Meanwhile back in Jerusalem – Part Three – Nowadays a gun is needed everywhere –

Oh no, not again! Another apparently mad bulldozer rampage carried out by a Palestinian from East Jerusalem wearing a Muslim skullcap and shorts (!), with a “criminal” record — and on top of that a relative of a jailed Hamas lawmaker.

The bulldozer driver was shot and killed within minutes in downtown Jerusalem, near the King David Hotel where Barack Obama is due to check in later today.

Again, there was an immediate assumption, a certainty, that this was a terror attack.

There is a court “gag”, journalists have been informed by the Government Press Office, “AGAINST PUBLICATION OF ANY DETAILS REGARDING IDENTITY OF TODAY’S JLEM TERRORIST”. But, Ma’an News Agency, Agence France Presse, and Israel’s YNet website all carry his name and a few other details.

The person who killed the bulldozer driver was described in an article in YNet as follows:
“Yaakov Asael, a resident of the Susiya settlement in southern Mount Hebron is Tuesday’s hero. Asael shot and killed the terrorist who carried out the bulldozer attack in Jerusalem earlier in the day Fifty-three-year-old Asael is an IDF reserves company commander, a father of eight, grandfather of six, and a teacher. Ayelet Recanati, Asael’s daughter, told Ynet that her father is “resourceful.”
‘He was a military man in commanding positions in combat units, in the armored corps’, she said.
‘He is a bible teacher and an agriculturalist but has studied judo his whole life. He is a Jewish Israeli who combines the Torah and labor and tremendous politeness’, she said. ‘He grasps things quickly, he has intuition regarding people and he most likely understood what was going on quickly’, she added. ‘He always carries a gun. For as long as I can remember him, he has carried a gun. Nowadays, a gun is needed everywhere, in Susiya, Jerusalem, Hadera and in Tel Aviv. As long as we don’t exude strength, we will need means of defense‘.” The full article can be found
here .

The corollary of this, of course, is that shooting can be expected everywhere … citizen vigilantes taking the law into their own hands (what is the law on this, exactly???), everytime they suspect a terror attack is underway. But what if they over-react, or draw the wrong conclusions?

Haaretz is reporting that the Israeli intelligence chief is saying that there are “security vacuums” or “power vacuums” in parts of (East) Jerusalem: “Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin warned lawmakers of copycat terrorist attacks in the works three hours before Tuesday afternoon’s bulldozer rampage in Jerusalem, which left over a dozen people injured. In his appearance before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Diskin said the Shin Bet received indications that Palestinians were planning to stage attacks mimicing the deadly incidents in Jerusalem … ‘If we do not take care of the power vacuum, Jerusalem will turn into a serious problem’, Diskin told the committee when asked about the spate of recent attacks in the capital … Diskin warned that sections of Jersualem on both sides of the West Bank separation fence have become security vacuums, and that Israel is unable to properly enforce the law in these areas without deploying large numbers of forces. ‘Today, entering [the East Jerusalem area of] Shuafat requires massing a greater number of forces than it does entering Jenin’, Diskin said” … The full report in Haaretz can be read here .

Yes, there is a security vacuum, just as Diskin said, on both sides of the West Bank separation fence.
Is anybody paying any attention to this?

If somebody comes and starts shooting at the door to my apartment in one of these Twilight Zones, there is literally no one I can call. Doesn’t anybody realize this here? Doesn’t anybody care about this? There is serious lawlessness — a serious absence of law.

[The same Haaretz article reports that “The Shin Bet chief called on the government to seal and destroy the terrorists’ homes in order to preserve Israel’s deterrent capability” … If this is done, it will not be according to British military regulations from the pre-state period of the British Mandate…

Meanwhile back in Jerusalem – Part Two

Sari Nusseibeh, former Palestinian Authority representative in Jerusalem , and now president of Al-Quds University , said he urged British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a meeting on Sunday to “think very seriously about stopping aid to the Palestinians.”

The suggestion, aimed to shock but nonetheless apparently quite serious, ran at counter-purposes to Brown’s visit to the region, which was aimed in part at promoting an “economic road map” to help improve conditions for the Palestinian people living under occupation as a kind of political incentive.

Nusseibeh told a group of journalists at a briefing in Jerusalem on Monday that he spoke during a meeting organized the day before by the British Consulate to introduce a few Jerusalem Palestinians to Brown during the British Prime Minister’s visit to the region.

The British Prime Minister seemed surprised and taken aback by his suggestion. So, Nusseibeh said, he was now bringing his proposal to the media.

