Friday, May 24, 2002

Sunshine (and camera crews) Today is another one of those beautiful spring days where you can relax as long as you don't think too much about what might be about to happen.

The fuel depot bombing yesterday actually spooked me a fair amount because my work often takes me to the Herzliya Industrial Zone which is very close to the depot site. I avoid going there before 1000 AM because the traffic is so bad. If the attack had been successful, I would have heard about it on the radio while I was on my way there.

I've been trying to confirm the dramatic reports of "what could have happened": if the tanker had been carrying gasoline rather than diesel, or if the tank had exploded rather than just cracking, then adjacent tank trucks and adjacent gas and petroleum depots would explode - creating a fireball that (they say) could destroy everything in a 600 meter radius. The industrial zone has large buildings belonging to US companies including Motorola and Sun Microsystems. The former residence of US ambassador Martin Indyk is not far away. They say that homes would have been damaged in Ramat Aviv Gimel, which is a ritzy area which had a prime time soap-opera named after it.
What people are saying about yesterday's attempt at bombing a Israeli fuel depot (apparently by Arafat's Fatah) is so chilling that it's hardly believable (more).

If you want to be scientific about it, there are exactly 5 possible responses to a renewed Palestinian terror wave:

1. Totally cave in to Palestinian demands
2. Partially cave in and hope that they will suddenly be satisfied.
3. Soak it all up
4. Offer a muted military response
5. Offer a serious military response
It was actually a suicide bomber trying to get into a nightclub where there were are about 100 people. A security guard prevented the bomber from entering.
Haaretz says two people injured by a car bomb in downtown Tel Aviv... but nothing on the radio.....

Thursday, May 23, 2002

I hope they're wrong Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer says that a new wave of Jihad bombings is on the way (details). Analyst Zeev Schiff says that violence is re-escalating, and that Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians will result in more IDF targeted killings of terrorist leaders and an eventual rehash of Operation Defensive Wall.

This AM there was a bombing of a diesel fuel truck at a gas depot near Herzliya. Noone was hurt and the fire was quickly extinguished, but the attack brought renewed calls to move the facility away from a populated area (details).

Update: the Pi Glilot fuel depot has now been closed
This just in: the IDF found a grenade in a car belonging to a foreign journalist at a Gaza checkpoint (more).
Here's an interesting point: Israel offered no military response to the Netanya bombing last week, and we've soaked up numerous attacks from over the Lebanese border - but nobody praises this as "restraint".

A cynical explanation would be that much of the world considers "soaking it up" to be the simply appropriate response for us. But I think the real explanation is that until we respond, the attacks aren't really noticed by the global media.
Dovish Camp David negotiator Shlomo Ben-Ami cogently argues against the frequently discussed proposals for "unilateral separation" from the Palestinians. Unilateral separation would fail, he believes, because the Palestinian entity would attain international recognition while putting itself on a full footing for violent confrontation.

He thinks that picking up negotiations where they left off, or entering into a long transitional period, are similarly unworkable. Unlike many who offer "peace plans", Ben-Ami says that his own ideas of returning to the Camp David framework (with heavy international involvement) are "detached from the present day political reality".

I'm not an admirer of Ben-Ami, but his account of the Camp David talks are fascinating.
Another Jihad bombing in Rishon ... What's there to say?

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

A couple of people asked me if I could check whether the "Send Pizza to the IDF" site was for real. It seemed legit to me but I couldn't find out much in the way of details.

It was definitely for real because now the IDF, fearing "hostile elements", has prohibited soldiers from receiving the pizzas (details).
The PA promised to keep arms/explosives smuggler Fuad Shubaki behind bars, but now they are about to release him (details).
Heard a new pop song on the radio this AM called Shoter Ha-siur ("Beat Cop"). A warbling female vocalist sings "When there's a disturbance at, say, the Temple Mount, who goes there first? The Beat Cop!". The beat is peppy (and the intention is ironic).

Meanwhile, albums by 90s Israeli groups Punch and Plastic Venus have at last been rereleased on CD.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

A friend of mine takes a night class that includes an Arab student from East Jerusalem and started to chat with him during a break. My friend's classmate (I'll call him Nafea) is an engineer who works for a German company with an operation in Ramallah (which is where his mother and sister live). Nafea is moderate, bourgeois, and educated (three things that a large segment of Palestinians are unfortunately not); I don't know Nafea's religion.

My friend carefully solicited his classmate's opinion on the "situation". Nafea approved of Arafat's rejection of the various Camp David proposals because the proposals did not resettle residents of Palestinian refugee camps into Israel's 1967 borders.

This points out what people like Prof. Tony Judt don't realize - that the Palestinian refugee (actually "refugee descendent") issue has a visceral resonance for Palestinians and remains the dealbreaker for future negotiations with Israel. Sari Nusseibeh is the only Palestinian official to publicly suggest that compromise is possible, and for this he was thoroughly castigated by the PA establishment.

Opinion polls of Palestinians should probably be taken skeptically (polls of Israelis often seem to contradict each other), but according to this one, a majority of Palestinians support attacks on Israeli civilians, a large majority oppose arresting terrorists, and also:

Seventy percent supported reconciliation with the Israeli people after reaching a peace agreement based on the establishment of a Palestinian state recognized by Israel.

It's likely that many Palestinians answered this question with the same gesture of flattery that Arafat uses when he calls for a ceasefire, but putting that aside, people should recognize that even the typical "moderate" Palestinian notion of "reconciliation following a peace agreement" still remains far, far away from a proposal that could be acceptable to Israelis or even fathomably constitute a stable solution.

Monday, May 20, 2002

This JPost article argues that the Palestinians' drive for reform is motivated by their humiliating defeat in Operation Defensive Shield; and has the aim of making the battle against Israel more efficient.
When Norwegian UN fellow Terje Roed-Larsen was on Israeli TV a few weeks ago, he made a remark about taking the supposedly monolithic international consensus about the West Bank/Gaza and beginning to implement it on the ground. I couldn't believe that he really expected Israel to just soak up attacks on its civilians and submit to one of the plans that many Israelis perceive as a step towards erasing us from the map.

Larsen's remarks sounded disingenuous to me at the time, but this Mark Steyn article (on general European politics) suggests something else: an autocratic attitude which ignors the desires and fears of ordinary people - as well as the facts on the ground.

A Palestinian bomber blew himself up this AM after being turned away from a bus (details)
I heard about today's Netanya attack while driving back from our Shavuot holiday away. On the radio there were more accusations of the police letting their guard down - shopkeepers claimed that there was only a single officer in the Netanya market at the time of the attack. Forces had focused on the Sharon region (southeast of Netanya) due to specific warnings there. The bomber was said to be from Tulkarm in the West Bank.

There are "big attacks" (like the one in Rishon 10 days ago) - and then there are "smaller attacks" like today's which had "only" 3 fatalities. These days its only the big attacks that seem to send the country into authentic outrage or introspection. Today, updates from Netanya were solemnly and respectfully interspersed into the Macabee Tel Aviv soccer broadcast.