't my responsibility is caring for security. When someone has that burden on their shoulders, maybe the scales are weighed differently. But maybe not. How does killing Rantisi make us safer in the current circumstances? In the interest of balance: here is the Jerusalem Post's argument. I don't get it though. First, there is a double standard, we cannot do everything that the US does. Its not fair but that's the way it is. Second, how do Rantisi's words (and perhaps actions) reach such an extreme level for us to risk relations with the US and giving the Hamas an excuse (I know, they don't need an excuse) to kill more civilians. See Zev Schiff's take on the American response. The NY Times notes attempts to influence Wahington via Congress. Are we so afraid of the implications of the road map that we want to kill it now and live with the situation that has existed for the past 32 months? Is that better? For who? I'm not sure I want to know the real answer to those questions.

On that last point, Boaz Ganor, a generally thoughtful anti-terrorism expert frets about the end game interests of the Palestinians. See here. I don't agree that the goal is to get the Palestinians to "sing" about Israel being here. They just need to get a fair deal (and do their side). The thought that nothing is possible and we are doomed to this neverending loop of violence is unbearable and CANNOT be true.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


I have to admit that I don't get it. Of course, I'm in good company. The Americans, much of the Israeli media and anyone else with an ounce of common sense can't figure it out either. The story out of the Middle East yesterday was the subject of my blog, the knocking down of the first outposts. Pictures around the world were meant to show Israel taking the first step to comply. The cell phones of Abu Maazen and Muhamed Dahlan were supposed to start ringing from all sorts of world leaders reminding them that they were expected to take action. Needless to say, that didn't happen. The news lead everywhere was only the botched attempt on Rantisi.

So what happened? Before I start, lets be clear. I don't want to have lunch with Rantisi. He has always been the baddest of bad news. His skewed world and neighborhood view would certainly not be missed if he was somehow... you know. Way back to the time of Rabin (who included him in the 405 Hamasniks expulled to Lebanon in 1993) he's been trouble. Even if he was the one calling the shots (which is what we are claiming) for terrorist acts, why him? why now? And if we wanted to send a message to Hamas that we are still going to get them no matter what, why make demands on Abu Maazen? Doesn't his make Abbas even weaker?

Here are some (all generally depressing) options:
1. Sharon was scared by the attacks on the soldiers on Sunday combined with the reception at the Likud meeting and wanted to show himself to be the hardest on terror.
2. The army saw a chance and acted on its own without consulting the PM. Thus military state scenerio is too scary to fathom.
3. Our guys are continuing to underestimate the investment the Americans have made in the road map. The argument is: Hamas=AL Kaidea. They'll understand.

I'm not sure what now except that the Hamas incentive for retribution is certainly higher then it was at this time yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Congratulations to the New Jersey Devils on winning Lord Stanley's Cup this morning. Nets now need to win 3 of 4 to turn it into a Turnpike Twin Killing. My boy Sim-the-Lawyer spent last night watching the game live at his law firm. Any of the partners walking around at 5AM might have been impressed with the hard working associate until they heard him scream "THE CUP IS MINE". I am told that he may need to look for work... As for my bud Chuck from SoCal, the Ducks had a great run and should have the parade that you planned. Jean-Sebastien Giguere , the deserving Conn Smythe Trophy winner should still do a commercial saying "I'm taking a walk up the street to Disneyland".

The first illegal outposts were taken down last night by the IDF. That is an excellent start, especially in that it was done unilaterally without any connection to Palestinian action or inaction regarding terrorism. The point here is that the outposts are bad news in their own right and should not be seen in the context of the fight on terror. Progress on this subject should not be related to a "prize" for fighting terrorism or should it be stopped as a punishment or threat for Palestinian non-compliance. Israel is a state that claims (and pretty much is) guided by the rule of law. These outposts were outside the law, are damaging to the security of Israel, its national interest and the express position of the Government and thus needed to be removed. According to a map in this morning's Haaretz, there are about 100 such outposts. The fights with the settlers is a time bomb waiting to happen. It will be fascinating to see how the government chooses to move forward. See Nadav Shragai's analysis.

Lots of other interesting things in today's Haaretz. Yoel Marcus discusses Sharon's credibility with various constituencies following Aqaba and the Likud meeting on Sunday night. He calls Sharon's stand at the Likud meeting a chance for him to helped him escape the narrow right-wing party vise and ascend to Ben-Gurionesque heights.

Akiva Eldar reports some of the words and impressions inside the meeting in Aqaba last week. The upshot, which should be of concern here is that GWB is moving closer to the Palestinian positions and the much promoted chemistry between Sharon and Bush may be significantly less then is spun. Then again, it may just be a gossipy sort of leak that means nothing.

Back to the larger question of "can all this work", Barry Rubin, writes a terrific analysis of the chances for success of the road map in today's Jerusalem Post. While Rubin points out many of the arguments why it will be difficult for this effort to succeed, and is right to note that the lack of the Palestinian public (and that of much of the Arab world) to reconcile with the mere existence of the State of Israel is a scary reality, he correctly asks the key question for June 2003: Does mean that the roadmap effort is a mistake or a bad thing? No. An academic or journalist can easily say that something will fail, but a politician or a diplomat must try nonetheless precisely because it is the best option available.

Monday, June 09, 2003


Amazing scene last night at a Likud Party meeting. Sharon was greeted with a chorus of boos and whistles that would only be matched if GWB spoke at a NAACP meeting. Actually, the NAACP would have been more respectful. I commented to Mrs. Kesher during the speech that it almost makes one like Sharon.

In fact, the scene was not bad for Sharon, tactically. He comes across as strong and unmovable pushing for peace against the will of many of the people in his own political camp. Could you imagine an American pol acting totally against the views of his party? I'm sure that if it was ten years ago and Arik was 65 and could see himself running for reelection, he wouldn't do this. Furthermore, he knows from public opinion surveys that the general public is behing the basic ideas of closing illegal outposts, a settlement freeze and a Palestinian state.

Lots of talk over the weekend about what really went on inside Aqaba. How the speeches were so strongly vetted by the Americans and most of the tough questions (Jerusalem, refugees) were totally ignored. It was a positive scene and left lots of people hopeful but it was only words and carefully sanitized words, at that. The Jews and Arabs are so used to a zero sum game view of things that it will be nearly impossible to keep this momentum for the long haul. I don't think the Americans understand the enormity of what is necessary to move the sides forward.

For example, look at the terror attacks which took place yesterday at the Erez Junction and Hebron. Everyone in the media, correctly I think, sees the attacks as an attempt to further weaken Abu Maazen. See Safire in today's NY Times. Inciting an Israeli response would cause Abu Maazen to lose any credibility as a Palestinian leader instead of an Israeli-American puppet. But if Israel doesn't respond, the terror and the terror attacks continue, the process loses credibility with Israelis. If Abu Maazen does what Israelis and Americans want (i.e. attack the extremists), a Palestinian civil war only makes things worse. Further, why should Abu Maazen be able to achieve something (Stopping the violence) that Sharon could not?

In a week or a month, will the Bushies still be in the mood to keep the pressure on? Yesterday, Powell and Rice went on the Sunday talk shows (see Fox News, for example) and emphasized what the Palestinians must do and how the Israelis must stay committed. But for how long will the Americans do this until GWB throws up his hands and says: "I tried" and turns to work on the economy and getting reelected?

This continuing frustration reminds me of a Springsteen song from his "Tunnel of Love" album called "One Step Up". The relavent verse goes:
We've given each other some hard lessons lately
But we ain't learnin'
We're the same sad story that's a fact
One step up and two steps back