Saturday, August 02, 2003

Starting off with some news from the occupied territories.

I think that we saw a victory for Ariel Sharon on Tuesday, when Mr. Bush totally changed the his attitude about the wall. He even changed the language, calling it 'fence' this time and not a 'wall,' even though at most parts it's 25 feet high and I will come back to the wall-issue some time later on. I was watching the State Department briefing today, instead of the White House briefing I usally receive via feed at work, and noticed that the issue of settlements came up. Israel earlier today announced to build 22 new homes in the Neveh Dekalim settlement, which openly violates the performance-based Road Map. Israel thought it could get away on a techniquality calling it a "reflection of natural growth of the settlement," but as Richard Boucher explained, the Road Map cites the Mitchell report which says:

The GOI [Government of Israel] should freeze all settlement activity, including the "natural growth" of existing settlements.
But than Boucher went on to make excuses, telling reporters that it was "subject to interpretation" and that natural growth was an "ambiguous term." It's not Mr. Boucher. If settlers get kids and grandkids and they need a bigger hoyuse, than they should move to someplace that's bigger. Like, let's say, the state of Israel maybe? Or is this suggestion completely out of line?

In a related story, Israel's population grew only by 35,168, mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia. But the facts is that more Jews left their countries for Germany, than Israel. I kid you not. To blame could be several things, but I'm guessing that terrorism is not very attrective, dislike of the current right-wing government, and a more ideal welfare system in Germany. (The population of West Bank settlements grew by 5.7 percent.)

Tom Delay--Majority whip in the House and anti-peace activist--went to give a speech before Knesset in Israel. He called himself "Israeli at hart." And that hart only cost the pro-Israeli lobby $39,050 since 1978. That's how much it costs for Tom to use Christian Zionist ideology and utter the words “Judea and Samaria?" What's next? Calling for etnic cleansing of Palestinians, like Dick Armey--his predecessor--did? It sure wouldn't surprise me. I forget. His racist comments were published in the NY Times, calling terrorism the Palestinians' culture.

But it's not just the conservatives, fighting for Jewish votes. (They already lost the Arab and Muslim vote. Usually it goes to Lebanese Ralph Nader or the Democrats.) On Saturday, 29 Democratic congressmen will go to Israel--with more supportive statements of course. Interesting last paragraph:
Mr. DeLay's trip was an official visit, paid for by the taxpayers. Mr. Hoyer's will be paid for by the American Israeli Education Foundation, an arm of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington. Howard Kohr, the committee's executive director, said he regarded it as a "significant statement" that 29 Democrats were willing to spend part of their August recess traveling to a land that most tourists have forsaken.
No wonder, we're running a deficit.

I suggested a couple of days ago that Palestinian security minister Dahlan had a 7-hour meeting with Rice and Tenet to lay out a strategy. I think this is it.
In June, when the cease-fire was negotiated, it was belittled by Israeli and American officials as a poor substitute for tough actions against militants. Lately, as attacks on Israelis have declined and support for Mr. Abbas among Palestinians seems to have grown, Americans have changed their tone. "Both sides now think the cease-fire is a good idea and the early Israeli skepticism has changed," a senior administration official said, referring to Israeli and Palestinian positions. He said one advantage of the cease-fire was to give Mr. Abbas time to build up and consolidate his security forces for a campaign against militant groups. The cease-fire is supposed to last only three months. The United States is urging Israel to improve conditions in Palestinian areas so there would be overwhelming popular pressure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to continue the cease-fire for at least another three months.

In this period, American officials say, they hope to speed as much as $300 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority, channeled through the Central Intelligence Agency, to replace everything from jails to communication equipment to vehicles destroyed in the last two years by Israeli armed forces. Officials, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, said the administration's thinking on the issue of the cease-fire was discussed this week when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel met with President Bush at the White House, and last week during a visit by Mr. Abbas. Mr. Abbas and his security director, Muhammad Dahlan, have appealed to American officials on the issue of taking on militant groups, American officials said, arguing that the Palestinian security forces are splintered, with many members remaining loyal to Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, with whom Washington refuses to deal. "We've emphatically stated in public and private what needs to be done," a senior American official said. "It is clear that it cannot be done instantly. It requires planning, a strengthening of security forces and a unification of those forces under Abbas and Dahlan."

To create what the official called "political space" for Mr. Abbas to build up his popularity and strengthen his command of his forces, American officials say the United States must quietly continue to urge Israel to improve Palestinian conditions and meet other Palestinian requests. To this end, American and Israeli officials named two task forces after the meeting on Tuesday between Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon, administration officials said.
The article also suggest more talks will be held on the apartheid wall. Good.

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