Just hours after a suicide bomber killed at least four Israelis outside a shopping mall in the northern Israeli coastal city of Netanya, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon signaled his determination to go ahead with the withdrawal from Gaza by sealing it off to non-residents.
To avoid having to lease its land to Israeli Arabs in violation of its covenant, the Jewish National Fund has agreed to sever ties with the government and swap half its land in developed areas with barren government land in the Galilee and the Negev, The Jewish Week has learned.
As a private organization, JNF would be free to continue its Jews-only land policy as it seeks to settle 250,000 Jews in the Negev in the next five to 10 years and 100,000 Jews in existing Jewish communities in the Galilee, according to fund officials.
Last week's election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran is seen by Israel as a new opportunity to press the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran until it ends its efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.
This week's summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed what Sharon did not want to hear: that Abbas has so little power he cannot guarantee any promises he makes.
That analysis by many Israeli observers was buttressed by this exchange at Tuesday's two-hour meeting, as reported on Israel's Channel 1:
Abbas: "Help me, I'm weak."
Sharon: "Don't say that, people might believe it."
Even the Bush administration now knows it.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, was confirmed by the UN General Assembly Monday to be one of its 21 vice presidents, the first time Israel has held that position since Abba Eban served there 53 years ago.
Gillerman, who was endorsed for the post by the Western European and Others Regional Group (including the United States, Western Europe and Canada), said he hoped to use the position to eliminate or limit the number of anti-Israel resolutions that are adopted each year.
Five candidates are vying for the leadership in a Labor Party primary June 28 that some are viewing as crucial in positioning the party for major gains in the general election next year.
"It's clear that [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's government is in trouble," said Yossi Alpher, a political analyst and former adviser to then-Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak. "It's not clear that [Sharon] will get his [Likud] party's nomination."
Alpher said it was unclear also how the Gaza disengagement slated to begin Aug. 15 would affect Sharon's nomination.
Both the police and demonstrators declared victory this week following Monday's anti-disengagement sit-in demonstrations, termed a dry run for later this summer, that blocked 40 intersections in several cities and resulted in more than 300 arrests.
With Secretary of State Colin Powell's Mideast mission widely seen as a failure, the focus of international diplomacy now shifts to a possible regional conference using the Saudi peace initiative as a basis for talks.
By staving off early elections this week through a last-minute deal with the Labor Party, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has given himself more time to try to negotiate peace deals with both the Palestinian Authority and Syria. But opposition leaders warn that any such deal would surely bring down the government.
Amid fears that Jerusalem was on the way to becoming an increasingly ultra-Orthodox-run city, secular businessman Nir Barkat won a decisive victory in Tuesday’s mayoral election, defeating an Orthodox rabbi and an Israeli-Russian billionaire and ending five years of haredi leadership.
In his victory speech, the 49-year-old venture capitalist and former computer entrepreneur claimed that he had “liberated” Jerusalem from fervently Orthodox rule and promised to be the mayor of all residents.