Saturday, September 13, 2003
Johnny Cash 1932-2003

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black

Thursday, September 11, 2003
The Aftermath of a Terrorist Attack in Bureaucratic Terms

I heard an interview with an official from the Bituach Leumi, the national insurance agency. Israelis pay in to the national insurance and are covered for a wide range of eventualities, from childbirth to unemployment to retirement. One of the Bituach Leumi department covers payments in the event of a terrorist attack.

The official was being interviewed about the gruesome subject of what you're entitled to if you are hurt in a terrorist attack or if one of your loved ones is killed.

In the event that you are injured in a terrorist attack, Bituach Leumi will cover your rehabilitation expenses and provide you with monthly disability payments equal to those of an IDF soldier wounded in action.

People whose spouses or children have been killed also get a monthly payment depending on the number of children in the family.

In addition to these payments, he mentioned two other payments. Apparently, if your spouse or child is killed in a terrorist attack, you receive NIS 7000 (around $1500) for the funeral and an additional NIS 4700 ($1050) for the shiva.

This last bit of information really depressed me. Something about the spreadsheet banality of it.

Even more depressing was the fact that the amount paid out to victims of terrorist attacks has been steadily rising over the course of the Intifada, reaching NIS 300 million last year. It is expected to hit 400 million this year.

911 + 2

Crikeys, I can't believe it's been two years already.

I visited New York about a month and a half after the attacks. Ground Zero was still a smoldering heap and the smell -- soot and burning plastic -- still hovered over the city serving as a constant reminder, along with the fading missing persons flyers and collections of flowers and votive candles on the doorstep to fire stations. Never having lived in New York, I wasn't immediately struck by changes to the skyline. It wasn't until I walked down to the area of the WTC -- which I knew fairly well -- and looked over my shoulder that I realized that there was a big hole in the sky.

Tuesday night, Channel 2 broadcast a special on 9/11 and its aftermath. According to the film, the 9/11 attacks were the single most photographed event in history. Me, I've consciously tried to avoid images of the attack since they happened. Seeing it again after two years was almost like seeing it anew. I found myself either staring open-mouthed (seeing the planes hit the buildings) or biting my lower lip (seeing the people jumping out the windows). That, and tearing up when hearing the phone messages left by people trapped in the towers to their loved ones.

Israelis felt a tremendous amount of sympathy and empathy towards Americans that day. Part of this empathy was built on the thought that "Now they know what we have to go through," but most of it was genuine and heartfelt. Among other things, the phone company reported something like 750,000 attempted calls from Israel to New York on September 11th and 12th. That's something like 12 percent of the Israeli population.

Despite all this, I don't feel I have a lot to contribute to the grand discourse about 9/11. Because I live here and because we had become by that point -- after a year of Palestinian suicide bombings -- somewhat numbed to terrorist attacks, I felt at the time, and still do, very much an outsider looking inward.

So, the best I can do is provide some 9/11 Links:

David and Nava Applebaum

The most poignant of all the poignant stories coming from the suicide attacks on Tuesday is that of David Applebaum and his daughter Nava. Applebaum was the head of the ER at Sha'arei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem and, as such, had treated many of the victims of the attacks in Jerusalem over the last year.

On Tuesday night, he and his daughter were out having a coffee on Emek Refaim. Nava was due to be married the next night and she wanted to have a heart-to-heart session with her dad before the wedding. Both were killed when the bomber blew himself up at Cafe Hillel.

Had Dr. Applebaum not been killed, he would have been working to save the victims of the same attack. And instead of being married on Wednesday, Nava was laid to rest along with her father.

I mention all this not for sentimentality, but to give something to think about to those people who see a symmetry between the IAF attacks on Hamas leaders and the Hamas attacks on Israelis. Next time the urge comes to you, ask yourself if it makes sense to equate a man who saves lives and an innocent bride-to-be on the one hand and a couple of guys who order their minions to go out and randomly murder women and children on the other.

Let's Face it, our National Team Sucks

The Israeli national football team had another pathetic outing yesterday, barely managing a 2-2 draw with Malta. This follows a 3-1 drubbing by the Slovenian team on Saturday.

When Slovenia turned our asses into a hat, Israel's dream of reaching the Euro 2004 championship next summer just about went out the window. Last night's game clinched the deal. With the Slovenian team, you could at least kinda make excuses that they had a distinct height advantage and that they have a couple of decent players who play in respectable European teams.

