What's on our agenda this week?
Israel's 60th anniversary.
Intelligence officials are saying that various Palestinian groups are planning a major incidence of violence to spoil the celebration.
George W. Bush is scheduled to come. We'll have to stay off the roads.
Condoleezza Rice is already here, demanding that we be nicer to the Palestinians.
Palestinians are seeking international help for their insistence that Israel recognize the pre-1967 borders as the starting point of any decisions about borders between the two countries. They are also saying that Israel does not allow the Palestinians to acquire enough weapons in order to show that they can govern themselves; and that Israel is wrong in coming into their cities in order to seize people it suspects of wrongdoing.
Hamas and Israel are dealing through Egypt with respect to a cease fire in Gaza. There remain considerable differences between the positions. It is not clear if the Hamas offer is a "take it or leave it" opportunity, or what will be the demands of Israel and the flexibility of Israel or Hamas.
We saw an American television item on the Israeli Air Force, inserted into a weekly Israeli program of news from the world. This item raised once again the issue of Iranian nuclear program, it's threat against Israel, and what all those pilots are training for.
The police are investigating Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, apparently for violating criminal statutes. There is a block on information, but "reputable sources" are telling journalists that it involves large sums and bribery from the period before he was prime minister. Speculation is that this investigation, something like the fifth in recent years, will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Opponents are calling for Olmert's indictment, his resignation, and an election.
Not a typical week, but not all that unusual in the combined tensions.
An American asks me to be sympathetic about a horse killed before a national television audience at the Kentucky Derby.
Olmert's been in trouble before. Indeed, he has not been out of trouble for some years now. He is well known for playing very close the edge of the rules, but managing to pass through one police inquiry after another with little more than nasty comments from political opponents. This investigation may be more serious. On the other hand, some of the demands for his resignation come right-of-center parties opposed to the whole process of conversing with the Palestinians. Left-of-center moralists support the peace process, but are beating up on the prime minister in the hope of getting more seats out of an election.
The Palestinians will continue to bleat, and demand that others solve their problems. The continued rain of missiles on Sderot and other border towns does not stand them in good stead with the world, despite the difference in who is ruling Gaza and who is talking peace with the Israelis. The peace talkers themselves are not all that attractive to the world, insofar as they show time and again their inability or unwillingness to work against those planning violence against Israel, or keeping them in jail once they have put some of them there. It often appears that short term stays in Palestinian jails (before there is an "escape" or a release for "lack of evidence") are designed more to protect the violent from the Israelis than to protect the Israelis from the violence.
The President and his Secretary of State will add some of their diminishing weight to the peace process. Insofar as the President is coming to celebrate Israel's 60 years of Independence, however, prominent Palestinians say they will not meet with him. For them, it should be a celebration of their national disaster.
I suspect that we will get through this week.
It's too early to say what the following week will offer.
For those more concerned about the horse, I participate in your sorrow.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Home tel: 972-2-532-2725
Cell phone: 054-683-5325