You know the fog of battle, when the smoke, noise, and panic are so heavy as to confuse one's views about what is happening, and which side has an advantage.

Politics isn't all that different. In this case, the fog is not so much the result of smoke as of confusing verbiage backed up by body language that seems to belie realities. But no one is sure about the realities.

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One example swirling around this place is the appearance of hyper-activity from the Palestinians, while their realities appear to be so dim.

This is not new. The Arabs then principally the Palestinians have been speaking and shouting in hyperbole since the 1940s, threatening time and again to do more than they were able. Perhaps we should recognize 1973 as an exception, given the costs to Israel. However, the war ended with the IDF closer to Cairo than the Egyptians were to any major Israeli settlement. A few years later the two countries signed a peace treaty that has held despite some friction. Now it seems stronger than ever with our mutual enemy being Hamas and its allies.

One can fear the support being given to the Palestinian cause by important figures in major countries (Sweden, France, Britian, Russia, the US), and the masses trumpeting Palestinian slogans on college campuses, and city streets, and among some dock workers who should be unloading Israeli cargo. Yet the destruction across Gaza hardly seems to be the sign of an ascendant political entity. One can also doubt the willingness of major powers to undo one of the world's most successful states, with a serious military, impressive economy, and most likely nuclear weapons.

Yet for a people remembering the Holocaust that came from what Germany's Jews saw around them as the height of western civilization, anything may come out of the fog.

The latest news (itself a problematic concept due to the thick fog) is that Mahmoud Abbas insists on going to UN Security Council to get what he wants, despite the warning from the United States pf an inevitable veto.

Abbas is also raising an issue about the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary/al-Aqsa, historically one of the most sensitive few acres in the world. He is now demanding that it be kept free of "settlers," by which he may mean all Jews.

Jews are also adding to the noise about the same spot, with efforts to pray and talk about a Third Temple.

The recent holiday of Succot may be responsible for this issue, with its mass pilgrimages to Jerusalem by Jews and traditional stone throwing by Arabs. Hopefully there will come a period of calm, but against this prospect is a concern that a wave of rock throwing in Jerusalem may have a life of its own, with each neighborhood gang having to prove its enthusiasm for the cause.

On account of the fog, it is not clear how many Jews simply want the right to pray on the Temple Mount, how many aspire to the creation of a Third Temple with or without the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa, and with or without a renewal of animal sacrifices.

Those of us trying to understand can ponder the likelihood of unrest by the folks concerned with animal rights and the environment. There will be confrontation about mass slaughter, ritually done, causing a cloud of stink coming from the altar, with problems of water as well as air pollution against demands for religious freedom in the Jewish state.

So far the ultra-Orthodox are quiet, which adds its own bit of confusion and apprehension..Will some of their rabbis sign on to the campaign currently being waged by a fringe among the Orthodox? It is hard to imaging that such intense rivals will coalesce, but who can really read what is happening where intense spirituality adds its confusions to the political fog. It's not a setting that invites secular outsiders to predict..

Iran and ISIS add their noise and obfuscations to what we are trying to understand.

Hints of an agreement between the American and Iranian governments come along with renewed efforts by Israel to scuttle the deal, and some threats about the IDF being able to assure our safety. For his part, Barack Obama appears to be maneuvering for a deal, and trying to avoid the involvement of a hostile Congress.

That may be the President's right as chief maker of foreign policy, or a struggle shaping up in an election context, with the outcome of Senate control doubtful, and Israel competing on what some will say is the President's turf.

The President may be at a low point of popularity. Part of one crowd expressed the ultimate in rejectionism by walking out in the middle of his speech. His Secretary of State--accused and most likely guilty of pompous paternalism--is dependent on his spokeswoman to clarify what he may have wanted to say, but did not say. The Obama-Kerry campaign to recruit non-American fighters against ISIS has only achieved 200 soldiers from Australia.

To the credit of the Americans, their air campaign appears to be a serious problem for ISIS. Yet to the credit of ISIS, it has been able to recruit a decent caliber of personnel from Muslim communities. One example is an  Israeli Arab, a young physician, who completed his internship and was about to begin a residency, but did not show up as expected. He had gone to fight or to serve as a physician with ISIS, and was reported killed in Syria.

As always, comments welcome.

The prize will go to he/she who sees clearly through the fog.

 


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