February 2005 Archives

It's murder, not "sabotage"

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President Chairman Abu Mazen seems to be having difficulty with his anti-terrorist rhetoric. He's been consistent over the past few days in referring to the Tel Aviv nightclub suicide bombing as "sabotage." Sabotage of what? Well, the "peace piece process," of course. Notice that his Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Information uses the same word to describe Israel's threatened response to the bombing. But what's new?

Meanwhile, a fifth victim of the attack, 26-year old Odelia Hobera, has succumbed to her injuries.

And Islamic Jihad has tried again.

Lebanon's govt resigns

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It seems the Lebanese have finally had enough of Syrian occuption.

Feb 28, 2005 — BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's Syrian-backed Prime Minister Omar Karami, under popular pressure after the assassination of an ex-prime minister, said Monday his government was resigning.

"Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead," Karami told parliament in Beirut.

How about that?

Much more here.

Ahhhhh

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Haggai is back!

In a new venue. And, hey, a different perspective is still a good thing. Anyway, we are on the same side.

Two of the victims

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Victims.jpg

Yitzhak Buzaglo, 40, from Moshav Ha'Yarden and Yael Orbach, 28, of Rehovot.

May their memory be a blessing.

V'Shamru

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It's been a while since I did a post on the weekly parasha, and this one, Ki Tisa, is so very shabbosdiche because (among other things) it contains an extended section on the observance of the Shabbat. Moses is up on the mountain here, receiving the Law, as he has been for the past few parashot, and right at the very end (not of the parasha but of the giving of the Law), we have this (Exodus 31:12-18):

And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you. You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you. He who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time: it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and was refreshed.

When He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of God.

Of course, Moses comes down to find his people dancing around a golden calf and, well, things get ugly. But it's notable that the revelation ends with this lengthy admonition on keeping the Sabbath. In so many ways, Shabbat is the glue that has kept the Jewish People together through the ages, and the final verses of the commandment have been made into a lovely song, one of my favorites, V'shamru.

V’Shamru Vnei Yisrael et ha-shabbat, La’asot et ha-shabbat L’dorotam, brit olam: Beini uven Bnei Yisrael ote he l’olam, ki sheshet yamim asa Adonai et Ha-shamayim v’-et ha-aretz, uvayom ha-sh’viyi shavat vayinafash.

Shabbat Shalom.

False premise

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Earth to Yossi Goell (et al.)

The main fly in this ointment of super-political rationality is that while Arik's Israel is now totally committed to the physical evacuation of settlements by July, the solidity of Washington's commitment to its part of the deal – support for Israeli annexation of the major settlement blocs on the West Bank, through the thick and thin of negotiations on a long-term settlement with Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority – is far from certain.

Wake up! There. is. no. "deal".

Following up on Sharon's comments to the foreign press corps last Tuesday, David Bedein of Israel Resource News Agency queried the US Embassy in Tel Aviv over the prime minister's declaration that "the government of Israel has reached an agreement with the US government to allow settlement blocs to remain in Judea and Samaria."

When asked if the US government could confirm such an agreement, US Embassy press attache Paul Patin firmly answered, "No."

Been there

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Last week, in a post addressing real and alleged anti-"disengagement" incitement in Israel, I noted:

The Israeli government, particularly in its leftist iterations, has an unsavory history of staging ugly incitement against itself by its opponents in an effort to discredit them. This isn't some wild conspiracy theory. The most notorious example is somewhat shrouded in less reliable and fairly preposterous genuine conspiracy nonsense but stripped of all that, it's there out in the open.

In the months leading up to the Rabin assassination, a particular agent of the securitiy service was assigned the task of masquerading as a right wing extremist. . . .

As the left, so the so-called right. Today, we have this.

A police informant is responsible for much of the more extreme right-wing incitement in recent weeks, according to Maariv/NRG, which reported the government-backed provocation in front-page headlines Monday.

The agent provocateur was reportedly behind a recent bumper sticker which offensively invoked Prime Minister Sharon's deceased wife's name to imply that his death was near. The sticker read: "Sharon, Lily is waiting for you." He also recruited people to attend the road-blocking protests of last week, which created public anger against the anti-disengagement cause.

The police informant, Maariv reported, resides in a community in Judea and Samaria ("The West Bank"). Enjoying police "protection" because of the information he secretly transmits to them, the agent initiates extreme actions, ostensibly to "entrap" demonstrators. He reportedly plans more violent activities in the coming months, including vandalizing or setting fire to courthouses and other public buildings.

