Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon could be a land mine right in the middle of the potholed road to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and the spark that could ignite a new Syrian-Israeli military conflagration.
That’s the view of some Clinton administration officials, despite their strong support for Israel’s unilateral action ending its 18-year occupation of the security zone in Southern Lebanon.
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.
The start of final-status talks between Israel and the Palestinians — now scheduled for Sunday in Ramallah — could ignite fierce battles in the American Jewish community as negotiators wrestle with issues deemed too explosive to take up in earlier rounds.
Several American Jewish leaders say their groups are working to lay the communal groundwork for talks that could fundamentally alter the geography of the Jewish state and pierce many pro-Israel articles of faith.
Kosovo Crisis Roils U.S.-Israel Relations
U.S.-Israel relations, already strained by differences over the Oslo and Wye River agreements and the expansion of Jewish settlements, hit a new minefield this week as officials in Jerusalem signaled ambivalence about the U.S.-led NATO campaign to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
That reticence, officials here complain, damages Israel’s claim to be America’s most steadfast ally.
The lead prosecutor in the strange case of Samuel Sheinbein — the man who would have prosecuted the Maryland teenager had he not fled to Israel after a horrific 1997 murder in an affluent Washington suburb — expressed frustration this week with what he termed a series of blunders by Israeli courts.
Maryland States Attorney Douglas Gansler, who is Jewish, also exhibited concern about the impact of the case on Israel’s image in this country. Gansler spent several weeks on a kibbutz as a teenager, and said his concern is both professional and personal.
Washington — Even the weather suggested mourning. At the Jordanian embassy in the northwest part of the capital, a cold drizzle turned the adjacent construction sites into mud holes and a large portrait of King Hussein, who died Sunday, was streaked with rain. Still, a steady procession of mourners entered the block-like Mediterranean-style building and waited to sign a condolence book.
Limor Hasson, who works a few doors away at the Israeli embassy, was one of the first.
What may turn out to be the largest official Israel at 50 celebration in America — perhaps with participation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has a roster full of speakers and participants who are Messianic Jews, The Jewish Week has learned.
The event, planned by the Christian Alliance for Israel, is scheduled to attract up to 18,000 people in Orlando, Fla., from April 29 to May 3.
Israel’s new ambassador in Washington says he is an optimistic man, and by one measure Danny Ayalon is indisputably right.
Many of his Israeli government colleagues bristle with warnings to the Palestinians or grim assessments of the state of what used to be called the “peace process.” Ayalon, a professional diplomat who also has served as political adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, looks for opportunities to make the point that peace with the Palestinians is possible.
And not necessarily in the distant future.