If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.
I. It is not the business of Israel, although it seems to be the business of the politicians of Israel, to hector and harass President Obama about the release of Jonathan Pollard, who served as a certified espionage agent of the Jewish state in and against its one truly reliable ally, the United States of America. Maybe Pollard’s sentence was a bit harsher than it should have been. But I don’t even concede that. In any case, there are probably hundreds of thousands of convicts now in jail who can argue that their prison sentence was not equable or even just in the first place.
Istanbul, Turkey—Late last month, when news broke that Israeli commandos had killed nine Turkish nationals onboard a Gaza-bound flotilla, no one here knew for sure exactly how Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would respond. But Turks could be confident of one thing: Whatever Erdogan did, it was going to be dramatic. Tayyip, as Turks call him, is an emotive leader known for unleashing verbal tornadoes. In January 2009, at Davos, he had famously exploded at Israeli President Shimon Peres, hissing, “You know how to kill very well!” before storming off the dais.
Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present By Yevgeny Primakov Translated by Paul Gould (Basic Books, 418 pp., $29.95) Over the decades, many people in the West, and certainly most Israelis, came to view the Soviet Union and then Russia as a force for ill, if not evil, in the Middle East, and perhaps farther afield as well.
No, it's not President Obama. It's President Shimon Peres of Israel. No sooner had the Israeli ministry of defense released a statement--actually a plea for silence!--saying that speculation about the coming quick release of Gilad Shalit "does not help" than Peres announced in Cairo, no less, that the captive soldier was about to be freed.
Click here to read Steven A. Cook on why we should expect the Palestinians to launch a third intifada. Israeli officials and experts were initially reacting to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's promise not to seek re-election in one of three ways: They believed him and didn’t really care; they believed him and worried about the possible vacuum following his disappearance from the political scene; or they didn’t believe him. Last week, the third option seemed to be the most common read in Jerusalem.
This coming Wednesday will be the 14th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin at a Tel Aviv rally for the Oslo peace accords. Like the initial rally itself, the memorial--scheduled for Saturday, October 31, but postponed due to what turned out to be only light rains--was to be a highly charged political event. Except that in 1995, Israel was still stirred by hopes of bringing the decades of war with the Arabs to an end. Yet, at the same time, foreboding grew that these hopes themselves constituted a trap, a mortal trap.
It is just about 15 years since Yasir Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize. Everybody understood that the two leaders of the State of Israel who shared the award with him, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, actually deserved it. But Arafat's primary deed in life was to be a terrorist. A tactician of terror and a strategist of terrorism. Thinking about Arafat in the royal palace made me cringe then. When I went to Al Gore's installation two years ago, I could not get out of my head that the rais had stood in the same spot, a usurper and a fraud.