Friday, May 03, 2002

Running out the clock? Many people speculate regarding whether the Bush team has some sort of "master plan" for the Middle East or is simply "wobbling" between supporting Israel and making concessions to Arab and European pressure.

The perception in Israel is probably closer to the latter explanation. But I think that Israelis are primarily appreciative of the support that comes from the US on the most important issues - especially in comparison to the dramatic "disconnect" and lack of understanding that come from Europe and the global media.

Still, it's very hard to fathom the logic for Powell's proposing an international conference. So maybe the idea is just to "run out the clock" on Arafat. He's a national symbol - but he's old, his health is failing, and his image has deteriorated in the wake of the Ramallah standoff.

In a major faux pas a while ago, Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer quoted a private remark of Condoleeza Rice to the effect that Arafat is a liar and that dealing with him is pointless. So the idea could be to stall for 6 months, or a year, in hopes that he will "retire".

Arafat's successors might be equally hard-line, but would probably be more susceptible to outside pressure. This article describes some intrigues in the Fatah organization among various potential successors. One of them - Jibril Rajoub - has worked with the CIA and some wishful thinkers describe him as a pragmatist.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Here's 2 things that I'd really like to know about ...

First, what does the average American and European think about the recent events in Jenin, Ramallah, and Bethlehem? Especially the events in Jenin.. The email that I receive is generally from people who sympathize with my perspective, so it's hard for me to know to what extent people were swayed by the media's 10-day-old version.

Second, what kind of impression or message did the average or more educated Palestinian really get from the Israeli strikes? We're told that it radicalizes them even more, that it causes them to think we are cruel or that we don't want peace. But could it be that there are some people who now realize we won't just continue to absorb attacks or be forced into leaving without a peace agreement? Might some people now be more inclined to compromise on Arafat's maximalist demands, or be hesitant about supporting a new round of terror attacks?
James Lileks has a fine rant today. But one of his points is a criticism of Arab nations for not contributing to improve conditions in Palestinian refugee camps.

Actually, the squalidness of the refugee camps is intentionally maintained by the PA and the UN Relief Works Agency. When the PA was established in 1994 it decided not to aid the refugee camps because if their residents became too comfortable, they might abandon their dreams of returning to their grandparents' homes inside Israel's pre-1967 borders.

There is a camp called Shuafat which now falls within the boundaries of Jerusalem, but UNRWA etc. have steadfastly opposed efforts by the municipality to pave streets and install a modern sewage system.

Someone living in Shuafat found my cellphone which I had dropped, but I declined to go and collect it.
The most detailed article that I've seen about Jenin argues that the debunkings of Palestinian "massacre" accusations are not relevant. The "Jenin massacre" already has the force of a myth among Palestinians and others, and will be invoked to justify violence and other measures against Israel.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

It's not just me. Lots of bloggers aren't posting as much this week. Are they occupied with their jobs and families? Or is it the spring time?
This just in: Arafat has backtracked on his agreement to jail Tourism-Minister-assassination-planner Ahmed Saadat and heavy-arms-and-explosives-smuggler Fuad Shubeiki in Jericho with British/American guards. Jailing them was part of the deal made with Israel for releasing Arafat from house arrest.

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Haaretz news flashes is quoting Shimon Peres to the effect that the current information is that the number of non-fighters killed in Jenin is 7.
Many have linked to this enlightening article about the French response to Muslim anti-semitism.
According to this article, Palestinians in Jenin are tidying away the signs of "militant" activity from the refugee camp and also digging up bodies from a cemetery to prepare a mass grave for the benefit of the UN. PA officials have instructed residents to refrain from searching for additional bodies buried under rubble in the camp and wait until the commission arrives. Palestinian officials are reported to have paid residents left homeless to rent accommodations, but have instructed them to return to the camp when the UN personnel visit.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Evelyn Gordon explains why Israelis are so skeptical of the UN Jenin "fact-finding" mission: Since the basic facts about Jenin are now pretty much universally agreed upon, and since none of the commission members have a background appropriate for evaluating wartime actions in the light of international law, it appears that the real purpose of the mission is to prepare the ground for war crimes charges that the UN has already decided that it wants.

One sticky point, I think, is that international law relates to whether or not a military action has a "valid military objective". Israelis (and I think most sensible people) consider eliminating terrorist bases to be a valid military objective, but it's quite likely that the UN won't think so - especially since the UN ( the UN HRC actually) has passed a resolution vaguely approving Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC Radio on Monday he had phoned his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres and told him: "If you have nothing to hide, for Pete's sake get this fact-finding mission in as soon as possible."

I think this soundbite asks for the following response:

Mr. Straw, if you and the EU are interested in something other than mere grandstanding, then "for Pete's sake" try to understand why Israel has a problem with the "fact-finding" of UN commissions that include people like Mary Robinson and Cornelio Sommaruga.
I was in the USA on business for most of last week ... I spent a couple of days in a large-ish city in the South, then I flew to Austin, TX and spent a couple of days there. After my meetings finished in Austin I strolled around the town a bit near Guadelupe street and the state Capitol where it feels like a Northern college town with a Southern flavour. I was mostly out of touch with news media from Thurs-Sun. and it was a wonderfully relaxing break.

It was nice receiving welcomes and hearing from readers in New Orleans, Houston, and Atlanta, though I wasn't actually in any of those cities this time.

I've flown on 4 American domestic flights in the past 6 months, and each time I've been selected for a "random" search at the gate.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Here's an account of how Time Magazine fabricated a photo caption so that it could portray some Israeli students as violent.