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US Sponsored Israeli-Palestinian Meetings Coincided with Two Major Record US Disasters in December - Bill Koenig

Largest flood in Washington State's history followed by the largest ice storm and power outage in Oklahoma's history

In 10 days, the United States experienced the largest flood in the state of Washington’s history, hurricane-force winds up to 127 mph in Oregon, I-5 between Seattle and Portland was closed for five days, and a massive ice storm hit America’s heartland — causing chaos, a travel gridlock and over 1 million homes and businesses to lose their power. Also, the largest ice storm in Oklahoma history produced the largest power outage in that state's history.

In 10 days, President Bush declared major FEMA disasters for Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma and Kansas — and is expected to do the same for Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.

These were two separate, back-to-back, $1 billion-plus disasters bringing the 2007 total to four billion-dollar disasters that coincided with U.S. pressure on Israel to divide her land.

Chronology

Monday, Nov. 26: President George W. Bush hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House in preparation for the Annapolis Conference.

That night, he welcomed 49 nations to the U.S. State Department in town for the Annapolis Conference. He said, "Achieving this goal requires neighbors committed to peace between Israel and a new Palestinian state — and I'm encouraged by the presence of so many here."

Tuesday, Nov. 27: President Bush opened the Annapolis Conference, saying, "We appreciate you joining us in what I believe is an historic opportunity to encourage the expansion of freedom and peace in the Holy Land."

Wednesday, Nov. 28: President Bush invited Olmert and Abbas to the White House for joint meetings and a closing statement with the world press in attendance. He said, "And one thing I've assured both gentlemen is that the United States will be actively engaged in the process, that we will use our power to help you as you come up with the necessary decisions to lay out a Palestinian state that will live side by side in peace with Israel."

Thursday, Nov. 29: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza met with the leaders of 18 American Jewish organizations to assure them that the Bush administration will not pressure Israel but, rather, facilitate talks between the two sides.

Ynet reported that along with her calming words for the leaders, Rice reminded them that President Bush has been the friendliest president towards Israel in American history, and that Israel should therefore accelerate talks with Palestinians to achieve as much as possible while Bush still sits in the White House.

Friday, Nov. 30: AccuWeather: "It's hard to believe how much energy is available for storms right now. Not only one, but two major disturbances will impact various parts of the country within the next 72 hours."

Saturday, Dec. 1: AccuWeather: "Two very potent winter storm systems are affecting the country today: one in the Northeast, and one in the Pacific Northwest. Both systems contain a great deal of snow and wind."

Sunday, Dec. 2: Ha'aretz reported the fourth earthquake in two weeks. It shook parts of Israel on Sunday, but caused no casualties or damage. Israel's Geophysical Institute stated that the tremor, which was felt in Holon and Jerusalem, had a magnitude of 4.0. on the Richter Scale. Its epicenter was north of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, on the active Syrian-African rift fault line where earthquakes are common.

Sunday, Dec. 2: Winter storm systems moved into the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest.

Monday, Dec. 3: Olmert spoke to the Knesset: "Greater Israel" was and is a magnificent idea; however, after losing 6 million of our people, there was a need to come to terms with what could be achieved then, and to establish a state. This is the truth. Because the only choice left to us today, just as it was 60 years ago, is between a Jewish state in part of the Land of Israel and a bi-national state in all of the Land of Israel. This is the choice today as well — two states, Jewish and Palestinian, for there is no other way.

Monday, Dec. 3: President Bush met with U.S.-Palestinian public-private partnership, saying: The partnership is aimed at promoting economic opportunity and leadership development for Palestinian youth. And so Walter Isaacson and the other leaders here have outlined a strategy to us as to how we can make sure our USAID money and our OPIC money can be leveraged with private participation to help the Palestinians develop a civil society that is a key part of making sure that the vision of two states living side by side in peace becomes a reality.

Monday, Dec. 3: AccuWeather: Northern New England received more than a foot of snow through Tuesday. Schools from New York to Maine were canceled because of slick roads and 40-mph winds that have created near-blizzard conditions in some parts of New England.

Hurricane-force winds gusting to 100 mph were reported along the Oregon coast, with the highest reading at 129 mph at Bay City, the National Weather Service said. Massive rains produced flooding.

The governors of Washington and Oregon declared states of emergency, which could speed relief efforts in flood-hit areas.

Tuesday, Dec. 4: AccuWeather: "The storm system that pummeled parts of Washington and Oregon on Monday will hang around for one more day. The good news is that this system will not pack nearly as much of a potent punch as it did yesterday."

