August 05, 2003

Mideast Roundup Lots of news

Mideast Roundup

Lots of news stories recently on the security fence (or wall, barrier, etc) being erected by Israel. Moshe Arens has an interesting take in Haaretz today. But it ignores some legitimate Palestinian grievances.

Meanwhile, the NYT reports that the U.S. might reduce aid to Israel as a way of pressuring Tel Aviv to stop construction of the security wall.

Don't hold your breath if you advocate this increased pressure on Sharon's government. Between the leak to Steve Weisman and the actual implementation of punitive economic diplomacy there are many questions marks.

For one, this supposed State Department proposal still has the feel of a work in progress that hasn't yet gotten the White House seal of approval. And while the idea of cutting loan guarantees in an amount calibrated to reflect security fence construction costs east of the Green Line sounds theoretically of interest--the reality of making such calculations in an accurate, non-politicized fashion is more of a chimera. Put simply, it sounds like this idea likely isn't really going to take off.

My guess is that part of the reason this is being made public is to make it easier for Sharon (the pressure from Washington look more real to his constituents) to make some compromises on the trajectory of the wall (leaving a few more settlements on the "wrong" side of the barrier and ensuring more contiguity for Palestinian farmers' land and the like) while perhaps slowing the pace of construction a bit.

And Dubya will seek greater assurances from Sharon, the more the fence deviates from the Green Line, that the barrier in no way constitutes "facts on the ground," ie. a political boundary. That message Sharon stressed to a Washington audience via Lally Weymouth recently.

But major cutbacks in aid from Washington to Israel unless a full halt to construction occurs (leaving aside demolition of existing sections)? Or even cutbacks in loan guarantees, in some amount reflecting east of Green Line barrier construction costs?

Not happening, at least at this juncture. If the peace process make great strides in the mid-term (ie, before 'final status' issues like right of return and Jerusalem are addressed) the pressure on Sharon to halt construction and/or dismantle the wall would get more serious. But it's not at that level yet.

In other Mideast related matters, check out this interesting NYRB piece on Sharon, Abu Mazen and Arafat. The piece strives to equate Sharon and Arafat as the bad guys with a noble Abu Mazen trying to keep the road map alive which strikes me as too trite a thesis. But it's worth reading regardless. (And it's worth noting that Abu Mazen is pressuring "rogue" Fatah elements pretty hard these days).

At the same time, Mazen is cancelling a meeting with Sharon because the Palestinians were underwhelmed by the list of prisoners Israel is to release. So are some Israeli commentators, btw.

Also take a look at this interesting story on FM Silvan Shalom's attempts to improve Israel's diplomatic position at the U.N. Good luck Silvan!

Posted by Gregory at August 5, 2003 10:05 AM
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