Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hard to Catch One's Breath

It has been said that in Israel, life doesn't pass by, it just goes straight through you. It goes through, you live it but you don't quite have time to swallow it all. As a taxi driver said to be last evening - "Here in Israel, we breathe but we don't really live". Let's take a deep breath and get in over our heads.

Elections are on the way - so the headlines scream in harmony with new tough guy Amir Peretz and older tough guy Yosef (Tommy) Lapid as they agree to try to bring Sharon and the Likud to early elections. I was in the elevator with Mr Lapid and his entourage yesterday at the Knesset. From the look on his face (as if I'd know!), I'm not too sure that sooner is better as far as elections and Shinui is concerned. Many of its supporters are a little perturbed by the lack of shinui (change) in the religious status quo that was the basis of Shinui's election platform and subsequent 2003 success. Recently they have sat in the opposition and did so through Disengagement. The timing of their resignation from the government coalition did in fact raise a few Disengagement eyebrows.

The Knesset was a beehive of activity yesterday and flags and red carpets were being unrolled for the Rabin special session. The significance of the Rabin week of rememberance hasn't been lost on Amir Peretz and he has made several remarks about his commitment to the Rabin legacy and Oslo. It's all going to be very interesting to see whether voters are willing to back a man who does promise social and economic equality but couples this with a direct flight back to Oslo.

Many might have liked PM Rabin, but many also despised his policies on Arafat and co. As beautifully put by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin yesterday, there was a great deal more to Rabin than Oslo and we should base the Rabin legacy on the man himself and his horrific murder and not his policies with which many then and many now still vehemently disagree. In Rivlin's view, (a very wise view in my opinion), all of us have a right to mourn him and remember him without feeling alienated because we maintain the fight against his peace and security policies. Sometimes it hurts to hear these things but as I see it, they must be said. Sharon agrees.

Clinton and Rice (here for the Rabin occasions) have kept traffic in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv securely watched, stopped and bumper-to-bumper. Rice has also applied severe pressure on Israel to withdraw its security and surveillance demands on crossing points on the Gaza-Egypt border. We have seen what can happen there (and what can be smuggled in) should Israel not maintain an overall supervisory role. With Al-Qaeda now appearing out of every hole and cranny, Israel's concerns appear justified even in light of Palestinian "this humiliates us and imprisons us" claims. In a world brimful with terror, which sadly includes Palestinian society, it is interesting indeed to see what agreements have now been reached (and what pressure has successfully been applied once again). As of a few minutes ago, the Palestinians will now control a border and though there are some joint surveillance conditions, one gets the distinct feeling that Israel has succumbed to the need for the US and Israel to be seen to be strengthening Mahmoud Abbas before elections. Even in these few minutes after the announcement, security sceptics are plentiful and frankly it's never been good news for Abbas when he receives public Israel-US backslapping.

In a lead up to the "International Terror" video conference that I am hosting this afternoon, I, like most, have decided that terror logic becomes more difficult to understand each day. Wanting to create a nuclear meltdown in Sydney I can understand (but obviously condemn). Targetting Palestinian, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence officials in Amman is beyond my comprehension. I mean, I know that many Moslems classify other Moslems as infidels (along with the rest of us), yet if, as Islamic terrorists claim, Israel's treatment of Mr and Mrs Palestine is the cuase of all hate and terror, then why go out and kill the 'victims' themselves?

It's all lost on me and no doubt Al-Qaeda won't take long to surprise and confuse us again. Ahhh, finally something as irrational and unreadable as Israeli politics...

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