“My suggestion is to stop this (the European aid),” Nusseibeh said. “The money being donated is just being wasted,” he said, “it is just sustaining the occupation.”

Nusseibeh explained that “The Israelis are happy because they do not have to pay the cost of the occupation. The Europeans are happy because they feel they are doing their part by providing economic assistance … and the Palestinians are happy because we have jobs and we feel free.”

But, Nusseibeh said, ” Israel cannot have its cake and eat it, too … Israel cannot continue occupying us and having European Union funds and American dollars.”

Nusseibeh’s remarks echo sentiments expressed privately, and somewhat differently, over at least the past four years by major NGOs and international organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territory, who complain that what they build with donated funding is many times destroyed in Israeli military and security operations. Then, these humanitarian workers say, the international donors barely make a public protest before simply paying to rebuild again.

Nusseibeh also noted that international aid has also contributed to the perception among Palestinians of corruption. “There have been many studies about this happening in Africa and in Asia , and it has happened here, too,” Nusseibeh said. He said that international aid is actually very dangerous and destabilizing, if not handled extremely carefully.

The large-scale international aid pledged over the years, and most recently at a post-Annapolis Conference donor meeting in Paris last December, was intended to help create an independent Palestinian state, Nusseibeh said, but now this does not appear to be on the near horizon.

At the very least, Nusseibeh said, the EU should now make continuation of its aid conditional on Israeli seriousness about negotiating peace terms to end the occupation.

Nusseibeh also told the journalists that he believes that what should happen now is that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should just go into a room, without their lawyers and advisors, and sign an agreement – any agreement.

“The piece of paper I signed with Ami Ayalon would be one possibility,” Nusseibeh suggested, referring to the 2002 proposal that he and Ayalon developed in 2002. “Nobody ever created an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that got as many signatures”, Nusseibeh added.

Both leaders do have the power to make an agreement, despite their present weakened circumstances, Nusseibeh said. Then, Nusseibeh said, they can come out and tell their people that they believe it in the best interest of their peoples, and try to convince their respective communities. He added that if Abbas were to do so, he would probably be easily re-elected.

Otherwise, Nusseibeh said, the possibility of a two-state solution is rapidly disappearing,
“and we should both be looking at a different kind of future”. There will soon be no other option, he said, but to work for some kind of coexistence “with the least pain” within one political entity. .

There are many reasons why the window of opportunity is closing, Nusseibeh said, and a good example is that “Jerusalem has to be shared, but there is an ongoing process to make Jerusalem Israeli unilaterally”. He said “there is a constant battle here over identity cards”, and added that the possibilities for Palestinian housing expansion are very restricted. .

Nusseibeh added that a two-state solution can be said to be of even greater interest to the Israelis than to the Palestinians because, he said, the Palestinians do not have a project at the moment, while Israel does – the Zionist project that propelled the creation of a Jewish state.

Under relentless Israeli pressure, Nusseibeh argued, the Palestinian enthusiasm for a national project in the present circumstances is simply no longer what it was ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. Palestinians are now “mostly wanting to struggle within the paradigm of South Africa, rather than Algeria”, Nusseibeh suggested.

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem – Part One

The second biggest news in Jerusalem (after Iran), the day after I returned from Geneva, was the film taken by a 14-year-old Palestinian girl of an instance of sadistic and dishonorable treatment by Israeli Defense Forces soldiers — including an officer — of a bound, blindfolded, and quiet Palestinian detained for demonstrating against the construction of The Wall in the West Bank village of Nil’in.

The footage was released by the Israeli human rights NGO B’tselem, and published by all the major Israeli media on Monday.

It can be viewed by clicking on the link on this page on the B’tselem website.

B’Tselem says that the video documents “a soldier firing a rubber coated steel bullet, from extremely close range, at a cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee. The shooting took place in the presence of a lieutenant colonel, who was holding the Palestinian’s arm when the shot was fired”.