Wednesday, Dec. 5: AccuWeather: "The flooding that has inundated the Northwest, greatly impacting lives and travel, will be part of historical records. Rivers have either risen to or will exceed record levels set during a 1996 storm."

Damage could be in the billions of dollars, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday.

Friday, Dec. 7, 2007: Herb Keinon of The Jerusalem Post wrote: Israel and the U.S. are heading for a showdown over construction in Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that building there does not help create confidence in peace negotiations, and Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim responded that the construction will continue.

Rice said, "There just shouldn't be anything that might try and judge final status, the outcomes of final status negotiations. It's even more important now that we are really on the eve of the beginning of those negotiations."

Saturday, Dec. 8: President Bush declared a federal FEMA disaster for 11 counties in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon and Washington saw severe flooding, landslides and mudslides as the result of storms that hit the coast Dec. 1-3.

A new wave of storms: A first wave of low pressure, which developed across the southwest on Dec. 8, produced light freezing rain through much of the Midwest and southern Ontario on Dec. 9.

Sunday, Dec. 9: An ice storm slickened roads and sidewalks, grounded hundreds of flights, and cut power to tens of thousands in a swath from the Southern Plains to the Great Lakes as even colder weather threatened.

More than 130,000 customers lost power in Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois and Kansas, utilities reported. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the nation's busiest, canceled more than 400 flights. The airports in Kansas City, Mo., and St. Louis also canceled several flights.

Monday, Dec. 10: On the eve of the first peace talks in nearly seven years, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to "forge a historic path" toward a final settlement with the Palestinians.

A second stronger storm developed across the southwest on Dec. 10 and gave significant snows to the higher elevations of Arizona near Flagstaff as well as in Colorado. It then produced a significant swath of ice across much of the Middle Plain States. More than 700,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Midwest. Oklahoma's governor declared statewide disaster.

Tuesday, Dec. 11: President Bush signed a federal emergency disaster declaration. This was the federal response to the ongoing and sweeping ice storm affecting the Midwest that began on Dec. 8, 2007, and affected all 77 counties in Oklahoma.

"This is a big one. We've got a massive situation here, and it's probably going to be a week to 10 days before we get power on to everybody," said Ed Bettinger, a spokesman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma. "It looks like a war zone."

Nearly 600,000 Oklahoma homes and businesses still had no electricity Tuesday, most of them since Monday when power lines began snapping under the weight of ice and falling branches — the biggest power outage in state history. Utilities in Missouri reported about 170,000 homes and business without power. Outages elsewhere affected more than 100,000 customers in Kansas, more than 60,000 in Iowa and nearly 18,000 in Illinois.

Wednesday, Dec. 12: Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met in Jerusalem for their first official meeting towards a permanent peace agreement since 2001. In their 90-minute meeting, they argued over Israel's Jerusalem construction and Hamas rockets being fired from Gaza.

Wednesday, Dec. 12: Rice: Bush to take a more active role in Middle East peace process. Secretary of State Rice told USA Today that President Bush would be visiting the region because "he very much wants to signal support for the bilateral process between the parties and to continue in a hands-on way to encourage them to move forward."

Still, she described that approach as not one that says "All right, I'm going to go ahead and fix this for you," but one emphasizing talking to the parties, in which "he'll be able to get a strong sense of where the points of convergence are that maybe they won't see, and where the points are divergence are as well."

Wednesday, Dec. 12: About 468,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma still had no power — the state suffering its worst power outage on record. Utility officials said it could be a week to 10 days before power is fully restored.

Elsewhere, around 228,000 customers were still blacked out in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Kansas' tally had risen sharply — to 130,000 on Wednesday from Tuesday's 15,000 — as rural electric cooperatives reported in and falling branches brought down more power lines.

Thursday, Dec. 13: In Oklahoma, at least 315,000 homes and businesses were still without power, officials said. In Missouri, about 35,000 customers remained in the dark, said Al Butkus, spokesman for utility Aquila Inc.

Friday, Dec. 14: The second wintry blast could complicate efforts to restore power to the more than 280,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri still blacked out after the first storm put a million customers in the dark at its height this week.

Utilities in the Plains said nearly 400,000 customers remained without power on Friday due to ice storms this week. Electric companies reported that more than 800,000 of the 1.2 million customers who lost power have had it restored.

Saturday, Dec. 15: Oklahoma utilities said about 181,000 homes and businesses still had no electricity. Some 62,000 were still blacked out in Kansas, and Missouri utilities reported about 27,000 customers still off line.