What many American-Israelis here have been worried about has come to pass: Barack Obama has captured the nomination.
Here I will simply say that we are praying mightily — for the good of the US and Israel — that McCain will win. (Obama’s stunning speech at AIPAC not withstanding.) In the course of the campaign I will share observations from this part of the world on issues of consequence that relate to the presidential contest.
To my readers: Please know that a host of responsibilities requires me, at least in the short term, to post less frequently than has been my habit. Other work I am doing (I am beginning research on a major report, for example) competes with these postings for my time and attention and a balance is necessary. I will do my best to do these postings as is possible for me. In the course of June, I will be away from my computer for a considerable amount of time.
As many are aware , Olmert is in the US primarily with regard to the issue of Iran. He has addressed the AIPAC policy conference and has met with President Bush. Also on the agenda, reportedly, is a request for cutting edge military equipment.
At the same time, members of the Israeli National Fraud Unit are also in the States. They are seeking documentation of Talansky’s testimony — regarding funds drawn from his banks at the time he says he gave money to Olmert, and the identity of the other people that Talansky spoke of in his testimony as having also provided cash to Olmert.
At present Talansky is due to return here for cross examination by Olmert’s lawyers in July, but there is talk about bringing him back sooner. The lawyers are said to be caught between legal considerations, which require them to take their time reviewing all the evidence, and political considerations, which make it prudent for them to take the offensive as quickly as possible to dispel the current public impression.
The government has announced construction of over 800 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze’ev and Har Home, both over the Green Line.
Olmert was singularly unfazed by protests registered by the PA and Condoleezza Rice. (This building "exacerbates tensions" and "obstructs the peace process.") When his eye is on sustaining his coalition, he is able to stand strong. Would that he similarly stood strong for Israel’s sake.
PA chief negotiator, Ahmed Qurei, has told a Fatah activists group in Ramallah that it would take a "miracle" to reach an agreement with Israel before the end of the year. He says no progress has been made.
And — surprise! — Abbas has done a turn around and is now calling for a dialogue with Hamas even though they have not relinquished Gaza.
Explained an Abbas aide: "The failure of the peace process, the tragic situation in Gaza, the entire Palestinian situation required thinking courageously of an exit. We hope that Hamas will respond positively to the call."
And indeed, in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu said, "We welcome this call…to launch a national dialogue, and we consider it a positive step,"
An article this week in Germany’s Der Spiegel outlines a plan being advanced by Germany, which is serving as go-between in communication between Israel and Hezbollah. It makes clear what has long been suggested: What Hezbollah would return are the bodies of Regev and Goldwasser; it would also provide detailed information on Israeli jet navigator Ron Arad, shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and presumed dead.
In return, according to this German plan , Israel would release four Hezbollah militiamen and 10 bodies. And in addition, Samir Kuntar, about whom I wrote the other day: He killed a man in front of his daughter and then smashed the child’s skull in. He should never, ever see the light of day again; for such a person only the death penalty (which Israel does not administer) would be fitting. His release would not sit well with many here.
Nasrallah is additionally seeking release of several Palestinians.
Israel is currently negotiating an upgrade in our relationship with the EU — to senior European partner — that would give us increased access to European markets worth billions to us, and foster cooperation in science and diplomacy.
Bad enough that PA prime minister Fayyad sent a letter to the Organization for Economic Development asking that Israel’s participation in Europe’s markets be blocked — Olmert was said to be livid about this.
Far worse, however, is that Israel has now learned that Egypt has been attempting (without success) to do the same. What seems to be going on is that Egypt believes Israel complaints about Egypt’s failure to block smuggling of weapons into Gaza was a factor in a US freeze on $200 million in military aid Egypt — and now they are retaliating.