Friday, June 21, 2002

Bush delayed his "mideast speech" after the first bombing in Jerusalem this week killed 19 bus riders. But really, why delay? We all knew that (barring a miracle) these attacks would be coming down the pipe sooner or later.

In the early days of Oslo, Israeli officials would say: "we can't be held hostage to terrorism, we can't let terror attacks slow down the peace process". Whereas Netanyahu, being concerned with "reciprocity" in honoring agreements, got Arafat to make the Jihadis hold off temporarily each time Israel was about to hand over some land.

The common denominator of all proposals since Oslo (including Israeli ones up until Operation Defensive Wall) is that they have had to maintain that the Palestinian side is really interested in coexistence. At some times, people found that easy; other times they had
to pretend.

But now it's entirely disingenous to claim that offering more freebies to the Palestinians will accomplish anything other than inspiring more senseless bloodshed. So by postponing the address, it seems that the US is promulgating a policy that relies on people having very short memories.
Cookie goddess translated a Hebrew interview with Sari Nusseibeh - one of the signers of the anti-Islamikaze declaration published in the Palestinian newspaper al-Quds. Nusseibeh dodges questions about whether he really objects to killing civilians or just thinks that it's bad PR.

My dialup connection is sick so I'm being delayed in responding to emails/comments.
The latest atrocity in Itamar has left me speechless for the moment.

Mark Heller was an "early" proponent of the "two-state" solution and co-authored a book on the topic with Sari Nusseibeh. Here he tries to understand Cherie Blair.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

This just in .. the IDF is calling up reservists (report)
Reuters (via Drudge) is saying that an Israeli satellite TV company is pondering removing CNN from the air (report) I think that's incorrect - Haaretz says only that YES (the satellite provider) will carry FoxNews in addition to CNN (report). Also, on the radio this AM, the Israeli Communications Minister said that there had been consumer requests to mandate YES and Cable Companies to allow individual subscribers to receive their channel packages without CNN.
Another indication of how "routine" these attacks have become is that I didn't see either yesterday's or Tuesday's Jerusalem attack mentioned on Drudge.

Yesterday's Islamikaze stepped out of a car - which then sped off towards Ramallah. Is it even fathomable that one day the PA might try to intercept one of these guys? I don't think so.

The Israeli right is very upset with CNN over the Chen Keinan affair (and Ted Turner's remarks also??) and are saying that they will from now on refuse to be interviewed on CNN. Army Radio's Irit Limor: "so instead CNN will just interview 3 articulate Palestinians with marvellous English who also lie through their teeth".

Here's the solution of the day that has no chance of working.
I am disappointed that the EU decided to resume funding to the PA - especially now. This AP dispatch doesn't get into much detail about Patten's ostensible reasons for rejecting Israel's detailed allegations about the PA use of EU funds. But it seems to come down to realpolitik:

He also warned that the committee risked undermining the EU's credibility if it continued to block assistance that had been approved by the 15 member states, as well as the full Parliament, last year.

"If we turn our back on this, any words about Europe having a part in the Mideast peace process are pretty worthless," he said.

Patten's priority is getting the EU to have influence.

Arutz-7 has an account of remarks made today by the EU's Middle East mediator Miguel Moritinos which is almost too preposterous to believe. Moritinos asserts that the Palestinians are no longer demanding the "right of return", blamed Israeli settlements for the current violence, and excused Arafat's intrasigence as deference to the "Arab street".

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Islamikaze The term seems to have been coined in 1997 by Prof. Raphael Israeli, who also seems to have anticipated the entire terminological discussion.
Latest is at least 3 killed .... Two Border Police officers approached him and then he blew up ...
Apparently an Islamikaze did his thing at the hitch-hikers stop in French Hill. That's at a major junction in northern Jerusalem. The trempiade as it's called is at the beginning of the road leading towards Maale Adumim. Maale Adumim is the most populous settlement over the Green Line and effectively a suburb of Jerusalem.

The latest is: approximately 20 injured; 8 seriously..

Police are saying that this Islamikaze is the one that they knew about 3 days ago.