Fine, but what's the excuse for last night's game? The Maltese team plays like a group of neighborhood high school kids. What does it say about us that we can't even manage to beat them.

F@#%-ing pathetic.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Depressing Lunchtime Conversations

"From what I understood, the guard at the cafe saw that the guy was a bomber when he approached the entrance."

"Why didn't he try to stop the bomber? That's happened a couple of times before, where the security guard has sacrificed himself in order to prevent even more people getting killed."

"I think he tried. Didn't help this time, the bomber managed to get inside but then people started to push him out of the cafe and he blew himself up."

"I don't understand why the security guards don't just open fire."

"If guards started shooting all the time, innocent people would probably get killed as well."

"Well, if one person occasionally gets killed, wouldn't it be worth it if it saved the lives of a lot of other people?"

Another Missed Hit

The response to yesterday's bombing attack was another botch-up.

IAF planes bombed the home of Mahmoud al-Zahar, another Hamas top honcho. Unfortunately, they only managed to wound al-Zahar, while killing his son and a bodyguard.

This is the second time in a week we've tried to bring down one of these bastards and missed. It's really frustrating.

Complaining About the Commodification of Football

Ha'aretz's whiny TV critic Rogel Alpher has a bug up his ass about the local football.

You see, once upon a time, back in the good old days, Israeli soccer was played by neighborhood teams made up of neighborhood guys in neighborhood stadiums. Then television and capitalism came in and started broadcasting the football games. Suddenly the neighborhood teams stopped playing in the neighborhood. And guys from outside the neighborhood started playing in the teams. And the local fans started rooting for teams in other cities and even -- horror! -- other countries.

Loyalty, comradeship, and the nobility of football. All ruined by the television cameras and the guys in suits.

Ok. Whatever.

Towards the end of his wallow in nostalgia and Marxist critique, Alpher actually finds a salient point:
But the relationship between television and Israeli soccer has reached a crossroads. For $13.5 million, the Charlton company purchased broadcast rights for this season's Israeli soccer. Given the erasure of the link between a soccer squad and the local community, and the conversion of soccer into a television consumer product, one can conclude that Charlton, and not the fans, now owns Israeli football. The company's commitment is to itself, and to its profit margin. Charlton intends to turn Israeli soccer into a yet more profitable television commodity by setting up a new pay-for-view channel; viewers will pay a NIS 50 monthly subscription fee. That will push soccer one step farther away from its popular, community roots.
Israeli sports fans are in fact being screwed. In the last couple of years, the cable companies have moved all the interesting football games from the basic package to premium channels. Until now, however, the Israeli league games have mostly been shown on broadcast TV. Now that Charlton will run the show, it looks like we'll have to pay for the local games as well.

Which sucks. It's one thing to pay to see Real Madrid in action. It's a whole other thing to have to pay to see Maccabi Tel Aviv or Maccabi Haifa (both of which look like sloppy, slo-mo high school teams in comparison to the big boys).

Routine Reactions

The basic responses to the bombings followed the usual script. Abu Puppet made the standard condemnations, as always couching it in the broadest and vaguest terms of "we oppose the killing of all innocent people." He then said that if he accepts the job of Palestinian PM he has no intention of doing anything about Hamas.

Thanks, guy. We really needed that.

The good people of Gaza, of course, were out celebrating the murders, passing out sweets and firing their guns in the air. Much like we saw after 9/11, actually.

On our end, the public is in a surly mood. There appears to be broad support for continuing to kill Hamas terrorists and for some kind of widespread military operation in the Territories. Eighteen percent of the population even supports killing Arafat.

The question of exiling Yasser is also being discussed again. In short, we're back to the familiar scenarios.


Two bombings yesterday, one at a hitchhiking stop near the Tzrifin army base and one in a cafe in Jerusalem. Each blast killed seven people. In the last week, we saw a heavy presence of police and soldiers on the roads, patrolling and setting up roadblocks. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough; the terrorists managed to slip through.

What can you really say about all this? I'm basically feeling numb, depressed that the killing routine continues, and finding myself losing hope that there's any way out of this mess except more and more killing.

