Mixed Verdict for Ehud Olmert

Arab Spring Winter

As the Arab Spring proves again and again, the Mideast’s problems don’t really revolve around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ido Aharoni writes in the NY Daily News:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is neither the defining issue of the region nor the principal source of Arab discontent. Considering the 1,300-year-old span and depth of the Sunni-Shiite divide, the century old Israeli-Arab conflict seems brief by comparison. In truth, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a convenient sideshow to the real problems within Arab societies and an implausible excuse used by Arab dictators who have ill-served the interests of their own populations and are now reaping the consequences of that neglect.

Russia suspends new arms sales to Syria while Venezuela sends diesel to power Syrian army tanks.

How are the elite of Damascus relating to the unrest? The Daily Beast finds blissful delusion:

On the other hand, there is a class of Assad supporters who go about their daily business—pool parties included—while the skyline burns. As if the war is happening in some other place, people drink champagne in the Damascus neighborhood of Mezzah and partake in glamorous fashion photo shoots and go shopping for Versace and Missoni at the luxurious boutiques that line the Shukri al Quatli Street. Despite armed checkpoints and the threat of kidnapping, some still go out at night, attending the opera, meeting friends for dinner, and hosting elaborate wedding parties at the upscale restaurant Le Jardin . . .

For days, I listened to the thumping music and watched the beauties in their fluorescent Victoria’s Secret bikinis partying at the pool at the Dama Rose Hotel, where I was staying. (More than once, I thought of Nero fiddling as Rome burned.) Syria, I realized, has become a schizophrenic place; a place where people’s realities no longer connect.

Claire Berlinski slams the PR firm, Brown Lloyd James, for trying to help Bashar Assad get away with murder.

A staff-ed in The Australian lambasts Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Given that the council previously elected Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as its chairman, hailed Sri Lanka for its “promotion and protection of all human rights” and held an emergency session to mourn Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin’s death, nothing should come as a surprise.

Jordanian prosecutors are investigating a parliament member who pulled a gun on an activist during a TV talk show. AP coverage.

Defying military leaders, members of Egypt’s “dissolved” parliament met. The LA Times gets the Calvinball aspect of it all:

The scenario appeared to fit the perplexing pattern of the nation’s politics — all rules apply yet everything is negotiable.

Iranian Atomic Urgency

UH-oh: Kenyan police haven’t recovered most of the explosives belonging to a busted Iranian terror cell. According to AP, we’re talking about 85 kilos (187 lbs.) of explosives unaccounted for.

Rest O’ the Roundup

Worth reading: Yehudit Grisaro discusses gender equality in the IDF with The Guardian. Grisaro retired from the army as a Brigadier General — the IDF’s highest ranking woman.

Though the Israeli military has a very macho image, the IDF is the most progressive in the world – when measured in terms of gender equality, at least. Almost one third of the force and 50% of its officers are female. In the UK, only 13% of the armed forces are women, while there are only slightly more in the US army (13.4%).

Turns out that Jewish-American youths have stronger feelings towards Israel than a lot of people give them credit for. Prof. Steve Cohen told Haaretz (click via Twitter) the survey’s results strongly suggest what he called “the Birthright bump.”

Younger people spent more time in Israel than the 35-44 age group, and had many more friends who went to Israel,” Cohen told Haaretz. He added that although the link between the greater attachment to Israel and Birthright was not proven, it is a “logical inference” from all the data at hand.

(Image of cocktails via Flickr/Aziz J. Hayat, soldier via Flickr/Israel Defense Forces)

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