I hitched from there a few times (in the Oslo era) when I had a friend who lived in a settlement called Beit-El.
Right now in my office, people are making funny, celebratory noises over the intercom because of a business success.... they haven't heard about the newest attack (I heard about it over the radio at the security desk).
An explosion in French Hill (northern Jerusalem) ... radio says 20 injured ..
Charles Johnson is probably asleep, so here is an account of PA official Mazan Az Aladin stating on PA TV that Arafat "issues all the orders" in the Intifada. Though the official is exaggerating, this shows how pulling off suicide attacks is a good way to command respect among the Palestinians.
You don't need a PhD to anticipate how Bush's plan for a provisional Palestinian state is likely to unfold... You can just extrapolate from the past eight years... Palestinians will portray the Bush plan both as a major betrayal and a major victory ... the plan will include stipulations that the PA become more democratic, not serve as a launching pad for terror attacks etc. ... Arafat and the PA will ignor these stipulations, but the Arab world and the EU will exert pressure on Israel to nevertheless turn over more land and authority to the PA.... After various amounts of wrangling, the US and then Israel will cave in. ...

Arafat (or a like-minded successor) will then have succeeded in creating a state in the West Bank/Gaza without having made any real commitments in return... Then the next issue would be the Palestinian refugees languishing in Lebanon and Egypt... the BBC would try to interview Benny Morris but he would decline, so they would talk to Avi Shlaim instead.. you get my drift....

Ze'ev Schiff thinks that making certain ideas explicit in US policy can affect what unfolds.

Barry Rubin surveys the changes that Arafat made to his cabinet and concludes that they're minor. There will be no real reform to the "security services", but the inclusion of Salam Fayad and Ghassan Khatib could signal some openness regarding finances and internal criticism of the government.

The post-terror-attack rescue group ZAKA (who are largely "ultraorthodox') are learning how to be media-savvy (report). Also:

ZAKA head Yehuda Meshi-Zahav said that talking with the media makes the task of his personnel somewhat easier. "You cannot share these sights with your wife and children. We have found that our personnel open up and feel better after having shared their experiences with journalists."
This analysis makes a good point: By staging major attacks to coincide with US policy initiatives, Hamas is in effect saying that "The US doesn't call the shots - we're the ones call the shots".

This time around the US is attempting to impose reform the PA and shoehorn everyone into an awkward agreement (which the EU would likely consider an expression of vast arrogance if not for the fact that they have been urging something similar) - and the PA wasn't happy about it.

So it's total speculation, but: maybe Bush delayed the speech not just for propriety's sake, but because the administration started to think that maybe it had been reaching too far.
The Channel 2 "inside information" fellow says that the retaliation for today's attack will probably involve long-term stays by the IDF in Area A and, get this: expulsion of senior PA officials (though not Arafat).

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Your sense of outrage is restored when the bombing is in your neighborhood. The current toll from the #32 bus bombing is 19 killed and 50 wounded, many of them kids and teenagers on their way to school. The Pat Junction where the bombing took place is about a 5 minute drive from where I live - I used to pass by there everyday until I found a better route to take T. to work.

This AM I didn't check the news (I was busy with a technician who was trying to install Cable Modem service). When I left for work and turned on the radio, I could tell that something happened, but the coverage had already left the scene of the bombing and switched into "introspective" mode - so it wasn't immediately clear what had happened. T. then called me and told me that there had been 18 people killed just a few minutes away. The #32 bus had been going towards downtown - so it hadn't yet passed through neighborhoods where T. and I know people.

The bomber boarded at Beit Tzafafa - an Arab village in southern Jerusalem. One teenager saw him and backed away a few moments before the blast and escaped with minor injuries.

Gil has some links to newswire photos from the attack.

The EU "condemns" the bombing, but urges "Palestinians and Israelis" to not let it "hinder attempts to bring peace to the region". Thank you, Chris Patten and Hubert Vedrine, for urging the Palestinians not let this bombing hamper their attempts to get a state without a peace agreement or any other committments.

I can only say that Patten and Vedrine are two of the foulest human beings that I can remember coming across - that's the only reaction that I can evoke. If Patten went ahead and restored funding to the PA tomorrow as promised, it would show the extent to which it bothers him not a wink that Arafat and co. are murdering innocents. He'll now delay the restoration of funding for a few days, but noone here is fooled.

