Today, Israeli news was dominated by the first day of a march of Gilad Shalit's parents orchestrated to pressure the government to agree to Hamas' terms for freeing their son. Shalit has now been in captivity for four years. The government, for its part, clarified its position on the Shalit negotiations on Friday, stating it had agreed to release 100 terrorists with blood on their hands; terrorists who have killed Israelis. The first time such a concession has been agreed to by any Israeli government. What the government has refused to do is agree to the release of about 30 “mega terrorists”, those who have killed 10-40 Israelis. At this point, there seem to be a growing chorus in Israel contending that since, to date, successive Israeli governments have failed to find a way of getting Shalit released, they should just agree to Hamas' terms. These people say the hell with the strategic implications – we just need to bring Gilad home. It is a very difficult dilemma. As parent, who has had, and will have a child in the IDF, I say do whatever it takes to bring Shalit home. As a historian, and political scientist, I say that would be one of the stupidest things Israel could do. Luckily, the decision is not up to me.
The Haredi court fight over the children of Emanuel came to a sudden and strange end today. With three days left in the school year the Rabbi of Slonin agreed to allow the Ashkenazi and Sephardi students learn together for three days of "unity learning". That was enough for the Supreme Court to release the Haredim from jail. No promise was made for next year. In one of the strangest events, the spiriutual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, then held a reception for the released Haredi men who had gone to jail-- rather than integrate their schools with Sephardim. Yosef further thanked them for their courage. He later went on to issue a halchic order that Sephardic children should not learn in Ashkenazi schools. Most Israelis are scratching their heads trying to understand today's events. One thing is clear; Rabbi Yosef has once again shown why he and Shas have been one of the most destructive social/political forces in Israel in the last two decades. Michael Hirsh has written a brilliant piece in the Jerusalem Post today, called: "The Decline and Fall of Haredi Judaism"
CIA director, Leon Panetta, appeared on ABC’s Sunday morning talk show "This Week" today. He made a number of important points regarding Iran. First, Panetta stated Iran was continuing its research on developing a nuclear bomb. This is, of course, in direct contradiction to the national security review on the subject in the last year of the Bush Administration. He stated that Iran was one year away from having enough enriched uranium to develop a bomb, and then another year away from developing the bomb itself. Accoroding to Paneta a difference of opinion existed between Israeli and American intelliegence; with the Israelis convinced the Iranians have already made the decision to actually make the bomb; while the Americans are not convinced that this is the case.
Two other article worth reading: Today's article by Thomas Friedman in the NYT, entitled: "War, Timeout, War, Time ..." h A second worthwhile article, entitled "Homeward Bound" by Martin Peretz, in the New Republic on Helen Thomas and the greater meaning of her remarks