The attacks were carried out, unsurprisingly, by two Hamas guys from the West Bank. Sadly, we've been waiting for something like this since the IDF tried unsuccessfully to put Hamas spiritual leader out of our miseries last weekend.
The terrorists at the top of the Hamas pyramid had ordered the terrorists at the bottom to carry out revenge attacks by any means necessary.

(It's not actually a clear-cut case of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Even if there is direct causality between the attempt on Yassin's life and yesterday's murders, it's certainly debatable that they would have happened in any case. After all, Hamas has never needed a good reason to kill Jews. And in fact, at one point yesterday they were saying that the Tzrifin attack was supposed to mark the 10th anniversary of the Oslo Accords.)

Interestingly, Hamas has yet to take official responsibility for the attacks. Presumably, they already feel the wrath of the IDF coming down on their heads and are trying to preserve some kind of fiction that it wasn't them so that they can play the victim when the IDF response comes. And it will come.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Ahnuld's Women Problems

In the Other Peoples' (Political) Problems dept., it seems that Schwarzenegger has a problem among women voters. They seem to find him hostile or something, based on his macho movies and an interview he gave to a men's mag in the mid-'70s where he bragged about a gang bang.

One of my lingering impressions of Ahnuld was from the mid '80s. Playboy television produced a series of travel shows to exotic locales with various celebs. Schwarzenegger was on one episode which took him to Brazil. At a samba club, with topless dancers a-shimmying, the Brazilian guide explained that in Brazil, a woman's behind is considered the sexiest part of the body.

To which Arnold chucklingly responded: "Ah, yes. Deh ahss. I like deh ahss. Heh heh heh heh."

(Try reading this bit in an Arnold accent if you don't get it).

For years, every time I saw Schwarzenegger my first thought would be "Deh ahss. Heh heh heh heh."

Leni Riefenstahl Cashes Out

It appears that Leni Riefenstahl's deal with Satan (immortal soul for eternal life) has run out a bit early.

Hitler's pet filmmaker joined her former employers on the other side today, aged 101. She was responsible for some of the most remarkable documentaries in cinematic history-- Triumph of the Will and Olympia --which were unfortunately also mash notes to the Der Fuhrer and the party.

I saw the documentary
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl at the Jerusalem Film Festival about 10 years ago. Riefenstahl spends a lot of the film's 3 hours weaving elaborate justifications for creating key Nazi propaganda: "No, I was never a Nazi. I only worked for them"; "I was only interested in the artistic vision, I did not think about the political ramifications". The level of denial is extraordinary.

Also extraordinary was her stamina. The movie showed her -- she was in her early 90s at the time -- leading an extremely active life, riding around in helicopters and scuba diving. You wondered how long the woman would keep going and what kind of devil's bargain she had cut to be able to swim with manta rays in her ninth decade.

A controversial, slightly unpleasant, and somewhat pathetic woman.

Peace Index: ROR

Speaking of the Right of Return, it seems I'm not alone in taking a hard line against the idea either in principle or actuality. This month's Peace Index measured Israeli and Jewish and Arab attitudes towards the ROR. Unsurprisingly, the two sides have utterly opposed views. In fact, the opposition here is a matter of day and night, much more than on any other problem between the sides.

The vast majority of the Arab Israelis surveyed believes that the ROR (and again, I must remind everyone that this means that Palestinians will be allowed to return to Israel proper, and not just the Palestinian territories) is the best solution to the refugee crisis and place the majority of the blame on Israel for creating the crisis in the first place.

The vast majority of Israeli Jews surveyed opposes any implementation of the ROR, even in principle, and even if it is the only issue blocking the way to a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Unsurprisingly, they place the blame on the creation of the crisis squarely with the Palestinian leadership and the Arab states which ordered the Palestinians to leave their homes during the 1948 war.

The only thing both Jewish and Arab Israelis agree upon is a survey released a month and a half ago by Palestinian researcher Khalil Shkaki which declared that only 10 percent of Palestinians would want to return to Israel. Both sides think the survey is bs and lowballs the real figure. (As a reminder, after Shkaki released his survey, an angry mob of Palestinians attacked his offices).

You want to find the shores upon which any Palestinian-Israeli negotiations are going to founder? Look no further.

