Two dramatic events, or maybe not so dramatic. Commentators see possibilities, while the rest of us will wait and see what comes next, if anything.
One has optimists hopping. The other is sobering, but may portend significant responses.
The event seen as a sign of hope was a presentation made by Mahmoud Abbas to an invited group of Israeli students at his headquarters in Ramallah. The invitees were screened by Palestinian and Israeli organizers, and were markedly of activists in peace groups, with a Labor Party functionary on the podium alongside Abbas smiling and nodding during the Palestinian''s presentation.
The intention was to soften the Palestinian voice, to persuade Israelis inclined to be persuaded that Abbas was reasonable, and that the Israeli government was the source of rejection.
He sought to minimize Palestinian demands. They did not want to flood Israel with refugees. They wanted to share Jerusalem, not to divide it. He did not deny the Holocaust (said to be inherent in his doctoral dissertation), but spoke of it as a tradegy. Palestinian incitement against Israel was ugly, and had to be dealt with. There was also Israeli incitement against Palestinians, which also had to be dealt with. Both should be dealt with by a joint committee.
It was promising to those inclined to see it so, but not quite the same as Anwar Sadat''s visit to the Knesset.
For one thing, the selected audience did not ask the questions that might be expected from the range of Knesset Members.
And for another, Abbas remains hampered by his questionable legitimacy as President of a Palestine that is sharply divided, if it can be said to exist.
Sadat was the leader of a disciplined state. By the time he went to the Knesset he had put all the important ducks in line, and could carry through with what he and Menachem Begin (whose ducks would also be in line) could accept.
Shortly after the Ramallah performance Abbas'' own senior aides expressed strong reservations about some of the proposals being heard in the Kerry forum. Leading members of Hamas said from Gaza that they could not tolerate being excluded from the talks, and that in any case they could not accept the legitimacy of Israel, give up one inch of Palestine, or the right of refugees to return to their homes. The preferred route for Hamas was still an armed struggle.
The more sobering event of recent days was the terrorist attack on a tour bus on the Egyptian side of the border just south of Eilat. The Egyptian bus driver and several tourists from South Korea died, and many more Koreans were injured..
One element of the event signaled the delicate nature of Egyptian-Israeli relations. Israel''s immediate response to the explosion was to send ambulances to the border, and to indicate its willingness to accommodate the injured in Eilat''s hospital, only a few minutes drive from the explosion. The Egyptians could not bring themselves to accept the offer, and instead sent the injured to lesser quality hospitals deeper in the Sinai, requiring drives of one and one-half to one facility or three and one-half hours to a better equipped hospital.
On the other hand, the explosion seems likely to strengthen what has been the serious, but quiet cooperation between Egypt and Israel against Islamic terror.
Israel has accepted variations from its peace treaty with Egypt by allowing the entry of significant Egyptian forces and military equipment into the Sinai, for the purpose of dealing with fighters who have attacked both Israelis and Egyptians.
The current military government of Egypt has assigned responsibility for the attacks to Hamas, and sees the Hamas stronghold in Gaza as the source of personnel, equipment, incitement of the Bedouin in the Sinai, and the leadership of the attacks. Egypt has closed its border with Gaza, and destroyed most of the tunnels created to avoid an Israeli blockade, and used to smuggle munitions and fighters into and out of Gaza, along with food, fuel, construction supplies, automobiles, and other consumer goods into Gaza. The tunnels are taxed by Hamas authorities, and contributed a major source of the funds used to pay its thousands of employees.
Turkey and all the other worthies concerned about an Israeli blockade on Gaza ought to be talking about an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
Or perhaps only an Egyptian blockade, taking account of the tons of supplies sent from Israel on most days, except when suspended as a reminder of what might happen in response to yet another wave of rockets.
Egyptian pressure on Hamas and Gaza is likely to continue, as part of the present government''s campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. The last we''ve seen of Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood''s elected president of Egypt, was his presence in the cage that Egyptians use in their courtrooms for defendants.
One of the more tantalizing questions, much easier to ask than to answer is, will Egypt attack Gaza?
Involved in the speculation is the government that decided to transport tourists injured in a terrorist incident one and one half to three and one half hours to lower quality hospitals rather than to an Israeli hospital a few minutes distant.
It is far from easy for a Muslim power to do anything that can be interpreted as cooperating with Israel, or even recognizing its existence, legitimacy, or willingness to help.
We''re still wearing that yellow badge, along with a great deal of cooperation and joint endeavors that cannot be discussed.
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