B’Tselem adds that “The incident took place on 7 July, in Nil’in, a village in the West Bank. A Palestinian demonstrator, Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was stopped by soldiers, who cuffed and blindfolded him for about thirty minutes, during which time, according to Abu-Rahma, they beat him. Afterwards, a group of soldiers and border policemen led him to an army jeep. The video clip shows a soldier aim his weapon at the demonstrator’s legs, from about 1.5 meters away, and fire a rubber coated steel bullet at him. Abu-Rahma stated that the bullet hit his left toe, received treatment from an army medic, and released by the soldiers. A Palestinian girl from Nil’in filmed the incident from her house in the village, and B’Tselem received it this morning [20 July] … B’Tselem immediately forwarded a copy to the Military Police Investigation Unit commander, with demand that an immediate Military Police investigation be opened, if it hasn’t [been done] already, and that the soldier be brought to justice. Additionally, B’Tselem demanded that the involvement of the lieutenant colonel who was holding the detainee is investigated. B’Tselem stressed that members of the security forces are obligated to report unlawful acts. It is even more serious [if] a high-ranking officer participates in such a whitewash”.

Israel’s YNet news reported that “The IDF has begun to investigate an incident in which rubber bullets were fired towards a bound Palestinian man who had been apprehended during the demonstrations against the border fence in the West Bank village of Naalin. A 14-year old girl from the village filmed the incident from the window of her home, and the tape has reached Ynet, though the first few seconds immediately following the shooting are missing. The IDF has stated that the incident is serious and negates the army’s values, and that the Investigating Military Police (IMP) have launched an inquiry into the matter after receiving the tape … ‘During the demonstration the soldiers caught me, arrested me – and after a few moments I heard shots and felt a fire in my body. I was afraid and didn’t know what it was’, Abu-Rahma said. The shots were fired while the officer was holding the Palestinian’s arm … The residents of the village are protesting against the IDF’s plan to confiscate half of the 2,000 acres belonging to the residents, which they claim represents only about a seventh of the amount of land they used to own. The IDF responded to the reports by stating that “this is a very serious and unlawful incident that negates the values of the IDF, in which firing as a means for the scattering of protests (not ‘live’ fire) was used against a Palestinian detainee, who had been arrested by our forces, after he had taken part in a violent demonstration against the construction of the separation fence in the village of Naalin. ‘The army’s code strictly prohibits the injuring of detainees and requires the soldiers to maintain respect for them and the wholeness of their bodies. Incidents of injured detainees are transferred, according to IDF policies, to the IMP to be investigated. In this case, following the transfer of the tape, Military Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit has ordered the IMP to launch an investigation into the matter’. The IDF further stated that the Palestinian was examined by a military doctor and diagnosed with a very light wound on his big toe. He was released to his home without requiring any further medical treatment”. The YNet report can be read in full
here .

A later YNet report says that the soldier arrested for Naalin incident says he was ordered to shoot: “The commanding officer told me ‘shoot him, shoot him’, the IDF soldier from armored Battalion 71, who was documented firing a rubber-coated bullet at a bound Palestinian in the Naalin village near the West Bank city of Ramallah, said Monday during his interrogation by the Investigating Military Police (IMP). Defense Minister Ehud Barak said [during a Labor Party meeting] that ‘This is not how soldiers should behave’, adding that the incident ‘is an exception and is not indicative of the IDFor its norms. The IDF is an ethical and moral army and will prosecute to the full extent of the law in this case’. Knesset Member Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List-Ta’al) said the ‘horrific’ incident is proof that ‘the occupation corrupts, and it must be ended before it’s too late’. The Military Defense Counsel filed on Monday a motion for the soldier’s release with the Military Advocate General’s Operations’ Division, citing there is no reason to have him remanded. The soldier, operating under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Omri, was set to be released from the army in November, and was commended numerous times for his conduct during his army service. The soldier was surprised at his arrest by IMP investigators, giving them his preliminary version of the event which took place near the West Bank separation fence a fortnight ago. According to the soldiers, riots erupted in which a few Palestinians hurled stones at security forces. The soldier went on telling his investigators that at some point his commander gave him a direct order to shoot one of the Palestinians, whose arms and legs were bound. The soldier said that he had given the same version of the events during the operational inquiry performed by the battalion, knowing the matter would be taken up by the Judea and Samaria Division Commander, but claimed he didn’t receive any notice regarding further measures taken following the incident. The soldier futher stated that he was not reprimanded by the commander or any of the other officers present following the incident: ‘The commanding officer told me he was going to assume the responsibility’. The commanding officer was questioned Sunday by the IMP. According to his version, he never instructed the soldier to shoot the Palestinian, but only rattle his weapon so as to scare him. However, the commanding officer did not rule out the possibility that his subordinate may have misinterpreted his order. The Military Defense Counsel was enraged over the decision to detain the soldier, mainly due to the fact that the commanding officer was not detained. ‘This is a scandal. It’s an attempt to place the responsibility on the soldier’, a military source told Ynet. A source in the Military Advocate General’s Office hinted that the commanders’ handling of the matter was odd: ‘This type of event should be investigated at commanding officer level, and therefore a report must be submitted to the Military Advocate General as well as to the Investigating Military Police to determine if there is room for launching a criminal investigation. The second part was not executed in this case, and the question is why?’ However, the source admitted that the order to report to the IMP is not clear-cut, and that sometimes it is left up to the commanders to decide whether or not to submit a report”. This YNet report can be read in full here .