My optimism about a real and enduring peace with the neighbors comes and goes. Throughout the Oslo years, I was optimistic that an agreement could be reached on rational grounds. I lost a lot of that optimism at the start of the intifada, not so much because of the violence but because the Palis' repeated declarations that the right of return was sacred.

According to their thinking, not only is the ROR sacred, it also belongs to all future generations of Palestinians. This means that no Palestinian government has the authority to give it up.

However, the ROR means the negation of Israel, however you choose to look at it. And no Israeli government will make any concessions on the issue. It's the ultimate red line. So, you have a situation where the minimum demands of one side far exceed the maximum concessions the other will agree to make. Not much cause for optimism.

Interview with the Spook

Ha'aretz ran a lengthy interview with former Mossad chief and National Secuirty Advisor Ephraim Halevy this weekend. Alongside his complaints about the offhand manner that the Sharon government makes critical security decisions (which caused a minor political brouhaha), Halevy also spells out his worldview on our dealings with the Palestinians.

Some of Halevy's analysis is possibly less relevant today than it was two weeks ago, but his analysis of Israel's approach to recent negotiations is notable. For instance, he opposes the whole approach of the road map:
The road map is not a road map. It is a plan for an imposed settlement. It marks out a clear route that leads to an imposed settlement. I don't think an imposed settlement is good for Israel. It's not good for the Palestinians, either. History shows that every imposed settlement has been a temporary settlement. So I believe that our future here in the region has to be based on our learning one day to live with the Arabs and the Palestinians. I believe that is an attainable goal, but it can't be attained by means of some imposed Pax Americana.
He complains about Israel's general inclination to negotiate via the "salami method" (little slices of agreements and concessions at a time). This, he says, has created a situation where Israel keeps making fundamental concessions and all it gets in return are hollow Palestinian promises.
In the Oslo Accords, Israel recognized the rights of the Palestinians and in return obtained their agreement not to advance their goals by force. Not to use terrorism. Throughout the entire process, the Palestinians recognized only our reality, whereas we recognized their rights. That was a mistake. The road map repeats that mistake. It demands that Israel give the Palestinians strategic assets and in return all Israel gets is a war against terrorism and another war against terrorism. That's not good enough. It's even dangerous. It is liable to lead us in the end into a situation in which we will find ourselves close to the 1967 borders without the Palestinians having recognized Israel's right of existence and without their having forgone the right of return.
Halevy proposes putting a big piece of the salami on the table and asking for something big in return.

That something big is the Palestinian right of return. On this issue, Halevy is a maximalist. During the Taba summit in December 2000, shortly after the intifada erupted, Yossi Beilin (Israel's negotiator with the Palestinians) came up with a compromise agreement on the ROR wherein Israel would recognize the Palestinians' right of return in principle but that only a few tens of thousands would actually return to Israel. Halevy thinks this is a foolhardy approach.
The right of return is more dangerous than the return itself. In the past there were thoughts about returning a few thousand on a humanitarian basis. I don't want to get into that, I hope it doesn't happen. The demographic balance is delicate even now. But it's clear that to make a humanitarian gesture is one thing, and to recognize the right is something far more grave. It means recognizing that four million Palestinians have the right to come here. Even if the vast majority of those millions will not come, as the Palestinian leadership maintains, the very granting of the right will transfer to the Palestinians the basic title to this land and will bring about the delegitimization of Israel. It's crucial to understand this: the right of return is effectively [saying that] Israel has no right to exist.

I think Halevy's analysis here is spot on. Not only is the agreement in principle a terrible idea, so is the concomitant idea that Israel needs to take responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis in the first place. This would do nothing but ensure that the conflict with the Palestinians would carry on for generations, not to mention open the door to a world of lawsuits and UN resolutions against Israel. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one.

Halevy's stance is harder than most. In his view, it is not enough for the Palestinians to relinquish the right of return. If there is to be a real peace, he argues, the Palestinians have to actively accept the legitimacy of Zionism and not just Israel in general. Here is where I part ways with Halevy. This idea, while possibly correct in theory, is completely pie in the sky. It's doubtful enough that the Palis will ever give up the ROR, seeing how they view it as sacred; it's inconceivable that they will ever accept Zionism as legitimate or view Israeli Jews as anything other than European colonialists.

