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.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush, following their sixth meeting in 15 months, agreed this week that reforms promised by Palestinian President Yasir Arafat to provide security for Israelis were insufficient to warrant renewed peace talks.
A day later, a roadside bomb injured three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian suicide bomber killed a 15-year-old girl and injured nine others.
"No one has confidence in the emerging Palestinian government," Bush said after an Oval Office meeting with Sharon.
After 35 years of confining its Israel-designated funds to within the Green Line, the primary fund-raising arm for the American Jewish community has changed its policy. In an historic move, the board of trustees of the United Jewish Communities, meeting Monday in Chicago, unanimously “adopted a broad interpretation of the UJC charter to permit the organization to provide assistance to Jews around the world, irrespective of where they live,” according to an official statement.
Efrat, Israel: Standing at an empty bus stop on Hebron Road under a bright hot sun, an American traveler leaving Jerusalem for the West Bank community of Efrat suddenly feels his senses turned up a notch.
Waiting for the 167 bus heading south, the traveler watches four Israeli soldiers at a makeshift military checkpoint stop taxis, passenger cars and commercial trucks, delaying the Friday "have to get home for Shabbat" rush hour traffic.