Now, the news has come that the soldier has been released from custody. And why? Because the commanding officer was not detained, as YNet also reports: “After single day of custody, a soldier who fired at bound Palestinian demonstrator released, returned to brigade. Soldier’s comrade: He feels betrayed; they want to place responsibility on him to cover up mistakes of others. The Military Advocate General’s Office on Monday decided to release from custody the soldier who was documented firing rubber bullets at a bound Palestinian man. Ynet has learned that a confrontation between the soldier, Staff Sgt. L., and his commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Omri, during questioning by the Investigating Military Police (IMP) revealed no new findings. Both sides reiterated their versions of the events. The soldier claimed he had been given orders to fire, and the commander denied this … The Military Advocate General’s Office has not yet closed the case, and when the IMP completes its investigation the office will decide whether to press criminal charges against the soldier and his commander, who held the Palestinian’s arm as the shots were fired. One day after IMP investigators detained the firing soldier he was released and returned to the Armored Corps brigade in which he serves. Following his arrest the Military Defense Counsel launched an appeal to the advocate general’s office demanding that the soldier be released on the grounds that the commander had not been arrested though he had been present at the scene. The defense counsel also claimed that since two weeks had passed since the incident, there was no longer any fear of the soldier repeating his actions. The advocate general’s office reviewed the claim and decided to release the soldier, however the investigation has not yet been concluded and its next step includes a lie-detector test distributed to both the soldier and the commander”. This can be read in full on YNet here .

Talks with Iran in Geneva

Some people actually expected a breakthrough.

One reason was the presence of the “number three” ranking U.S. State Department official, William Burns — which the State Department spokespersons explained as “underscoring the U.S. commitment to diplomacy”, showing that the U.S. “is commited to finding a diplomatic solution”. The State Department spokespersons also said, however, that it was a “one-time deal”, an “idea that we generated”. It was a “signal”, the American spokespersons said, “but it’s not a change of substance”. It “serves to clarify the choices that the Iranian regime faces” — although “they [already] understand very clearly the cost to them for their continued defiance of the international community”.

Because “the central pivotoal point at the heart of our [U.S.] policy is that the Iranians [must, or should] take the step of suspending their uranium enrichment program. That is at the heart of the two-track policy”.

So, it was hard to see how the diplomats could stretch to make a bridge between the positions of the Americans, who continue to say that they will not negotiate with Iran unless it freezes its nuclear program (which it already did once, in 2004, without any positive results), and Iran’s position that they have a right to a peaceful national nuclear program.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it would ever develop nuclear weapons.

UPDATE: The Washington Post and the Observer newspaper in Britain have both now called the talks “inconclusive”.

UPDATE: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said to journalists on board her plane en route to Abu Dhabi on Monday that “I think the fact that we went may have been a bit surprising to the Iranians, and they didn’t react in a way that gave anyone any confidence in them. And so what it did was to serve to reinforce the unity of the P-5+1. And I’m not in the least surprised that the Iranians weren’t serious. They haven’t been serious to this point, and I’m not in the least surprised. But we gave them an opportunity, and they have thus far demonstrated again why there are three Security Council resolutions that are isolating Iran and making their isolation deeper and deeper … We expected to hear an answer from the Iranians, but as has been the case so many times with the Iranians, what came through was not serious. And so Javier Solana decided to say to them two weeks. I think they had a little conversation about it among themselves at the P-5+1. Seems fine to me. But I thought that Solana was absolutely firm and clear that it’s time for the Iranians to give a serious answer. And from all reporting, the unity of the P-5+1 has never been greater than it was in that meeting or at this moment. And I do believe that it is, in part, because the United States showed its seriousness in backing this proposal with Bill’s physical presence. But it was also a very strong message to the Iranians that they can’t go and stall and make small talk and talk about culture, that they have to make a decision. And I think it’s also very clear that there are going to be consequences if they don’t”.

Rice was asked by a journalist: “Is that what they did? They talked about Iran’s wonder – culture? Is that what you heard back?” She replied: “I understand that it was, at times, meandering”. Was that a charitable expression, or an euphemism, she was asked, and she replied “I’ll just leave it at meandering”.

