Jo-Ann Mort writes frequently about Israel and the Palestinians for The American Prospect and elsewhere, including as a regular contributor at TPM Cafe. She is the co-author of Our Hearts Invented a Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today's Israel?
JERUSALEM -- A few days ago I visited the Muka'ata, the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, to meet Dr. Rafik Husseini, Palestinian President Abu Mazen's chief of staff. It was my first visit to the Muka'ata since Yasser Arafat occupied it, and I saw a marked difference.
There was almost a yuppie professionalism about the place. When the taxi from Jerusalem dropped me off at the walled entrance to the compound, two cherub-faced guards asked my name and phoned one of Mazen's aides to confirm my appointment. I walked through the open cement yard, where a mosque is being constructed alongside Arafat's tomb, to the left of the presidential headquarters.
Jerusalem -- Talk about stepping on a news story. The new Palestinian Authority, now cloistered in Ramallah, was expecting a big television press hit on July 4, not to celebrate American Independence Day (perhaps one day they will be able to celebrate independence of their own from America, but that is still a ways off), but the first day in 15 months when the Authority was able to pay thousands of public sector salaries in full throughout the West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Unfortunately, Hamas stole the nightly TV headlines, relegating the salaries to item two or at the very least, a split screen, by releasing the kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who had been held captive in Gaza for nearly four months, on the same day as payday.
Haaretz journalist Tom Segev's book, 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East, is, as, one reviewer noted, "a doorstopper." At over 600 pages, it is a monumental cultural and military history of a transformational moment both for Israel and the region. Recently published in English to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the June 1967 Six Day War, the book should become the definitive telling not only of the war itself from an Israeli point of view, but of the time leading up to it and the consequences that resulted.
"Shalom, chaver" ("Good-bye, friend") was president Bill Clinton's memorable refrain at slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin's funeral. And few things have demonstrated so clearly the profound link between the Israeli people and America as the "Shalom, Chaver" bumper stickers that showed up on Israeli cars after a right-wing Jew murdered the prime minister, in November 1995.
The Palestinian unity agreement negotiated last week in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, comes with some big "ifs": whether it will last more than a few news cycles, whether it puts a halt to the low-grade civil war between Hamas and Fatah, whether the international community -- and Israel -- recognize this new government, and whether they will restore its funds and international recognition. But there are a few important certainties in this process that shouldn't be missed by Israel or the United States.