Watching and wondering

You want  a soap opera in real life? 

It is far from politically correct to be cynical in the presence of charges about sexual harassment and rape, but who wants politically correct in the presence of these stories?

The initial inquiry into a leading candidate for the job of national police chief has spread out from one allegation of sexual harassment. It began to be interesting when we heard that the person said to be harassed was not bringing the charge, but that it had been fed to the police and the media by a third party. Perhaps by someone trying to torpedo a rival''s chance at the top job, or by a friend of the woman said to be harassed. The friend said to be responsible is a former beauty queen, whose big eyes and body language made a great five minutes on the evening news.

After the initial story hit the media there was first one and then two more reports: one of sexual harassment and one where reporters used the word rape. Then it became muddied by details that the two women associated with the second cluster of stories had been friends. One of them is said to have viewed herself as the preferred lover of the police officer. She introduced the second woman (or is it the third?) to the officer, and then became estranged with her former friend when the two-some turned into a three-some.

The headline in one of the papers this morning:The wife of the policeman says, "I am with him." 

Perhaps he has something that most of us lack. Remaining a serious candidate for the job of police chief no longer appears to be one of his attractions. He does have supporters, who are standing by as strongly as his wife. Retired colleagues from the top of the police force are saying that the man deserves a fair inquiry, and not by the media.

Maybe you want an update on the peace process?

There is none.

There is silence where we have been expecting to hear about a written agreement formulated by Americans and Israelis. More prominent is the news about a report published by the Palestine Ministry of Information. It argues that Jews have no claim to the Western Wall. It is really part of the al-Aqsa Mosque. 

Someone may be trying to inform the Palestinian Ministry of Information that Herod''s Temple predated al-Aqsa by about 800 years, and that there was an earlier Temple on the site at least 1400 years before al-Aqsa. 

One Israeli peace activists has expressed profound disappointment. In his view, such denial of history by his Palestinian friends can only deepen the despair about the two sides ever being able to share a common purpose.

The North Koreans are making their own negative contribution to peace in the Middle East, by putting something else higher on the agenda of the Obama White House. Over the years I have found my Korean students and professional colleagues less anxious about their neighbors than more distant observers. Yet the combination of nuclear weapons, bombast, and a regime that cares little about its population may require further consideration. And those of us who notice similar traits in Iran might think some more about that nearby problem. A computer virus from somewhere is causing problems for Iran''s refinement of uranium, but that respite will not last forever. 

Other news: Mahmoud Abbas has called the Referendum law an obstacle to peace.

Maybe so, but there are at least as many other obstacles as that senior police official has girl friends.

The law in question passed the Knesset by a substantial majority. It provides for a referendum approving any transfer of territory where Israel has declared its sovereignty. In operational terms, that means Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are the only parcels seized in the 1967 war where the Israeli Knesset has extended national sovereignty. 

Some may argue that the law is flawed by being a change in the nature of the Israeli government (a law calling for a referendum seems to limit the power of the Knesset) without going through the procedures required for enactment of a Basic Law. Some may also claim that the law does not apply to Jerusalem or the Golan Heights insofar as no other country has recognized Israel''s claims of sovereignty. The Supreme Court may be asked for a decision.

It may be best to view the enactment, which had been endorsed by the Prime Minister, as part of tri-party international ping pong, where Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans are maneuvering in anticipation of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, or in an effort to preclude those negotiations. 

This is not a ping pong for gentle folks. It is not my job to award points for which side is more just or more skillful, just as it is not my job to sort out the three-some, four-some, or more-some concerning that candidate for the job of police chief. It is a time to watch and wonder, maybe to snicker, but not yet to rend clothes and cover oneself with ashes.