Sputtering efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stalled this week after Palestinians wearing Israeli army uniforms killed eight Israelis —including two babies — in a daring, well-executed ambush of a bulletproof civilian bus just outside the West Bank community of Immanuel.
The attack, the first in 26 days of relative quiet, came as no surprise to Israelis.
The first high-level Israeli-Palestinian talks were held this week amid reports that Palestinian leaders have now agreed that President Yasir Arafat must go before any meaningful peace talks are to start.
At the same time, the Israeli government's decision to deny Israeli Arabs the right to buy land in primarily rural communities of the country has triggered a debate about how best to preserve the Jewish character of the state.
The FBI is ignoring its own guidelines on terrorism in the July 4 El Al shootings, possibly undermining America's war against Islamic extremists, several experts told The Jewish Week.
The counterterrorism experts, both American and Israeli, say they are baffled by the FBI's continuing refusal to label as terrorism the Independence Day attack at the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport by an Egyptian gunmen that killed a female El Al ticket agent, an Israeli diamond broker, and wounded three others.
Israeli troops eased their grip on seven of eight major Palestinian cities they controlled this week amid warnings that the longer they clamped down on the population, the greater the likelihood they would have to bear the responsibilities of an occupying power.
Israel's security cabinet Wednesday approved work permits for another 5,000 Palestinians; 2,000 already have such permits to work in Israel, and it ordered the unfreezing of some Palestinian funds to allow the Palestinian Authority to pay for water and electricity.
After delivering a speech on the Middle East many Jewish leaders privately admit they could not have written any better, President George W. Bush began seeking international support for the reforms he demanded the Palestinians implement before their state is born.
With events in Israel moving at a rapid pace this week (a Jerusalem bus bombing that killed 19, followed by Israel's decision to seize Palestinian land after each new terrorist attack and to accelerate the construction of a fence around the West Bank) questions arose over the wisdom of a new U.S. peace initiative even before it was announced.
"I don't see how it can be made palatable or what contribution it is if both sides are that unhappy [with it]," said Richard Murphy, a former ambassador to Syria and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.