On the other hand, Halevy still believes that a real peace with the Palestinians is a possibility.

takes a hard stance and to this observer some of his ideas appear pie in the sky. After reading this article, it dawned on me that my main difference with his approach is less theoretical than something else. Halevy is one of those who still believes that we can live in peace with the Palestinians.

Monday, September 08, 2003
Abu Puppet Sez: Submit to my Demands!

Here's the future Palestinian Prime Minister trying to frighten us into submission.


You might notice that I often refer to Arafat as that old leering ghoul.

Stefan Sharkansky has done a little research into the etymology of the word "ghoul". You'll never guess what language it comes from.

I knew there was a reason I call Yasser that.

Removing Arafat

How do you solve a problem like Yasser?

The recent machinations in the Palestinian Authority have once more raised the question of the old ghoul and his future in this region. It has become blindingly obvious that Israel and the Palestinians will never reach any kind of agreement as long as Terrorist Number One continues to run the show in the Territories.

A growing number of government ministers and a large part of the defense establishment are lobbying the Prime Minister to send Arafat into exile or completely imprison him in the muqata'a. Sharon is hesitant to commit himself to such a radical move, especially since the Bushies oppose it.

So, what are you going to do? The Jerusalem Post asked a number of Middle East and security experts for their opinions. None of them has a clear suggestion about how to deal with the guy effectively.

Basically, what we have here is a situation where -- as the saying goes around here -- we can't swallow Arafat and we can't vomit him out either.

One Abu Leaves, Another Abu Enters

So, it turns out that Abu Mazen decided not to make that comeback after all. And, as he wanders off into the sunset, we can welcome his replacement Ahmed Qureia, aka Abu Ala. Or, as we'll probably soon be calling him, Abu Puppet. Like Abu Mazen, Abu Ala is a gray, uninspiring Fatah aparatchik.

Qureia got a big thumbs-up from the Palestinian legislature, which is hardly surprising seeing how he is Arafat's choice to become the new Palestinian Prime Minister. So, despite Colin Powell's dramatic declarations that the new PA PM must have the freedom to fight terrorism, I strongly doubt that the new Abu is going to be any more able and a lot less willing to deal with the terrorists than the old Abu was. Not when he takes his orders directly from Terrorist Number One.

It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. I suspect that Israel won't agree to deal with a puppet government.

Update: Abu Puppet has yet to accept the job, but he's already making demands. He demands that Israel stop killing terrorists and re-embrace Arafat. And he wants the Europeans to force us to do this before he commits to taking the position.

Yep, we're going to go real far with this guy.

Sunday, September 07, 2003
News Flash: Hamas Officially a Terrorist Organization

In the "better late than never" department, the EU has finally come around to the argument that Hamas as a whole is a terrorist organization. Up until now, the European bloc stubbornly stuck to the terribly mistaken policy that differentiated between the "military" and "political" wings of Hamas, labeling one terrorist and the other not.

Apparently, the Jerusalem bombing helped convince the EU foreign ministers that the time has come to declare Hamas an official terrorist organization. This decision will allow Europe to freeze Hamas assets, further battering Yassin, Rantisi and the boys.

Cutting off the money trail to these groups -- which often have some kind of charitable front operation -- is key to helping win the war on terror. Of course, not all the Europeans are convinced about this need. While England, Germany, Holland, and Denmark seem to get it, one other country is still trying to weasel out of the decision.

Can you guess who that might be?
France long opposed a tougher stance on Hamas, wary of cutting off avenues of negotiation with Palestinians and saying targeting Hamas could hurt the group's social services for Palestinians. [French Foreign Minister] De Villepin said enforcement of an assets freeze or a ban on suspected Hamas offshoots would be a "voluntary" decision for individual EU nations.

Quote of the Day

"What do you want from our football team? We can't even hit an old man in a wheelchair with a quarter-ton bomb."

-Sport commentator Aryeh Meliniak, tying the botched assassination attempt on Yassin with the Israeli national team's pathetic 1-3 loss to Slovenia last night.

Meanwhile, in Gaza

Damnit, damnit, damnit.

The top leadership of Hamas was gathered for a meeting yesterday afternoon in a building in Gaza. Israeli intelligence picked up on it and IAF fighter were dispatched to lob a quarter ton bomb in the place. The bomb hit the building, but all present managed to escape with only minor injuries.

