Governor Olmert (R-IS) refuses to negotiate with Syria on the grounds that President Bush would object.
[Link] Prime Minister [sic] Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday that now is not the time to embark on negotiations with Damascus, given that U.S. President George W. Bush is demanding Syrian President Bashar Assad “stop instigating war.”
“We need to ask ourselves why, precisely at this moment, Assad is asking to renew negotiations with us,” Olmert said. “The considerations that motivate Assad are not necessarily the considerations that motivate us.”
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, meanwhile, told The Washington Post that Syria has no preconditions to negotiations with Israel, not even regarding the Golan Heights. In an interview in Damascus, Moallem told columnist David Ignatius, “A constructive dialogue has to start without preconditions.”
Although Bush’s approval rate in the entire United States is in the 30s, in Olmert’s state he enjoys substantial support; further, Olmert has always been characterized as a weak Governor who would not break ranks with his party’s President. However, former Governor Netanyahu echoed Olmert’s remarks, saying that Israel should not negotiate with Syria as Bush branded it part of the Axis of Evil, and stressing that the state must coordinate foreign policy with the federal government.
A more independent Governor than Olmert, Schwarzenegger (R-CA), is spending money on fixing California’s death row system, in light of a court ruling that the way California uses lethal injections is unconstitutional.
[Link] Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday ordered his administration to fix problems in California’s lethal injection protocol “to ensure the death penalty procedure is constitutional.”
Schwarzenegger acted in response to a stinging decision issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose, who said the state’s system “is broken, but … can be fixed.”
“I am committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that the lethal injection process is constitutional so that the will of the people is followed and the death penalty is maintained in California,” Schwarzenegger said in a formal statement. “My administration will take immediate action to resolve court concerns which have cast legal doubt on California’s procedure for carrying out the death penalty.”
Although Israel is one of the most socially conservative states in the Union, it is also one of 15 states that have abolished the death penalty.
Moving to foreign news, the so-called election in Iran revealed that voters disapprove of Ahmadinejad’s policies. Voter turnout was 60%, far higher than in previous elections, when many liberals boycotted the show on the grounds that it was not a real election.
[Link] A poor showing by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s allies in last week’s elections will encourage Iran’s more moderate voices, which have been drowned out by the president since he swept to power last year.
But results of Friday’s twin votes for local councils and a clerical oversight body, which have no state policy-making powers themselves, are unlikely to dampen his anti-Western rhetoric or result in big policy shifts, analysts say.
Partial results for the main battleground, the 15 seats of Tehran City Council, gave Ahmadinejad’s backers, including his sister, just three seats but his moderate conservative rival, Tehran mayor Mohammad Qalibaf, won eight. The two have been staunch opponents since Qalibaf lost in the presidential race.
Reformists, who seek political and social change, have four seats in a modest comeback after a series of electoral routs. Reformists see the win as a launchpad for the parliamentary vote in 2008 to challenge Ahmadinejad’s backers.
The vote will not change the person in charge in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, or limit his power in any meaningful way. However, some analysts have said that this shows that Iran’s policy has not changed significantly since Khamenei assumed power in 1989. Several Republicans, including Olmert, used Ahmadinejad’s election as an argument that Iran would shift its course to a more belligerent one.
Once again, Libya sentences the five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor accused of infecting children with AIDS to death.
[Link] To the celebration of many Libyans in the streets of Tripoli, a court convicted five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor on charges of deliberately infecting 400 children with AIDS, sentencing the six foreigners to death.
Although the Libyan government has maintained that the Tripoli Six are guilty, several Western experts have instead suggested that they are innocent, saying that the trial was rigged as it did not allow any exculpatory evidence to be presented.