’Convergence” may soon be relegated to the scrap pile of outdated Mideast phrases, along with “road map” and so many others. For as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert struggled this week to shore up his faltering coalition and respond to calls for a commission to examine the failures of the war in Lebanon, his plans to withdraw from large areas of the West Bank were shelved.
The government’s new focus will be on repairing the damage Hezbollah rockets caused in the north and strengthening that area in the event of further attacks.
International pressure was mounting on Syria this week with the release of an interim report by the United Nations tying Damascus to the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and another U.N. report charging that Syria was maintaining indirect military control of Lebanon despite withdrawing its troops last spring.
The latter report, prepared by U.N. special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, said Syria was using its agents in the army, intelligence organizations and Lebanese administration.
King Abdullah of Jordan said his recent meeting with Hafez Assad has convinced him that the Syrian president is ready to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
"I believe that President Assad is very keen to move in the right direction and have a peace with Israel," he told The Jewish Week on Monday during the final leg of a 10-day visit to the United States. "I am very optimistic with the statements that are coming out of Damascus."
Early this year, an Israeli diplomat, speaking to Jewish activists here, described Syrian President Hafez Assad as “a sphinx … an enigma.” This week, that enigma sent his foreign minister to Washington to resume direct negotiations with Israel, under U.S. auspices — the culmination of months of secret diplomacy that did little to diminish Assad’s reputation for impenetrability.