How To Jump Off A Cliff — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

illustration by Avi Katz
I trail behind my son on the steep descent into the Amiam canyon in the central Golan. He’s in sandals and I’m in hiking boots, but he skips down like a mountain goat as I lumber like the cows that observe us inscrutably from the opposite slope. While I count myself a good hiker, age and intensive use have taken their toll on my joints; my knees work on manual shift rather than automatic, and my right ankle is stiff and unyielding. But I take the positive view—instead of being frustrated that I can’t keep up with my nineteen-year old progeny on his precipitous plunge toward the spring that is our goal, I commend myself for just coming along.

And middle age has its advantages. Going slowly, planning out each step, I take in more. The rains have ended, the squills are desiccated. I wonder whether the whorled stumps that dot our path are the bulbs of these autumn flowers, the remains of trampled or eaten plants. I ponder the Naftali highlands over the Hula Valley on the western horizon and point out the peak of Mt. Meron to my companion, who has gone this way dozens of times and never parsed the view.

Sixty years ago, I tell my son, the valley below was a huge swamp. Reeds and bulrushes grew in clumps an expanse just a couple meters deep, fed by the Jordan and its tributaries. Otters played and fat fish and frogs of breeds that lived nowhere else plied its gentle currents. And huge swarms of mosquitoes hovered over the shallows, in hunt of warm blood. One of the mosquito tribes was the dreaded anopheles, which injected virulent plasmodia into the bodies of the emaciated marsh Arabs, the only humans who dared live on the shores of the lake at the mire’s southern end. That is, until the Zionists came to the valley and built Yesod HaMa’ala and Rosh Pina, there to shiver and sweat with malaria.

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The Constantly Troubled Tourist

Gershom Gorenberg And from The American Prospect: All year long I write about tribal conflicts. In August, when Israeli tribal customs dictate vacation, I want to get away not just from e-mail but also from news, politics, and insistent national claims. But I’m not terribly good at it. A few years ago, we decided to … Read more

The Bush Doctrine: No Peace. (And What’s the McCain Doctrine?)

As Laura Rozen points out , George W. Bush wasn’t just attacking Barack Obama in his Knesset speech dismissing negotiations with “terrorists and radicals” as appeasement. He was also attacking his host, Ehud Olmert, whose government was already engaged in indirect peace contacts with Syria via Turkey – the negotiations made public yesterday.

The contacts through Turkey reportedly began in February 2007. If so, the Olmert government may have been persuaded to act (or embarrassed into acting) by the reports published the previous month about Foreign Minister director-general Alon Liel’s back-channel negotations with Syria. The “non-paper ” – or unsigned framework agreement reached by Liel and unofficial Syrian negotiator Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman is important reading, because it gives a sense of how an Israel-Syria deal is likely to look. One creative feature: in order to keep the Golan demilitarized and to prevent competition over Jordan River water, the Golan would be turned into a giant park after Israeli withdrawal – with free access for Israelis.

Liel has stressed – in a press briefing in January 2007, and since – that a critical part of any deal is a switch in Syrian orientation from pro-Iran to pro-West. That would necessarily mean dropping support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Syria’s secular regime wants the reorientation in order to maintain its independence, Alon reports. For Israel, such a deal would mean much more than removing the direct military threat from Syria. With Hamas and Hezbollah weakened, Iran’s power in our area would be sigificantly reduced.

But the deal requires a third party: Washington.

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