Israel is never far from the world''s headlines, but it is enjoying something of a breather. Muslims from Mauritania and Morocco to Pakistan are dealing with issues more pressing than their conventional assertions about Palestine. Palestinians have troubles that, arguably, are greater than Israel. Gazans have a regime that is serious about Islamic law, and the West Bank has leaders who have stayed in power two years after the expiration of their mandate.
The United States cast a veto against the Palestinian effort to short-cut its way through the inconveniences of negotiation and compromise. Americans also took the occasion to blast the Israelis on settlements. Their consulate in East Jerusalem warned personnel to stay out of the West Bank due to threats of Palestinian violence against them. So far no warnings about Israelis who might express their anti-Americanism on call-in radio.
The United States is suffering a classic problem of a world power. Its alliances with authoritarians throughout the region have been embarrassing in the face of popular protests. The president and his aides have stuttered their way through urging immediate reform and a concern to avoid anarchy. Libya''s use of helicopter gunships against protesters is their easiest target. Bahrain''s Sunni establishment killing of protesters from its majority Shiite community is more problematic. Neither the Americans nor the British want to risk their military bases in that country.
Every member of the Security Council except the United States voted in favor of the resolution declaring settlements illegal. It is most likely that some did it in the context of an expected veto. They could have it both ways: declaring themselves on the side of the angels, but knowing that they would not contribute to ending the peace process. Such a resolution, if it passed, would have angered Israelis more than it would have caused them to remove settlements.
The Economist may be the best of the news magazines, even though it is less than friendly to Israel. A recent issue earns my praise for describing the futility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and putting most of the blame on the Palestinians.
The Economist''s article fits with an item written by a liberal Canadian rabbi, who usually presses Israel to be more forthcoming. Now he perceives the resignation of the Palestinian negotiator as justifying the claim of right-wing Israelis that there is no Palestinian partner. The man who resigned had been revealed by al-Jazeera as having been forthcoming with respect to issues of land and refugees. Although his offers were not good enough for Ehud Olmert, they were too far from the Palestinian consensus for him to remain in office. http://www.
The greater problems of others might be the reason why I could turn my thoughts to the timeless questions of music and politics, and the elusive explanation of Israel''s democracy.
Here and there we hear of Egyptians and Libyans blaming Israel for the protests in their country, but this provides us with as much entertainment as worry. What might happen in Egypt is a cause of concern. However, the larger turmoil throughout the region raises the likelihood that Egyptian as well as other regimes will dig in their heels against the crowds. Democracy as well as Islam are a long way from winning these battles.
Neither Israel, Egypt, nor the United States are happy with the prospect that an Iranian frigate and a navy supply ship will transit the Suez Canal and sail toward a Syrian port. The Iranians are claiming that they are not transporting munitions. Should American or Israeli intelligence sources indicate that arms are moving from those ships in the likely direction of Hizbollah, there could be a problem for all concerned.
Rainfall has been less than normal for several years. The government has increased our water bills and urges us to limit use, but the country is not dry. Enough of the desalinization facilities being constructed are on line, so the issue is one of cost rather than supply. There is enough water for us in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. It is more costly to sweeten that water than to rely on water from the heavens. If the story of Joseph still has validity, we are due for several wet years.
We are not in Paradise. There are groups, and at least one country, that may be serious when they say they will destroy us. We can also find problems in the realms of poverty, crime, education, and health, as well as the aspirations of the messianic faithful. Nothing can satisfy Jewish critics. For the time being, we are enjoying the quietest spot in the neighborhood. It could be worse.