It's deja vu all over again. In more ways than one.

Weads up my a$$

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For no other reason that to vent some steam, here is a briefly annotated list of things that have me royally ticked off today. In no particular order:

Wead up my a$$.
The only story here is that some piece of garbage without a shred of moral fiber in his body thought it was ok to secretly tape a bunch of confidential conversations with a "friend." I think it's payback for Bush "not kicking gays."

Moonbat Congressman says Rove planted the memos.
This, on the other hand, should make tomorrow's headlines. But it won't.

Why I am not (and never will be) a feminist.
The only mistake Summers made was apologizing. Read the transcript. Read this. And this (thanks, Mitch).

Judenrein by Rosh Hashanah.
We're approaching one of the blackest moments in Jewish history. And, this time, we have no one to blame but ourselves. But . . .

It's still not enough.
It'll never be enough. And they smell blood.

There's more, but I'll stop there for now.

Nice

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According to Arutz Sheva:

The Palestinian Authority's strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, threatened today that attacks from the PA will continue if Israel does not withdraw from the strategic Philadelphi Route.

While noting in an interview with Israel Radio that PA president Mahmoud Abbas is committed to maintaining security while the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gush Katif proceeds, Dahlan warned that Israeli failure to withdraw from the border area with Egypt would turn the Philadelphi Route into another "Shab'a Farms", referring to an area along the Israeli border with Lebanon that Hizbullah terrorists demand Israel evacuate. The Shab'a Farms, or Mount Dov area, has been a frequent target of attack by Hizbullah forces.


Never mind that Israel's control of the Philadelphi route is the only thing that at least slows the smuggling of all sorts of weapons (among other contraband) across the Egyptian border into Gaza. God knows the Egyptians aren't doing anything about it. That's ok, says Israel's new "vice-Prime Minister," Shimon Peres. And what else can we do for you today?

Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Friday that Israel has agreed in principle to evacuate the Philadelphi route on the Gaza-Egypt border which was one of the deadliest spots during the four-year Palestinian uprising.

Enjoy your weekend.


Shabbat Shalom.

Double standard

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Khaled Abu Toameh reports in yesterday's Jerusalem Post:

In the first decision of its kind since he succeeded Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has ratified death sentences against three Palestinians found guilty of "collaboration" with Israel.

It is not clear when the three men, whose identities were not revealed, will be executed by firing squad.

However, senior PA officials told The Jerusalem Post that the three were Gaza Strip residents who had been convicted of "high treason" for tipping off Israeli security forces about the whereabouts of wanted gunmen.

While Abu Mazen is busy approving the execution of palestinians found guilty (through highly suspect legal proceedings) of "collaboration" with the "Zionist enemy," Israel is expected and encouraged to release hundreds of palestinian terrorists who have collaborated in the murders or attempted murders of Israeli citizens.

In the name of peace, of course.

No, no double standard there. None at all.

A sorry pass

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We've come to a sorry pass in the battle between the right and the left for the hearts and minds of the Israeli public. It's gotten to the point where I can barely stand to read the news any more. The outrage of the day is over more reports of threats and attacks by disengagement opponents against members of the government. The specter of political assassination is being invoked. Prime Minister Sharon is issuing threats of his own. Various ministers are making noises that suggest the imposition of some sort of martial law -- or worse.

Radical right-wingers who have the potential of leading the evacuation of the Gaza Strip in a violent direction should be placed in administrative detention, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

There are dangerous people out there who need to be arrested today," Ezra said. "The situation we find ourselves in now, in which we invest lots of resources and time in investigating, is not working. We do not have the time [to investigate] and the people whom we have material against which is classified and cannot be brought to court should be placed in administrative detention."

But this material is so classified that no one has yet been able to back up these allegations with real and verifiable threats. We hear a lot about a menacing letter that was sent to Minister of Transportation Sheetrit and signed by the sender. The text is released but not the name. What kind of assassin telegraphs his intentions in advance? Might not something else be at work here?

The Israeli government, particularly in its leftist iterations, has an unsavory history of staging ugly incitement against itself by its opponents in an effort to discredit them. This isn't some wild conspiracy theory. The most notorious example is somewhat shrouded in less reliable and fairly preposterous genuine conspiracy nonsense but stripped of all that, it's there out in the open.

