The tentative truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is just part of a larger effort by the Jewish state to reach out to longtime adversaries. In the process, it confronts a number of difficult, domestically unpopular negotiating options.
One key issue faced by Israeli diplomats is both straightforward and highly sensitive. Syria wants the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967, returned in exchange for peace.
Analysts believe that giving up the Golan Heights, regarded by Israelis as a beloved vacation spot and a crucial strategic asset, could fundamentally alter the regional equation.
The change, they say, could result in less Iranian influence over Syria; less animosity between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which receives support from Syria and Iran; and a stronger peace agreement with Hamas, whose senior leadership mostly lives in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Editor’s Comment — If you look at the aggregate of these diplomatic initiatives as a long-term political investment, it looks to me like — not withstanding all their militaristic bluster — the Israelis know that ultimately it is only political reconciliation — not an Iron Wall — that can serve their long term interests. So why would they be doing exercises in preparation for an attack on Iran? Probably just to keep up pressure on the US and Europe and to force the next president to keep Iran at the top of his agenda.
For more than five years now, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have made clear that they did not want to leave office with Iran any closer to possessing nuclear weapons than when they took office.
“The nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons,” Mr. Bush said in February 2006. The United States is prepared to use its naval power “to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region,” Mr. Cheney said in 2007 from a Navy carrier in the Persian Gulf.
But with seven months left in this administration, Iran appears ascendant, its political and economic influence growing, its historic foes in Iraq and Afghanistan weakened, and its nuclear program continuing to move forward. So the question now is: Are Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney resigned to leaving Iran more powerful than they found it when they came to office?
The evidence is mixed. For all the talk to the contrary, Bush administration officials appear to have concluded that diplomatic efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions will not yield any breakthroughs this year.
An Iraqi Shiite cleric on Friday denounced as “eternal slavery” a proposed security deal between Baghdad and Washington that outlines the long-term military presence of American forces in the country.
“The suspect pact would be an eternal slavery for Iraq. It is against the constitution,” said Sheikh Asad al-Nasri, a member of the movement led by radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
“The government has no right to sign the pact which has been rejected by every political party,” he told worshippers at prayer in the holy town of Kufa, adding that the no Iraqi would be able to agree to it.
The House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a bill overhauling the rules on the government’s wiretapping powers and conferring what amounts to legal immunity to the telephone companies that took part in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The bill cleared the House by 293 to 129, with near-unanimous support from Republicans and substantial backing from Democrats. It now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it next week by a wide margin.
“Our intelligence officials must have the ability to monitor terrorists suspected of plotting to kill Americans and to safeguard our national security,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican minority leader. “This bill gives it to them.”
The Democratic majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, was considerably more restrained in his support of the bill, calling it the best compromise possible “in the current atmosphere.”
Michelle Obama has become an issue in the presidential campaign even though she isn’t running for anything. An educated, successful lawyer, devoted wife and caring mother has been labeled “angry” and unpatriotic and snidely referred to as Barack Obama’s “baby mama.”
Democrats, Republicans, independents, everyone should be offended.
And this black woman is wondering: Where are Obama’s feminist defenders?