Is that light at the end of the tunnel?

Over the last few months, the news started with popular revolts against the dictatorial regimes accross the Arab world. While many of those dictators were in fact providing the kind of political stability that made it possible for Israel to conclude Peace agreements with at least two Arab countries (Egypt and Jordan), the agreements were still dependent on the whim of the ruler. In other words, the agreements are safe insofar the same ruler - or party - remains in power. The lack of a democratic society and systems of accountability makes any agreements, be it Peace, economic or otherwise, a flimsy thing that can collapse with any change in political direction, because there is no policy continuity. The development of new rules of engagement that will hopefully include a system of checks and balances, might in fact provide a better long term outlook for Israeli-Arab relations.

On the Palestinian front there are also interesting developments, not all of them bad. It is true that the Hamas-PLO unity "agreement" and the rejection by Hamas of Salaam Fayad as possible Prime Minister in that technocratic Unity government is a bad development with no positive side to it. But on the other hand, the "march on the borders" on the anniversaries of Israel's independence and of the Six Day war shows that something is happening. First of all, the marches were organized by the government of Syria and expatriated Palestinian leadership. Hamas, the PLO and the Jordanian government actually did what they could to control the violence, and by and large they succeeded. The Syrians, on the other hand, tried to use the violence for their own purposes in spite of the fact that the Palestinian leadership in Syria and Lebanon called off the marches. The ones that happened on the Syrian border and on the Lebanese border were orchestrated by Assad and by Hezbollah. Could it be that they feel their grip in power is slipping and are desperate to create new situations on the ground to regain the initiative?

Another interesting development refers to the Gaza flotilla set to sail this month. Over the last couple of weeks, we saw the French denying permission for the ships to pull into the Marseilles harbor, and yesterday (Thursday) an announcement by the IHH (the Turkish group that organized the Mavi Marmara flotilla last year) that they are pulling out of the convoy. While their announcement proclaim as a reason that they were not able to repair the ship in time because of "extensive damage", a prior report said that they were considering pulling out because of the changes on the ground. What changes? simple: UN officials in the Gaza strip went on record stating that there is no Humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and Egypt opened the border at Rafah. Both developments make the claim that the "Israeli blockade" is puting the Gaza population under tremendous Humanitarian needs looks, frankly, ludicrous.

When it comes to September at the UN, several European countries including Germany have warned the Palestinians that seeking unilateral recognition at the UN is dangerous, and that they need to acheive their goals through negotiations with the Israelis. The Palestinians are still short of the two-thirds majority vote they need to achieve their goal, and the deciding votes appear to be those of Eastern Europe, where Israelis and Palestinians are fighting a fierce diplomatic battle for support.

But since we ARE Jewish, we need to look also at issues that are not so good. Iran managed last week to put a satellite in orbit. The implications of this achievement are far reaching. The technology involved in puting a satellite in orbit is a necessary step for the development of ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) capable of carrying a nuclear explosive payload. Even short of developing ICBM technology, the success indicates a significant improvement in Iran's guidance systems technology, necessary for short and medium range nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, Israel appears to be working on missile defense technology that seems to come out straight from Star Trek lore...things like magnetic shields and upgrading of the "Iron Dome" technology are in the making. So maybe they can manage to put a dump even on Iranian agression...


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