In the months leading up to the Rabin assassination, a particular agent of the securitiy service was assigned the task of masquerading as a right wing extremist. Accounts differ as to whether his job was simply to spy on that crowd or to actively provoke violent and offensive behavior on their part that could be exploited to turn the public against them. What's not up for dispute is that this man, Avishai Raviv, was put on trial for having had advance knowledge that Yigal Amir was going to try to assassinate Rabin and doing nothing to stop it. Here's another account. He was acquitted, for a rather strange reason. The court decided he was a liar.

Raviv was acquitted on the grounds that he likely lied to Shin Bet interrogators during two sessions of questioning on November 7 and 8, 1995, after the Shin Bet became suspicious that he may have known about the planned assassination and even been involved in it. During those interrogations, he said many things to indicate that he knew of Amir's intention to kill Rabin. During his trial, however, he testified that these statements were lies. The court accepted his testimony.

The fact that the verdict was unanimous does not mean it is not controversial. Critics such as Eitan and Elon, not to mention those on the extreme right who believe in a conspiracy linking the Shin Bet to the assassination, may not be satisfied with a ruling that is based largely on a psychological analysis of Raviv's character. Nevertheless, it would come as a great surprise should the state decide to appeal

It certainly would have, because the state didn't want to try him in the first place. As the JPost article mentions, there was a lot of pressure from right-wing groups who hoped that a public trial would help to exonerate them by showing that the incitement for Rabin's murder came from a government agent and not from their own ranks. It didn't do that, but it's still far from clear, today, exactly where all of the blame lies.

The media is correct to compare what's going on in Israel now to what was going on in 1995. There are a lot of Israelis who feel strongly that the government is pursuing a suicidal course. There's a lot of hyperbole, bunches of demonstrations, threats of violence -- on both sides. And there's a concerted effort to demonize those who are expressing their dissatisfaction, their rage with the government's policies, which is taking its toll.

Chabadniks are turning against each other. Prominent and respected right wing Israel advocates are trying to organize a boycott of Israel Insider because they object to its inclusion of opinions by Barry Chamish (no link intended).

Chamish is a nut case conspiracy addict, but his theory that Rabin was assassinated by his own people because he was questioning the wisdom of Oslo is understandably being ressurected again in light of the factors I've cited above. Giving him a forum to prove just how out there he really is isn't necessarily a bad thing. Infighting and censorship, backbiting, accusations and counter-accusations among colleagues -- these are bad things. And that's just the state of affairs within the confines of the conservative, staunchly pro-Israel Jewish world today.

It's a sorry state of affairs and it needn't have come to this.

Q&A

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Jerusalem Post correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh responded to readers' questions (at length) today. It's a very enlightening exchange.

And look who got the second question.

Laurence Simon, Houston, TX USA: In the three months since Arafat's death, has there been a change in how the Palestinian press covers the Palestinian Authority?

Khaled Abu Toameh: There are no real changes in the Palestinian media's attitude towards the Palestinian Authority, except for the fact that Yasser Arafat's pictures have been replaced with those of Mahmoud Abbas. Yet there have been a few cases where prominent columnists and politicians were allowed to criticize the Palestinian cabinet's performance and corruption.

Way to go, Lair!

Cease fire?

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What cease fire?

At least twenty-five mortar shells and Kassam rockets have landed on Gaza Strip settlements since 2:00 a.m. Thursday, hitting settlements in Gush Katif, southern Gaza, and northern Gaza, according to the IDF.

According to David Bedein of Israel Resource Review, the cease fire is a sham.

Avi Pazner, acting in his capacity as press spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel said, "They will declare quiet. They will not sign anything. Sharon will not sign anything. The important thing is the 'quiet.'" He said this to more than 100 reporters who got off the plane at Sharm El Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula to cover the summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen), Jordanian King Abdullah and Egypt's President Mubarak.

"At this summit, we will see calls for a cessation to violence" repeated Gideon Meir, a spokesman from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "There will be no cease-fire proclaimed here today." This was told to reporters as they arrived at an improvised press center established in small villas and tents next to the Movenpick Hotel conference center at Sharm El Sheikh.

IMRA has an updated version of this article that includes this:

In the 36 hours that followed the Sharm summit, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired more than 30 mortars on Israeli Jewish communities.

The Palestinian Authority did nothing to stop the attacks, which Hamas took credit for.

I called the Palestinian Authority and asked them about stopping the attacks, in the wake of the cease fire

The answer on the other end of the phone from the Palestinian Authority

"There is no cease fire".