In comments that may satisfy our colleague from Iranian TV who was at the talks in Geneva on Saturday, Rice said, in answer to a question asking for “a bit of background on how you came to send Bill Burns to Geneva? Did you approach the President? And what did Dick Cheney say about this?”, that
SECRETARY RICE: “Well, again, I’m not going to talk about internal deliberations. But this was something that everybody understood the need for and thought that, as a tactic, it was fine. And this is a tactic. We – the strategy is to get Iran to accept the package or to have great enough unity in the P-5+1 to bring consequences if they don’t. That’s the strategy. And accepting the package means suspending enrichment and reprocessing and negotiating with us. So that’s the strategy. Now, the tactic of sending Bill Burns was the bookend tactic to my signing the letter, so that the Iranians who sometimes sit and tell our European colleagues we don’t really believe that the Americans are behind this offer — they actually say that — now, they can’t say that. And so, we talked it through among the Security Council – among the national security council principals and people were comfortable with it. And yes, of course, it was the President who made the decision”.

In a further exchange, Rice was asked: “When you signed the letter and when it was transmitted, was this being considered — sending Burns to go?” And she replied: “It came up at the time among the allies. But I thought that signing the letter was enough. And again, we always want to be vigorous on the diplomacy, but both parts of it. And by being vigorous on the part of it that demonstrates American commitment, you can also be vigorous on the side of consequences. And so that was the point. But it came up during that period of time. We decided not to do it. It came up with the Europeans, not so much in our counsels. I made the determination in London that the signature was enough … I think we’ve done enough to demonstrate that the United States is serious, and to assure our partners that we’re serious, and to show the Iranians that we’re serious. I think we’ve done enough”.

UPDATE: Israel’s Debkafile website is reporting on 21 July that “DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Operational Brimstone, starting Monday, July 21, aimed at giving military teeth to the two-week ultimatum the six world powers gave Iran in Geneva Saturday to accept the suspension of uranium enrichment or face harsh sanctions and isolation. After warning of punitive measures against Iran, Condoleezza Rice met the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq in Abu Dhabi. First she was briefed by Under Secretary of State William Burns. The penalty of withholding refined oil products from Iran would be exercised by means of a partial international naval blockade of its Gulf ports. Taking part in the 10-day exercise in the Atlantic Ocean are more than a dozen ships, including the US carrier strike group Theodore Roosevelt and expeditionary strike group Iwo Jima; the French submarine Amethyste, and the British HMS Illustrious Carrier Strike Group, as well as a Brazilian frigate … The exercise is scheduled to end July 31, two days before the US-European ultimatum to Iran expires. Immediately after the Geneva talks ended in failure, the US State Department issued a statement giving Tehran the option of ‘cooperation or confrontation’. A partial blockade of Iran’s shores, a key element of the new sanctions, would be limited to withholding from Iran supplies of benzene and other refined oil products – not foodstuffs or other commodities. Short of refining capacity, Iran has to import 40 percent of its benzene consumption and will be forced to react to the stoppage. … Addressing the Knesset in Jerusalem Monday, July 21, British prime minister George Brown said: Iran must ”suspend its nuclear program and accept our offer of negotiations or face growing isolation and the collective response not of one nation but of many nations’.’ Brown’s spokesman said the premier did not rule out ‘extended sanctions in some form on the oil and gas sector’ in Iran. Sources said that could involve sanctions on spare parts for Tehran’s fairly limited domestic oil refining capacity.”

Yes, the idea now appears to be to blockade refined oil from reaching Iran, one of the world’s major oil producers, which has not restored its own refining capacity since it was badly damaged by Iraq in the early days of the Iran-Iraq war.

Why Iran has not restored its own petroleum oil refining capacity is not clear — when it is risking nearly everything to insist on its right to have its own indigenous uranium enrichment capacity to run at least one and maybe eventually up to twenty nuclear reactors to provide power for civilian consumption….

In any case, the day before the talks that the Swiss government hosted in Geneva on Saturday (19 July) — at the request of both the EU and Iran, the Swiss said — Iranian officials said they wanted to discuss whatever common points could be found in the proposals submitted from the EU in mid-June, and in their counter-proposal.

Iranian officials also expressed the hope that the Americans would not repeat “past mistakes”.

A Western diplomat wearing a badge saying EU 3+3 talks (and NOT P5 plus 1) said before the meeting that there could be various degrees of “positive” that could emerge in the talks. Who would judge? It would be done by consensus, he said, among the six.