And so, Israel flubbed an opportunity to take out a bunch of terrorists -- including Hamas' spiritual leader, Sheik Yassin -- out in one blow. Yassin and the other creeps who got away are now bigger heroes than before and have apparently issued orders to all their followers to attack Israel.

The attack yesterday was another step up in the IDF's smackdown operations against Hamas. Despite the recent slew of targeted assassinations, Hamas apparently didn't believe that Yassin -- who, despite being an elderly paraplegic is actually the head of the snake -- would actually be targeted. So, despite the fact that we didn't kill him, at least we sent a pretty big message.

The mission apparently failed because the bomb was too small. The attack took out the third floor of the building, where the meeting was supposed to be held. Unfortunately, the meeting was moved to the first floor at the last minute. The army deliberated whether to use the small quarter ton bombs or a bigger model that would have taken out the whole building.

In a targeted assassination last year, the IDF whacked Salah Schadeh Hamas' top military operative by completely flattening his house. They killed Schadeh good, but unfortunately also a large number of family members and neighbors, including a couple of kids. I guess the IAF decided not to risk the bad press this time and so missed out on giving Hamas a death blow.

So now the rest of us get to deal with a combination of disappointment mixed with fear. Although the IDF has managed to severely disrupt Hamas' operational capacity, the terrorists are now talking about attacks against schools. This is really scary.

I just hope we manage to get another shot at them.

Abu Mitzna

Crikeys, what a weekend. Every now and then the craziness level around here suddenly spikes upward. Yesterday was one of those.

Of the two big stories coming out of the territories yesterday, Abu Mazen's resignation as Palestinian Prime Minister has caught the attention of the international news outlets. After a brief, ineffectual few months in office -- which he mainly spent trying to wrest the tiniest bit of authority from the PA's Terrorist Number One -- the politician also known as Mahmoud Abbas discovered that the Palestinian Legislative Council was about to no-confidence his ass out of office.

Inspired perhaps by a display of Palestinian democracy in action (masked and armed Arafat loyalists outside the PLC offices threatening to kill him), Abbas decided to turn the thing into a show of "You can't fire me, I quit." He handed in his resignation letter to the ra'is, who gleefully accepted it, pausing only briefly to put on a little show of pretend deliberation for the sake of the cameras. The Palestinian street cheered.

And so, barring any last-minute pressure by the US to reinstate the guy, Mr. Abbas goes back to whatever he used to do for a living.

Abu Mazen came in with a lot of fanfare and great hopes. His quick downward trajectory inspires a little bit of awe. In fact, it brings to mind another leader who also managed to burn out and fade away simultaneously this year: former Labor Party chairman Amram Mitzna. Like Abu Mazen, Mitzna is a gray, uninspiring politician. Like Abu Mazen, he was a sort of insider/outsider who came in with the intention of making big changes only to take flak from all directions and resign after a few months once his utter failure became obvious.

Mitzna, at least, has only himself to blame. Abu Mazen and his cronies are blaming everybody: Arafat, the US, and especially especially the Israilis. PA flacks were all over the news channels yesterday blaming Sharon for not pushing the road map through, for continuing to build the fence, for not releasing prisoners, etc. (To be fair, the stars of the Israeli Left also took the opportunity to blame Sharon for everything).

Could Israel have done more to help Abu Mitzna? Possibly. But Abu Mitzna could definitely -- and should definitely -- have done more. Period. As usual, we have a vicious cycle over here. Abu Mazen and his flunkies claim, among other things, that Israel wasn't willing to make gestures to improve Abbas' popularity, like a mass release of Palestinian prisoners.

However, a mass release of prisoners would have entailed letting go people who had been involved in the murders of Israelis. The government here would have had a hard time accepting this under the best of circumstances. However, the moment Abu Mazen began to declare -- repeatedly -- that the PA had no intention of confronting the terrorists, then whatever good will the government might have had towards him disappeared and the government decided to take a harder line against the prisoners.

Bottom line, you can spread the blame around over here, but you shouldn't spread it evenly. The main problem is and remains Yasser.

So now the road map goes into limbo-land until it becomes a bit more clear who will succeed Abu Mazen. And this will become a real thorny issue, since Israel has already declared that it won't deal with any of Arafat's puppets.

Update: Look who's making a comeback already. This might yet prove to be the shortest-lived resignation in history.