Wednesday, June 18, 2003


It sort of seems that we are in a holding pattern over the past couple of days. The main story has been internal Palestinian talks about a ceasefire. Its strange that these inside Palestinian talks are going on, with Egyptian help while everyone seems (although I am sure taht this is not the case) to be sitting around waiting for them to make up their minds. Danny Rubinstein was quite pessimistic the other day and seems to be more positive in today's Haaretz.

On another topic, here (from Haaertz) is a counter-intuitive arugment about last week's hits on Hamas leaders. The point of the article is davka these measures have convinced President Bush that the only strategy is all-out war against the Hamas. What seemed (certainly to Mr. Kesher!) to be a foolhardy risk of Israeli-American lockstep on the goals and directions of the road map was in fact the lesson that GWB needed to hear. It also emphaiszed the difference between Hamas (bad guys) and Abu Maazen (potential good guy). Its an interesting thought but sounds to me like a hail-Mary pass with our future when a strong running game would do the job. We should not be throwing for touchdowns with the Americans but working and cooperating all the time. Our narrative should be promoted with confidence of 55 years of independence and a relationship of trust and confidence with our closest friends.

Interesting other story today. Not a big deal. But it is. Apparently Arik met with the settler leadership and made it clear that the outposts will be closed and that he is committed to the Road Map and a peace process. Newsflash: the settlers were not happy. That can't be a bad thing.

Monday, June 16, 2003


Lots of talk about the possibility of passing security control to part of the Gaza Strip over to the Palestinians. The goal is to set the bar low -- proving successful activity in a limited area but at the same time causing the stopping of rocket launchings on Israeli towns near the green line. This has been something that has been offered to the PA since the first Abbas-Sharon meeting a few weeks ago. The US media generally leads this morning with upbeat hope that this deal was near. Israel would promise not to act in this area for as long as the PA does. If it works, more area would be passed over. The idea seems to make sense in allowing Abu Maazen not to try to bite off more then it can chew and showing Israel that it is serious. Much of this depends on the Palestinian factions ability to reach a ceasefire. Here is Danny Rubinstein's analysis on that subject. Many Israelis argue against such a ceasefire as impossible and only want to see the Hamas crushed (read: Palestinan civil war). There are other, sometimes, problematic motives in this wish.

Interesting Israeli spin by Ehud Olmert in today's Washington Post. He was on the Sunday talk shows yesterday, too. Olmert, the deputy PM and quite close to Sharon, is quite right that Hamas is the challenge and so forth. At the same time, he rejects any critisism of the timing of Israel's actions last week. He states that The current spin is that the new wave of malicious attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups against Israeli civilians is the direct result of the Israeli government's attempt to assassinate a senior Hamas leader. That is not my criticism. What it did was take away Israel's claim to be acting in full good faith to make peace. I (as did President Bush) questioned whether that attack, then, was the right choice and made us safer. I agree that there is no possibility of compromise with Hamas, just as for the USA there is no discussion of compromise with Al Kaida. The key differences are:
1. We are not the USA; the rules of engagement are different when you are asking for $3 billion each year.
2. The Hamas is right here and not on the other side of the world.
3. The expectations from the Israeli side are significant.
4. There is an attempt to build an alternative leadership, Abu Maazen who needs to be strengthened.

Sadly, no Jersey sports sweep as the Nets went down at the Alamo. That Queens baseball team remains banned as it is still five games under .500 and 14 games out of first. Nothing like spending $110 million on last place. Almost as bad investment as the settlements...

Sunday, June 15, 2003


OK, OK, I've picked on us enough. It is time to get out of the funk of frustration (although, everything that I've been saying for the past week is summarized by the NYTimes' Tom Friedman today. He is correct that the only thing that will move the sides is being forced to make peace. I only disagree with his last two words: That is the outcome we are heading toward, though, unless the only reality principle left, the United States of America, really intervenes — with its influence, its wisdom and, if necessary, its troops.

There has been some significant talk in the past days about throwing international forces at the problem. Kofi Annan said so much in an interview over the weekend to Israeli Channel 2 and Haaretz. The thrust is that the sides can't do it themselves (I agree) and that if a foreign force were here they could keep the sides apart.

This is wrong. Don't believe me (although I decided to write this over the weekend before I read this after seeing the Kofi interview), Haaretz's editors say so. Firstly, it did not work in the 1960's when the UN sent a force to Sinai (following the 1956 War) to separate between Israel and Egypt. The idea was that UNEF ould be in the middle and discourage violence accross the border. In the early 60's, Palestinian "fedayeen" terrorists crossed the border at night. Finally, in May of 1967, just before the Six Day War, Nasser kicked the UN out so that he could go to war with Israel. Then SecGen Burmese U Thant called the boys back without a peep honoring the sovereign rights of Egypt. In the UN, after the war, Abba Eban described the scenerio as being like having an umbrella that got taken away just before it rained.

Additionally, there is a new book, Linda Polman's We Did Nothing: Why the Truth Doesn't Always Come Out When the UN Goes In which argues (at least in the book review I read in last week's Economist) that sending UN troops to "keep a peace" (note: there is no peace to keep here; a major flaw in the peace-keeping concept) that is not real is often doomed to failure.

Furthermore, what are they meant to stop? A Hamas suicide bomber dressed up like an ultra-orthodox Jew? How? What skills do they have that we don't? To stop the IDF from hunting down terrorists who hide out among civilians? Perhaps, cynically, to make them learn how tough it is to fight terror...

Interestingly, also in today's Haaretz, Gilead Sher, Barak's chief negotiator argues for an American lead "stabilizing international force" to run the PA. Friedman, months ago argued for NATO to act similarly, almost a British Mandate-like system. It is thoughtful and enticing that someone could come in and force order on chaos. I don't think it will work. I think that the sides must make hard choices and WANT them to work. Maybe they (we) are not ready but throwing forced solutions doesn't seem to me to be the answer. The world has to make us WANT peace. How? I'm not sure.

Ah, yes, another "expert" says what won't work. What good is that? Well, what do you want, reading commentary on the Double-you, Double-you, Double-you. Go do something productive. By the way, happy father's day, Ed.