And more Al-Duragate

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The New York Times Buries al Dura Story

The New York Times buried on page 6 of the Business section (Section C) an important story (February 7, 2005) on the escalating scandal surrounding the facts of the infamous Muhammad al Dura episode. The case involved the alleged Israeli killing of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy and the severe wounding of his father at Gaza's Netzarim Junction in September 2000.

Then the Times buried in paragraph 26 the key finding of the article itself which is that two prominent French journalists reviewed footage of the event shot by France 2 televison and found there is no "definitive scene showing that the boy had died."

CAMERA is asking why this story was buried on the business page. They also point out that the story omitted some important information.

Unmentioned at all in the Times story is the pair's statement in their article in the January 25 edition of Le Figaro that the 27 minutes, including footage taken just prior to the alleged shooting of al Dura, shows scenes in which the "Palestinians seem to be organizing a staged event. They 'play' at war with the Israelis and simulate, in most of the cases, imaginary injuries."

Jeambar and Leconte do not say the al Dura event was staged, nor do they say it was not.

David S. points out that there is more on the NYT story here and on the Al-Dura hoax generally here. You can also find previous In Context posts with more details and links here and here.

Update: I'd like to point out one piece of misinformation that seems to have taken on a life of its own recently. A number of articles have credited Al-Dura's "murder" with igniting the so-called "intifada" (more accurately called the terror war or Oslo war). But the Al-Dura incident was filmed on September 30, 2002. The palestinians had already been rioting for two days by then, and in fact the fire fight in which Al-Dura and his father were allegedly caught was a part of those riots. While the incident has subsequently been used (and was most likely staged) to enrage the "Arab street," it was not the trigger of the violence, which at the time was blamed on Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. (See MEMRI Special Dispatches from early October, 2000, in which the causes and goals of the "intifada" are discussed at length, without a single mention of Al-Dura)

*Note: if the link to the NYT article doesn't work (which it probably won't), Google "New York Times Al Dura" and it should be the first hit.

More peace

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The following is the text of the Friday sermon, broadcast on Palestinian Authority television February 4, 2005 (that's four days ago), according to Palestinian Media Watch:

Preacher– Ibrahim Mudyris:

"We do not love any land more than the land of Palestine. Had the Jews not expelled us from it with their plains, their tanks, their weapons, their treachery around us, we would never leave you, Oh Palestine”. (Quotes Muhammad who promised he would return to Mecca as a conqueror).

“We tell you Palestine, we shall return to you, by Allah’s will, We shall return to every village, every town, and every grain of earth which was quenched by the blood of our grandparents and the sweat of our fathers and mothers. We shall return, we shall return. Our willingness to return to the 1967 borders does not mean that we have given up on the land of Palestine. No! We ask you: Do we have the right to the 1967 borders? We have the right. Therefore, we shall realize this right with any mean it takes. We might be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1967 borders, but we shall not be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1948 borders. No one on this earth recognizes [out right to] the 1948 borders [before Israel’s existence]. Therefore, we shall return to the 1967 borders, but it does not mean that we have given up on Jerusalem and Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramla, Natanyah [Al-Zuhour] and Tel Aviv [Tel Al-Rabia]. Never. We shall return to every village we had been expelled from, by Allah’s will. Why? All the international laws deny the Palestinians their real borders. We might agree, but in the name of Allah, our grandfathers’ blood demands that we return to them [the borders]. Your father’s blood was shed there, at the villages, at Ashqelon, at Ashdod, at Hirbia [a village between Gaza and Ashqelon, where Kibbutz Zikim is located today] and at others places, hundreds of villages and towns. [Their blood] demands it from us, and it shall curse anyone who will concede a grain of earth of those villages. Our approval to return to the 1967 borders is not a concession for our other rights. No!... this generation might not achieve this stage, but generations will come, and the land of Palestine... will demand that the Palestinians will return the way Muhammad returned there, as a conqueror”.


(Note: the above is reproduced from the PMW newsletter and at the time of this posting is not yet published on their website)

(Another note: I see Ocean Guy has already posted this, but it bears repeating.)

Paradise in Gaza

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A commenter in this thread over at Little Green Footballs referred a few days ago to "the miserable Gaza Strip." Here's a little story about the supposed hellhole that is Gaza.

ELEI SINAI, Gaza Strip

Talya Eluz walks into her cream-colored sunken living room and takes in the view of sloping sand dunes leading to the shimmering blue Mediterranean Sea and the electric fence that surrounds what she calls paradise.

“Look at it — it’s like Malibu,” Eluz says, holding her month-old daughter. “But people hear Elei Sinai and think of terrorists. They think we live war every day.”

