Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama, Bashar Assad
Photo by Amos Biderman
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The emotion is palpable in the voice of M., an Arab academic who emigrated to the United States many years ago. He phoned on Saturday evening to say, or to warn, that the devil's spawn - aka Syrian President Bashar Assad - would exploit the Palestinian refugees' protest over their bitter fate on Nakba Day in order to distract attention away from the bitter fate of opponents to his regime. The information about the Syrian ruler's plan to set ablaze the line between Israel and Syria, said M., came to him from friends in Syria who have gone underground. They are the same Damascus dissidents who, he said in an earlier phone conversation, asked him to transmit their message to Jerusalem.

Like many in the Arab sphere and the world in general, the Sunni opposition believes in Israel's magical influence on the United States. M.'s friends believe that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would ask American President Barack Obama, or in fact recommend to him, that he declare Assad a war criminal as a station on the way to deposing him, Obama would not send his Israeli friend away empty-handed. And how would Netanyahu benefit from the fall of Assad's regime, I asked. M. replied with a question: "How can it be that you, the Jews, know what is happening right across the street and are turning your faces away?" He continued without waiting for an answer. "Forget about the Alawite regime ever making peace with Israel. The state of war with Israel," he explained, "enables the Alawites to keep the Sunnis and other minorities down. The continuing conflict with Israel serves as a basis for their strong ties with Iran."

M. relates that Israel's indifference to the slaughter going on in Syria is arousing the suspicions of his acquaintances in the Syrian opposition (as well as his own suspicions ) that the right-wing government in Israel prefers the tyrannical Alawite regime to a moderate democratic regime. However, a government that represents the real interests of the public in Syria might offer Israel a deal for peace and security in return for withdrawal from the Golan Heights to the 1967 lines. This is all Netanyahu needs on the eve of the vote in the United Nations on the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

A message from Ramallah

It's hard to believe that the message from Syria will find its way to attentive ears in Jerusalem. The message from Ramallah, however, was heard loud and clear. Perhaps this is because on the way to the Prime Minister's Office it passed through Washington. The decision to release the money Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz had stolen from the Palestinian Authority's coffers came after the message saying that if there is no bread for the Palestinian policemen there is no security for Israeli civilians. According to Palestinian and Western sources, the action to rescue the tax income that belongs to the PA is the first harbinger of the possibility of an early wilting of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

The second part of the action, which is being downplayed for the moment, will be an official announcement by President Mahmoud Abbas declaring his decision to appoint Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as prime minister of the unity government. If Hamas leader Khaled Mashal decides to blow up the reconciliation agreement in the wake of that, Netanyahu will have to give up propaganda ammunition of the highest order. If the Hamas ministers accept Abbas' authority and reconcile themselves with the decision to keep in place the man who won the World Bank's kashrut certificate, Mashal will appear to the world as a Doberman that has been transformed into a poodle.

A legal Nakba

It is not yet clear who shot and killed Palestinian teen Milad Ayyash from Silwan. It is entirely clear that the focus of the tension in the village is Beit Yonatan, which has become a tombstone of the rule of law and its implementation. Testimony to this can be found in the words of none other than Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Last January Weinstein reprimanded Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat for his illegitimate intervention in the implementation of a judicial order to evacuate and seal the building: "Once it is found the case does not fit the criteria for delaying implementation, it is no longer subject to my judgment as head of the enforcement system," wrote Weinstein, who concluded: "Therefore a date in the near future must be set for carrying out the order." Haaretz directed a question to the attorney general concerning the non-implementation of the order to evacuate and seal the building that went up without a permit. In March 2011 the newspaper was informed on behalf of the attorney general that he had acceded to a request from the executive branch to delay the implementation of orders in East Jerusalem - including the order concerning Beit Yonatan "after he was persuaded that this is the public interest."

It would be interesting to know what public interest cropped up all of a sudden. Weinstein's commitment to the rule of law will be put to the test tomorrow in the Supreme Court. The head of the enforcement system will reply to a petition filed by Yesh Din concerning the Amona outpost, which has been dwelling securely for a number of years on land privately owned by Palestinians.

About five years ago, in the wake of a petition filed by Peace Now, nine of the 25 houses at the West Bank outpost were evacuated. At Yesh Din they estimate that another five to 15 families have been born there since. The previous evacuation at Amona, which entailed violent conflict with the settlers, was the first and the last time the state enforced the law with respect to theft of private property in the West Bank.

In a sworn statement submitted in October 2010 the State Prosecutors' Office argued that since the evacuation of Amona was "an issue connected to the diplomatic process," there was no scope for the Supreme Court's involvement in the matter. Have we already mentioned a state where there is the rule of law?