I can only report the information as it comes to me. But sometimes I take a look at the news and am startled at how different it seems from what I shared just 24 hours ago, or less.
Yesterday Olmert and Barak were reported as telling Suleiman that the deal for a ceasefire with Hamas was insufficient and not acceptable as is. Today, the whole story sounds different, as it is being reported that Israel is leaning towards that ceasefire — to be instituted slowly.
The words of Mark Regev, Olmert’s spokesman, perhaps tell the story: "Israel cannot continue to tolerate the daily barrage of rockets, so either the attacks will cease or Israel will have to stop them. We don’t have a great desire to escalate in the south, and if it is possible to achieve calm, that is obviously our preference."
Actually, it is not so obvious, because this solution is short-sighted. Hamas will be strengthening and there will be a price to pay for this quiet down the road.
Be that as it may, apparently there will be no military response to the lethal attack yesterday — sort of a "good faith" gesture.
But even now there are conflicting reports. On the one hand some officials are said to be hopeful that, in the words of one: "If the initiative is successful – it may be the answer to how we block Hamas’s growing strength while preventing arms smuggling across the border and furthermore, this could mean good news on the Palestinians’ willingness to compromise on the Shalit deal."
This has a very "pie-in-the-sky" feel to it. Hamas is intent on our destruction. The ceasefire, such as it may be, would not be the first step in permanent cessation of hostilities that would lead to peace with Hamas. It is intended by Hamas to be temporary, because right now they’re hurting and want to be stronger before they come at us again. This is built into their ideology.
Even if the smuggling is stopped by Egypt — a stretch in itself — Hamas has military people who were trained in Iran and who will be training others to make their army stronger, and they are doing refinement and building of weapons inside of Gaza.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that Hamas will never agree to compromise on the terms for release of Shalit as part of a ceasefire deal, and that this will give us the out we need. For there is another factor at play here: the government is afraid that Hamas, which is offering the interlude of quiet, will appear "peaceful" while we, refusing to accept it, will appear "warlike." If they refuse on Shalit, we can say that we had good intentions but it was Hamas that did not come through.
And right now this looks like the way things will play out. While, admittedly, Suleiman has not gone back yet to talk with them again, today Hamas is saying that they’ll continue to hit us hard unless we agree to the ceasefire, and that there will be no talk about Shalit until after we have agreed to that ceasefire, i.e., it will not be part of the ceasefire deal.
If we agree to a ceasefire without a deal on Shalit, after we had insisted this had to be part of the agreement, we will be showing weakness and surrendering deterrence. Hamas has to sue for quiet, not us.
There is a mixed message in another quarter as well. There have been reports indicating that Bush was likely to bring "gifts" with him when he arrives tomorrow. I just reported, for example, on the possibility that we might receive radar more sensitive than what we now have.
US officials, however, are playing down this possibility . While there have been intensive talks in recent months between top Israeli defense officials and the Pentagon and White House, regarding Israeli receipt of cutting edge US equipment — most notably the F22 stealth bomber that can avoid radar — in order to maintain Israeli’s qualitative military edge and prepare us for dealing with Iran, they are saying Bush won’t be closing any deals on his largely ceremonial visit.
Israeli officials continue to be of a different mind.
Investigation update: The police, warrant in hand, went into City Hall yesterday afternoon in search of documents from the time that Olmert was mayor.
Talansky has been questioned again , under caution, by the National Fraud Unit. He has already admitted that he gave envelopes filled with cash to Olmert. Now there is consideration going on of favors that Olmert may have done for him: possible rezoning of land for the benefit of Talansky’s associates, possible installation of speed bumps in the area where Talansky’s son lives, after he complained that traffic was dangerous for his grandchildren. Remember, however, that certain benefits do not have to be proved to make the case for bribe — the money can be a hedge against the possible need for favors down the road.
I had been under the impression that Talansky was remaining in the country voluntarily, to cooperate, but apparently this is not the case. For now I read that the State may extend the "hold departure order" on him.
Talansky is due to leave the country on May 21. According to Haaretz, investigators are hoping to first do in-depth questioning of Olmert, followed by the early testimony of Talansky, before then. They are concerned that plans for Olmert’s travel will interfere with the schedule for questioning him.