This “Garden of Eden,” as Eluz and her neighbors like to call Elei Sinai, is a settlement in the northern Gaza Strip, founded in 1982 by a small group of families evacuated from the Sinai settlement of Yamit when it was destroyed under a peace treaty with Egypt.

That's right. For a fair number of Gaza residents, the anticipated "relocation" won't be their first. And I dare say that for some, it might not even be their second, though it will only be their second at the hands of fellow Jews.

Twenty-three years after the first house was built in Elei Sinai, the talk is again of evacuation. The community is home to 85 families, mostly secular Israelis who do not share the ideological and religious stands of settlers in the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the southern Gaza Strip.

Yes, it's somehow comforting to believe that all of these Jews who are about to get ripped from their homes are wild-eyed, rabid, religious fanatics. Guess again. But here's a hint: even if they were, it still wouldn't be right.

Eluz and her husband finished building their dream home — an airy, open-plan, two-story house with floors of beige tile and hardwood, and a hot tub off the master bedroom — just four months ago.

Eluz is a homemaker, and her husband works in events promotion for the Israeli branch of the Carlsberg brewing company. They moved here from the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon le Tzion.

They couldn’t afford to build a private home there, but they could afford one here, where a plot of land with a sea view cost them just $13,000.

[ . . . ]

“We are not going to react with violence, but we are doing what we must do quietly, with dialogue,” she says.

“I built this house with my own hands,” says Eluz. “I won’t chain myself to the house, but if I know the house will be given to Palestinians, I will break down all the walls.”

Here's another story (same article), also from Elei Sinai.

Arik Harpaz leans back on the striped bedspread in the room that once belonged to his daughter, Liron.

He and his wife have not changed a thing since the night the 19-year-old was shot to death a few blocks away, at the edge of Elei Sinai. The white bookshelves still are crammed with novels, cassettes, notebooks. A teddy bear stares down from the desk.

The morning after Liron’s death, Harpaz started looking through her notebooks. To his surprise, he found poem after poem — 140 in all. They have been published and some of them put to music by top Israeli singers, and they have been made into a CD.

Harpaz says he cannot imagine leaving the home where Liron and her two sisters grew up — or the place where she died.

“The blood of Liron is soaked in this earth, and they want to expel us from here — even without an agreement? This disengagement process is very hard for us.”

On Oct. 2, 2001, during Sukkot, Liron had come home from the army with her new boyfriend. They’d gone for a walk around the settlement when they were spotted by two Palestinian teens who opened fire, killing them both.

Harpaz, a volunteer ambulance driver, was among the first called to the scene.

For Harpaz and his family, who have lived in Elei Sinai for 11 years, life is divided into before and after “the disaster.”

He is haunted by the idea that perhaps relatives of the Palestinians who killed Liron will end up living in the Harpaz home if Israel withdraws from Gaza.

If an evacuation does take place, Harpaz, 49, who works in sales, says he would throw a Molotov cocktail and light the house on fire.

These are only two of many stories that you can find in this article and others. Some have a more religious theme. Others focus on ideology. Some are defiant, others resigned. But all of them focus on a family, a home, a garden and the struggle to make it safe, secure and peaceful.

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm disgusted with Sharon's disengagement plan. I find it shameful, disgraceful, and a betrayal of the first order. I'm also quite certain that it will bring Israel no closer to peace. In fact, it will most likely have the opposite effect. But if, God forbid, it's implemented, don't kid yourself that there's anything "miserable" about the communities that will be destroyed or that the outrage of the people who live in them can be dismissed as the rantings of extremists and losers.

Yes, I realize that all those who elect to live in the disputed territories are on notice that they might one day have to leave. And they should have anticipated that a government headed by a Shimon Peres or an Ehud Barak would happily trade the ground under their feet for a true promise of peace. But in the last election, the Israeli people soundly rejected the notion of unilateral withdrawal. And there is no promise of peace whatsoever.

Once again, Caroline Glick. She's one of the few who seem to have passed on the brownies when they last came around.

So, here we are again, at the dawn of a new peace process which will bring no peace; will legitimize terrorists and the authoritarian regimes that support them; will weaken Israel's democratic institutions while endangering its citizenry; and will engender scorn for America and faith in Israel's eventual destruction in the hearts of millions of people who today waver between support for freedom and support for terror.

Is it peace yet?

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What do you think?