He explained that the wording on the badge reflected a preference to recall the original format of the talks, which involved three European countries — Britain, France and Germany — before the addition of the U.S., Russia and China, which made the group a representation of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Then, just after the arrivals (when there was a detectable whiff of hope) and the opening photo-op handshake between the EU High Representative Javier Solana and Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, (where Jalili seemed stiff and uncomfortable), followed by a subsequent rush of camerapersons through a single door to take pictures of the delegations seated in the Hotel de Ville’s famous Alabama Room – where post U.S. Civil War negotiations between the U.S. and Britain resulted in payment of millions of dollars in British reparations (for building and outfitting Confederate warships), considered the birth of international arbitration and international law — then, just then, the Iranian Ambassador to the Swiss capital Berne told the Associated Press that Iran would never give up its right — or its program — to enrich uranium.

That news story rattled around the world.

During a mid-day break, the EU High Representative Javier Solana, and the Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili went to lunch together, while the other delegations dined separately.

Solana and Jalili came back from lunch separately. The police radios said that the Iranians were going to pray in the Salle des Pas Perdus …

As another journalist said, nobody looked very happy

Not too many press were present, but most of those who were there had followed the issue for years.

A journalist from Iranian TV who came with his delegation kept asking if the Americans were serious about the talks. “Are the American people behind these talks?”, he asked. “But what did the Administration mean when it said that the talks were just a ‘tactic’?”

At the end of the day, at a closing press conference, only Solana and Jalili were present, along with a Swiss representative. At once, Solana set the tone: “We did not get a clear answer. There was no ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.,, no straight ”

Sonala repeated this several times — and each time, Jalili looked very pained. Even, crucified…

Solana said that the meeting had been “substantive” with a “constructive atmosphere”.

A Western diplomat who was present at the talks in Geneva’s historic town hall (Hotel de Ville) said after the meeting that things were not as bad in the meeting as they seemed in the post-meeting press conference.

The Western diplomat said later that Jalili definitely did not state in the meeting that “No, we will not freeze our uranium enrichment program” …

Solana reminded journalists that the EU proposal offered to refrain “from any new UN Security Council sanctions” (while the three sets already in place would apparently remain) in exchange for Iran refraining from any nuclear activity “including the installation of new centrifuges”.

The acoustics in the press conference were terrible — the AP’s expert correspondent George Jahn, who came from Vienna where he covers the IAEA to the Geneva talks heard Solana say that Iran should agree to refrain from any NEW nuclear activity, but I did not hear that qualifier — what I heard was say “any nuclear activity”.

Both Solana and Jalili used a similar vocabulary in one respect — they mentioned “cooperation” and “commitments” — but they apparently meant different things.

Solana says that he hopes to get a clear answer from Iran very soon — in the next couple of weeks, or in about two weeks, he said alternatively — either telephonically or in person.

So, war will not break out tonight.

Still, some journalists hyped this up: “Iran has two weeks to agree to freeze its nuclear program” — or else, they wrote. Maybe they are right.

But it seems clear that Solana and Jalili want to keep on talking. And Iran appears to want to avert outright conflict.

Apparently the Iranians brought a new “non-paper”, in which, Solana’s spokeswoman indicated, Iran has “reorganized the phases”, but, she said, “they do not coincide with our phases”. She did not want to say more.

[The Israel project had earlier mentioned, mysteriously, that a revised EU proposal had been or was going to be presented to Iran. Then, my colleague and friend in Geneva Robert James Parsons sent a link to an article by Gareth Porter also suggesting that the EU proposal was modified due to objections by the U.S.: “According to an E.U. source with direct knowledge of Solana’s meetings with Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki and nuclear negotiator Jalili, on Jun. 14, however, what Solana presented was different from the ‘freeze for freeze’ proposal that had been discussed among the six powers. The source was not authorized to explain the difference between the two proposals, but it now appears that Solana could not present the original freeze for freeze proposal on behalf of all six powers because the most important actor of all — the United States — had objected. When State Department spokesman McCormack was first asked about an EU ‘freeze for freeze’ proposal on Jul. 3 and whether it was acceptable to the United States, he twice avoided addressing it altogether. But
when a reporter asked in regard to the proposed informal talks, ‘You do it then via the EU-3 [Britain, France and Germany], right, not the P5+1?’ McCormack answered, ‘Via Mr. Solana’ …” The full Gareth Porter analysis, apparently written for IPS, is published here . However, the evidence is not yet totally clear.]