Afterthought: Often when I write things like the above, I receive emails from people who say things like "Don't you realize that Arafat is really trying to hold these people back?" or "Don't you realize that if you just did X (freeze settlements, clear checkpoints etc.) , they wouldn't be so angry anymore and would stop launching attacks?".

I appreciate and try to respond to most email, and, in my daily entries, I provide plenty of documentation that these views are not correct. But today my most basic reaction is: "Do you really think that seeing this on the BBC or hearing it on NPR enables you to understand things better than the people who actually live here - day in and day out?"
Masters of the Obvious Evelyn Gordon notes that the fundamental problems preventing peace will remain even after Arafat is gone (here)

Monday, June 17, 2002

There is a high terror alert in Jerusalem, and I am sitting here in my apartment listening to the helicopters fly overhead. They say that a specific person is planning a suicide bombing, and he might have succeeded in getting into Jerusalem already.

Also, on the Channel 2 News, they said that the Palestinians are very concerned because Bush's upcoming speech is expected to lay out a proposal for some kind of long term conditional Palestinian state under "adult supervision."
A map of the Northern section of the Green Line "security fence".

Note that the project supervisor's name is "Netzach Meshiach".
The AP says "Palestinians soften bargaining positions", but did they really? The supposed concessions are:

1) accepting Israeli sovereignty of the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. According to Shlomo Ben-Ami, they accepted this at Camp David. The PA later denied making the concession (cf. an article at MEMRI)

2) not explicitly demanding settling 4 million descendents of 1948 Palestinian refugees into Israel, but merely mentioning UN resolution 194, which Arabs have traditionally interpreted as meaning the same thing
This just in: The IDF stopped and exploded a car bomb today near Jenin (report)
This just in: Sappers disarmed a grenade attached to an ammonia truck in a Tel Aviv suburb (details)
Israel is setting up satellite TV channels that will broadcast news in English and Arabic. Too bad that it's probably not feasible to broadcast a terrific Army Radio program called "The Last Word" to a global audience (it would require subtitles). Lots of people would be interested to hear what it's like when a moderate Israeli left-winger ("Avi") carries on some jocular conversation with a moderate right-winger ("Jacky"). Today they were talking about the security fence; here's a rough recollection:
Avi: [Defence Minister] Ben-Eliezer said a dozen times in the past 2 days that the fence is for security purposes only and doesn't constitute a political demarcation. This can only mean that it is a political demarcation
I think that's positive because it means that "Yesha [West Bank/Gaza] isn't here", Yesha is there. People will stop building new apartments there and gradually people will leave.

Jacky: You and I can debate about the settlements; whether or not they're a good idea etc. and that's a legitimate discussion. But the fact is that there are people living there who went there because they were told that they could; apartments were affordable, close to their families and jobs etc. The Palestinians now frankly say "All these people deserve to die" ... we can't simply abandon them.


J: Another thing about the fence is that it will prevent car theft...

A: You don't have to worry about your car getting stolen ...

J: My car will never get stolen because you would need to refuel twice to get to Kalkilya [Palestinian border town]
Here's an idea for a blogger or journalist: Dig up books and periodicals from 1994-95 and look at how pundits and diplomats envisioned the direction of the Oslo process and the emerging Palestinian Authority.

Specifically, it would be interesting to see what people said about the Palestinian refugee issue and Jerusalem. My general recollection is that it was unthinkable then that the Palestinians might actually demand resettling several million descendents of refugees into Israel's 1967 borders. I recall an anguished article in Harper's by Anton Shammas bewailing how there will be no "return" of refugees.

The "secret" Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement gave Palestinians control of Abu Dis and nominal control of the Temple Mount and its mosque. Has the Palestinians' use of terrorism actually pushed the elite consensus closer to Palestinian demands? The views of people like Thomas Friedman and Henry Siegman would be particularly interesting in this connection.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Jerusalem police note that there have been no successful suicide bombings since the end of Operation Defensive Shield, and disclose that there were 3 foiled attempts. (report)
EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten is recommending that the EU unfreeze funding to the PA (report).