Israeli and Palestinian Authority representatives are meeting Saturday night to patch up differences regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails ahead of Tuesday's Israel-PA summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, Egypt.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top aide, Dov Weisglass, who is heading the meeting, is expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday to finalize arrangements for the summit.

PA officials warned that without the release of thousands of prisoners, the summit would not succeed. "If Israeli intransigence on this issue continues, the summit will fail," said Minister of Communications Azzam al- Ahmed. "If the prisoners aren't released, we will return to the cycle of violence."

That sounds a lot more like a threat than a prediction.

And if you haven't read Caroline Glick's latest yet, here's more depressing news.


Update: I'm told (by someone who was there) that at a lecture in Jerusalem last night, Caroline Glick "apologized" for her "rant," said that she let her anger run away with her and that she was too hard on Condi, who has proved to be Israel's friend. I don't know. I thought the column was right on target, although she perhaps overreacted a bit to the contiguity thing. It will be interesting to see if any of these second thoughts make it into print.

Wake up call

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They do not like the Jews. Read it at yourish.com.

Unless you're a virulent antisemite yourself, this post won't put you in a good mood. But read it anyway.

Follow-up here.

(ok, so I'm having a bad html day -- fixed now)

Out of pocket

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I hate that phrase. Once upon a time, it had a meaning that was more or less agreed upon and when someone used it, you knew what it meant. Now it's apparently come to mean something else entirely, which is, by the way, what I will be today. Consequently, blogging at In Context will now cease for this week.

Shabbat Shalom.

Nyet

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This article in the Jerusalem Post describes an interview with Russian President Vladamir Putin in which he discusses the rumored sale of Russian anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. Not to worry, says Putin. They're only defensive.

"First of all," he said, "we understand and are committed to maintaining the balance of forces in the region. We understand our responsibilities. We have not taken a single step to violate that balance and we will follow that pattern in the future."

Waiting patiently while his translator rendered this into English, Putin then continued, "Second of all, we won't bring to the region weapons that can be used by terrorists or that can be transferred to terrorists without controls." The Russian president then repeated, "We have and will always act according to our international obligations." In that light, he added, the contemplated missile sale to Syria would not constitute a violation of responsibility because, he asserted, these are purely "defensive missiles."

"While we're talking about supplies of weapons to countries in the region," he said, "such a supply should be understood in the light of supporting defensive capacities, as in Syria."

Should we take Putin at his word that his intention is not to allow Syria to threaten Israel but to defend itself? It's a stretch. But giving him the benefit of the doubt, the logical question would be: against whom would Syria conceivably need to defend herself? I don't think the real answer is Israel.

Some suspect that President Bush might be fixing his sights on Syria if Baby Assad doesn't take major steps to end his country's sponsorship of terrorists soon. And Russia is being less than subtle in trying to maneuver its way back into the Middle East as a major player. It's not hard to see which side she's taking, and against whom.

I thought the cold war was over. But maybe Putin didn't get the memo.

Terrorism works

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When George Walker Bush took office in 2001, the legitimacy of the notion of a palestinian state was by no means a foregone conclusion. When William Jefferson Clinton took office eight years earlier, it was considered more or less fanciful, at least by much of the Western world.

But today, the official position of the U.S. government on the Arab-Israeli conflict seems to have been reduced to this:

I don't think any of us doubt that without a Palestinian state that is viable, that can represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people, that there really isn't going to be a peace for either the Palestinian people or for the Israelis.

The September following Clinton's first inauguration saw the famous handshake on the White House lawn, an event that encouraged many to consider for the first time that recognition of certain palestinian claims just might be the ticket to peace in the Middle East. But the September preceding Bush's first inauguration dashed those hopes, and the September following it introduced new and horrible clarity to the picture. Yet the proposal of a palestinian state has, during that time, been elevated from a spurious claim to something like an absolute necessity, a fundamental principle.

What have the palestinians done to bring us around to such an epiphany? Why, they've murdered thousands of Israelis, along with a few dozen Americans and Europeans, and injured many, many more. They've declared their own ideological war against the United States, our leaders and our values and they've enthusiatically embraced the terror war launched against America by their Islamist friends and supporters. Consequently, our leaders have reached the conclusion (that had somehow evaded them for so long) that we can neither demand nor expect an end to the terror until we give them a state. And not only a state, but a viable state (whatever the hell that means).

All of which sends a very clear message. Feints toward peace, accompanied by lots of real and actual violence, are the way to accomplish goals that a few short decades ago seemed unapproachable. That message isn't being lost on anyone, least of all those who have their own plans for the future of the US of A.

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