In the post-meeting press conference, Jalili twice mentioned his hopes that there can be a “discussion of our shared worries and concerns” — but based on what he called a “collective obligation” [another Iranian diplomat called it a “collective commitment”, but noted that he was not sure what Jalili meant. His interpretation, he said, was that the each of the parties in the region — and he mentioned Iraq — should make commitments, not just Iran alone…]

In any case, the Western diplomat said after the meeting and the press conference that Solana made a presentation in the meeting, after which the “political directors” of all 6 of the EU 3 + 3 (as they were called on their badges) spoke in support of Solana’s remarks — including Burns.

(The U.S. representative was not, as predicted in advance, totally silent.)

The Western diplomat said that of course, each of the six used his own words.

This diplomat said that he felt it was important and useful that Burns spoke in the meeting, and that the Iranians would now have to think about it …

Both Jalili and Solana mentioned the EU proposal presented in Tehran in mid-June — which was apparently signed by all six of the foreign ministers who have been consulting on what they want to do about Iran’s nuclear program — including Condoleeza Rice, which was regarded as a very big deal, as Leonard Doyle wrote brilliantly in a piece in the Independent last week.

But, after the Saturday talks, the American line tightened up again:

Iran has to make a clear decision to cooperate — it will face greater and greater international isolation, they are now saying, again.

"What exactly is not clear about this story?"

Standing on Jaffa Road with a group of journalists waiting for transport to Tel Aviv for a briefing by senior former Israeli military analysts about “Alternatives to a Two-State Solution”, we saw first a black security motorcycle with two black-helmeted and clothed men riding on it, racing in the direction of the Central Bus Station. Then, a stream of other cars. Police cars. Military cars. White vans with blackened windows. Even a blue rented Eldan (civilian sedan) car. All packed with uniformed Israeli personnel, and careening around. It was clearly not, as some of the journalists present initially speculated, an escorted VIP convoy.

Then, another motorcycle, coming from the street right beside us, with a yellow and red medical case on the back seat.

Something bad — probably very bad — was clearly happening.

It was minutes before the best-connected journalists got the first SMS messages from news alert services that there had been an attack in downtown Jerusalem, not far away from where we were standing.

One or two colleagues abandoned the trip to cover the story.

The rest of us, who were working in teams with other staff, got on the bus.

The driver had to change the route to get out of Jerusalem — the fastest was would have been to go straight ahead on Jaffa Road, in the direction of the attack (though we did not know exactly what had happened, or where it took place at that time).

The checkpoint on Road 443 was very tight, and traffic was backed up there, as soldiers and border police checked every vehicle.

On the way, the bus driver had Israeli radio broadcasting news bulletins, and the updates were announced on the loudspeaker system of the bus.

And journalists with good connections got calls from their colleagues.

It was a Palestinian on a tractor.
(In downtown Jerusalem?)

Then, it was a Palestinian who had hijacked a tractor.

Then, it was a Palestinian on a bulldozer (also called “traktor” in Hebrew) that he had seized to make a deliberate terror attack on Jews.

Then, reports that the driver/attacker had been shot dead.

Then, reports of initial casualties — two critical injuries, then two deaths, then three.

Not for one instant did anyone think this might — just possibly might — have been an accident.
That the driver might have been lost control of his vehicle, and then panicked.

No, everyone in Israel immediately believed without a shadow of a doubt that this was a deliberate terror attack on Jews because they were Jews.

It is now clear that this was, somehow, for some reason, a deadly rampage.


Postscript: I am sorry I could never revisit this post.

"I told him: 'Maybe. Anything is possible'…"

On Tuesday evening, at almost the very last minute, I received a press invitation to attend a reading
by the enormously important and iconic Palestinian poets, Mahmoud Darwish, in Ramallah.

I had just returned from Ramallah — and experienced the worst traffic situation I had ever been in, around the fortress Qalandia checkpoint which Israel now describes as a border crossing between two countries, even though there is only one real country here, and that is Israel. The state of Palestine has yet to come into being, and despair here is such that most people now feel that it will never exist.

In the hot — baking hot — sun, and under the watchful eyes of the Israeli IDF overlords in their reinforced concrete bunkers, and enormous traffic jam quickly built up, like a mudslide, or a tsunami wave. There was no visible cause — no car accident, nothing at all. It could have been IDF holding up cars at another checkpoint further down the road, near the village of Jaba’a, just across from the Israeli settlement of Adom.

