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Jerusalem Diary: Monday 3 December

By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANNAPOLIS

The Annapolis conference inspired first indifference then excitement among the media, both international and local.

Striking teacher Itay Yavin
Itay Yavin, a striking Israeli teacher, wants a little more respect

Israel radio had delivered its own verdict, of a sort, on the day of Annapolis.

The conference could not even make lead story on the morning bulletins, much to the despair of one seasoned Israeli commentator I spoke to.

"What hope is there that we take this seriously," he asked, "if we can't even be bothered to make it news?"

Annapolis had been bumped off the lead by the teachers' strike, which is entering its ninth week.

On the corner of Rabin Boulevard and Yoel Zussman Street, Itay Yavin, was brandishing a placard with a suitably learned slogan - from the Talmud, an ancient rabbinic commentary on the bible: "Respect your teacher as you would God."

He's been teaching biology and Jewish philosophy for the past 14 years. He brings home just $1,600 a month, and says he has to do two other jobs to get by.

The strike is not just about pay, it's also about class sizes.

Part of the problem, Itay told me, is that successive governments have spent so long worrying about problems on Israel's borders, that little effort has been expended on social policy.

YOUR CHANCE TO MAKE PEACE

The Haaretz newspaper made its own attempt to lever interest on the day of Annapolis, by giving away a computer game to its readers.

PeaceMaker is a high-production simulation, aimed, as its blurb announces, at "people of all ages who are socially aware".

Those in the region who are drawn to the notion that the only language the other side understands is an iron-clad fist are warned: "Peacemaker is not a mere struggle between two sides."

You have to battle extremists, polls, opinionated advisors, and the clatter of bad news.

You win when you achieve the same positive rating on both sides.

You can play as Israeli prime minister, Palestinian president or as a "random leader".

"The Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President versions are very different and present unique challenges," says the on-screen introduction.

"Be sure to try both to have the full experience of PeaceMaker."

HOW TO APPLAUD

The negotiations from Annapolis will involve the usual, intricate code breaking and argument over key texts by lawyers, journalists, diplomats and politicians.

Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Foreign Minister
Did he or did he not bring his hands together?
There was a flavour of the detail we will be treated to in the reporting of the hand movements of the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, after listening to the speech from the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The International Herald Tribune's account: "In one sign of the event's extraordinary nature... when the Israeli finished, he (Prince Saud) politely clapped his hands."

Haaretz: "Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal initially hesitated, but after a moment, he too joined the applause."

But Yediot Ahranot's man on the spot demurred: "The Saudi foreign minister also brought his palms together in a gesture of courtesy. Only those sitting close to him could see that they did not touch each other."


Read previous diaries by Tim Franks:




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