Update: Details from Haaretz
Haaretz claims that "dozens" of synagogues recited a prayer on behalf of Jewish terror suspects. Though later the article says that the prayer was "published" in dozens of locations - meaning merely that someone travelled around and dropped off leaflets.

I've done some informal investigating and am fairly sure that there are no major synagogues in Jerusalem that recited (or would recite) the prayer.
There are several groups of people who I have been trying to understand: among them the Palestinians, the US State Dept., and the EU.... As I continue to run my blog and receive interesting emails from around the world, it seems that the differences in opinion that these groups and the Israelis have a lot to do with realpolitik, and a lot to do with misinformation. They have much less to do with "differences in perspective" and the like.

Istanblog writes:
It bothers me that most people outside the region tend to pick one side or the other as the bad guy, and then ignore the bad stuff the other side is doing. If you see the destruction of Palestinian homes and construction of Israeli settlements as bad, then Arafat is excused for failing to do anything about terrorism. Or, if you see permitting terrorism against Israeli civilians as an unacceptable way to defend your people, then Sharon is excused for using tanks to pave the way for settlers

There's a another tendency around: preposterous even-handedness. By this I mean a point of view which soft-pedals Palestinian atrocities (examples are boring by now - but Friday's IHT termed Fatah's gunning down a pregnant settler woman as "harassment") while amplifying Israeli settlements and defensive actions into "war crimes" and the like.

In my opinion, you yourself signal the weakness of the "even-handed" approach by resorting to misstatements and hyperbole. "Sharon uses tanks to pave the way for settlers". No, he doesn't... "Destruction of Palestinian homes" ... Do you mean the booby-trapped ones in Jenin? Or the ones in East Jerusalem built without a permit? (If you mean the latter, then go ahead and criticize the municipality as unresponsive or draconian even)... "if you see permitting terrorism against Israeli civilians as an unacceptable way to defend your people" You try to slip in the proposition that blowing up Israeli civilians is a form of Palestinian self-defense (acceptable for some and unacceptable for others) ... How can anyone sincerely claim that? That's just disingenuous...

Some basic facts: Settlement growth is mostly frozen except in a few places near the Green Line; the IDF is taking steps against the illegal "settlement outposts". The Mitchell plan provided for a total settlement freeze following a ceasefire - Arafat said "sure", but then thumbed his nose at the ceasefire part. The Oslo accords specifically did not mandate a settlement freeze.
The bottom line for me is there are two sets of bad guys running the two sides, and both are happy to sacrifice lives on their own sides to continue their agenda

For which agenda do you consider the Israeli government to be "sacrificing lives"? A unilateral withdrawal from isolated settlements might save lives in the short term (and is even being considered), but will encourage more terrorism in the slightly-longer term.
Those US-based Muslims aren't having their land settled by people who openly talk about sweeping them into the sea (yes, I know it goes both ways in Palestine)

Nonsense. It does not "go both ways". Are you hearing that from the Turkish media? the BBC?
The Palestinians want the Israelis out of their land, with differing definitions of what constitutes "their land".

And only a quiet minority have a definition of "their land" that is limited to the 1967 borders. Even fewer have a definition that recognizes the historic connection that Israel and Judaism have to Jerusalem. That both these things are the case is evident not only from recent polls, but also from virtually all public statements of Palestinian leaders (the maligned-though-still-not-so-moderate Sari Nusseibeh being the exception that proves the rule).

The settlements are problematic from various perspectives. But they do us Israelis the favor of providing a "lightning rod" for the even-handedness (or "moral equivalence") folk. In Egypt, there was a popular song that goes "I hate Israel. Sharon and Shimon" - ie. no distinction between Sharon and Peres. If the settlements were to go away before a full peace deal is concluded, I do believe that our critics would find other reasons to rake us over the coals : the 1948 refugees, our definition as a Jewish state. And these attacks on our being here might start in The Nation and The Guardian, then maybe receive cautious embrace from Tony Judt and Robert Wright, and then become commonplaces on MSNBC (ie. shrill, circumspect, and finally glib).