But, because the IDF, which rules the West Bank, refuses to allow any Palestinian police, or security forces, or even traffic cops, anywhere near where they are, there is no law, and no order, in the vicinity of the Qalandia checkpoint — or anywhere else in the West Bank for that matter, with the possible exception of Ramallah, and its emerging class of robo-cops.

So, one lane of Palestinian traffic flowing around Qalandia became two (Palestinian cars passing those who more obediently, and stupidly, stayed in the single outbound lane. THen it becam three lanes, with Palestinian cars trying to take advantage of passing on the shoulder of the road. Then, at the first traffic circle round-about, which was blocked in the correct (counter-clockwise) direction, the three lanes of outbound Palestinian cars then moved to fill in the open space on the other half of the traffic circle.

There were big, huge trucks, loaded with materials, mainly construction materials — the one thing the Palestinians are doing, whereever possible, is building. There were mid-size vans with big engines and big tires, driven by aggressive types who behave as if they are the kings of the road. And there were the normal passenger cars, who were so low down, and so packed in all this quick flow of advantage-seeking vehicles that nobody, absolutely nobody.

And, the IDF sat in their control tower, and did nothing.

I was there for over an hour.

At one point, a convoy of five enormous SUVs with thick darkened windows, which had passed me earlier, and had been stuck up ahead, turned around on the side of the road and headed back into the thick of the mess with all their lights blinking and flashing. They headed straight for me, and blinked and flashed their lights.

I realized they were Americans, and either from the embassy in Tel Aviv, or the consulate in Jerusalem, or both. I got out of my car. The security man in the suit in the front seat of the lead car looked ill. I approached, and Ameircan guys in short sleeve shorts with coiled wires leading to communications earpieces jumped out on both sides of the convoy and walked towards me. “Move your car”, they ordered — but in a calm tone of voice. “I would be happy to, if you can bring a construction crane to lift it out”, I replied. “Why did you turn around, and double back — what is going on ahead?” I asked. Maybe they could see, sitting higher up. “Just move your car”.

Seveal of them walked forward, and calmly directed traffic just the few centimeters that were possible in that mess.

Nobody expressed hostility toward the U.S. security men, or the convoy, and a few more centimeters space was clear. The cars ahead of me moved, and I then could move, and the convoy beat it back.

The IDF must have seen all this — and they must also have been in contact with the American convoy, which was headed back into the thick of a crazy Palestinian traffic jam created în an area where no Palestinian police or traffic cops were allowed.

The convoy must have been waved through Qalandia, or else they high-tailed it back into and across Ramallah, to exit from the DCI (District Coordination Office, or something, also run of course by the IDF), which only “authorized” persons can transit. It was impossible to see anything more than a few cars in front or behind.

And a few Palestinian civilians, men of course, were on the road at the intersection ahead, giving in an uncoordinated way directions to cars to move or to wait. They slowly, gradually, allowed some of the cars to move ahead. But it took more than an hour.

All of this under the watchful but indifferent eyes of the IDF in their concrete reinforced control tower, who don’t give a damn what their checkpoints and Walls and associated regime — including the banning of Palestinian police or traffic cops anywhere in the near vicinity — do to Palestinian lives.

When I finally got home, and showered after soaking in perspiration and dust, I found the email invitation to the Mahmoud Darwish event.

I returned, and found that the traffic was still jammed up around Qalandia — it had only lessened a bit.
So I headed up to the DCO, many kilometers away, which would bring me across town to the opposite side of Ramallah from the “Cultural Palace” where the big event was taking place.

When Mahmoud Darwish finally took the stage — after a couple of minutes of silence for the “Shuhada”, or Palestinian martyrs killed in the conflict, and the playing of the Palestinian “national anthem” (during which only two of the dozen uniformed Palestinian security men in the audience, apparently as guests,
snapped to salute), and two long and boring political speeches (the mayor of Ramallah and the mayor of al-Bireh) — he recited a few of his more recent poems.

When he entered, Mahmoud Darwish received a long standing ovation. And, when he took the stage, there was another standing ovation. But as the reading proceeded, the audience was quieter, calmer, less enthusiastic than previous audiences I have seen at Mahmoud Darwish events around the world.
I left over two hours later, before it ended.

One of the poems he recited was, apparently, a dialog between a Palestinian and an Israeli who had both fallen into a pit, and were experiencing fear, doubt and despair as they waited for a rescue, for help from the outside, that did not come.

One line I got: ” ‘I told him, “maybe”. Anything is possible”.