RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 20 – Israeli troops today tightened their noose around Yasser Arafat's office, blowing up three other buildings on the Palestinian leader's sprawling "Mukata" headquarters compound here and using bulldozers and earth-moving equipment to flatten around 11 small mobile homes on the grounds.
Arafat remained holed up in one of the two buildings left standing on the grounds, as the rest – already heavily damaged from past Israeli incursions – was reduced to dust and rubble. The earth-movers appeared to be trying to flatten and clear away the debris, leaving Israeli tanks and armor directly outside the one building where Arafat is huddled with aides and security guards. A Palestinian flag flew atop that building as the heavy equipment worked just a few feet away.
Aides inside the besieged building said Arafat remained unharmed, and spent the day praying – today, Friday, is the Moslem holy day – and telephoning world leaders seeking assistance. But unlike in April, when Arafat was similarly encircled in the Mukata compound, this time the Palestinian leader appeared far more "isolated," as the Israeli government has hoped, with few demands heard from world capitals for the return of Arafat's freedom of movement.
"I called the Americans. I called the Europeans. I called the Russians," said Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator. He said "they tell me they want to de-escalate the situation," but at this point "nobody" had offered any concrete plan to help. He said he asked Israel for permission to go to the compound, but was denied.
"I'm the main contact point with the Israelis, and I haven't been contacted by any of them," he said.
This latest Israeli action comes in response to Thursday's bloody suicide bombing on a bus in the commercial heart of Tel Aviv. That bombing, the second in two days, claimed a sixth victim today, when a visiting teen-age religious student from Glasgow, Scotland, died of serious head wounds he received. His cousin, also a Scottish visitor, was wounded in the blast.
As further signs of the Israeli retaliation for that bombing, Israeli troops in the early morning hours raided the Gaza Strip from three directions, North, South and East, and demolished what Israel said were 34 metal workshops being used by Palestinians to manufacture weapons. Two Palestinians, including a 25-year-old woman, were reported killed in the incursion, and about a dozen were wounded in shooting at Rafah, on the border with Egypt. Two Israeli soldiers were reported to have been lightly injured.
The fill Israeli government, which met in emergency session late Thursday, decided after some debate not to expel Arafat to Gaza or abroad, as some hardliners, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had wanted. Some in the cabinet from the Labor Party, including Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, as well as the Shin Bet security service, had argued that expelling Arafat could backfire, gaining him international sympathy and making him a hero in the Arab world and in the occupied territories.
Sharon has long argued for the expulsion of his old nemesis Arafat. At one point in the spring event voiced the wish that he had killed the Palestinian leader in an earlier encounter when Sharon had him encircled, in Beirut in the early 1980s when Israeli troops pushed into Lebanon to crush the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Arafat was pinned with his back to the sea. Arafat was rescued then by an American plan to exile the Palestinian leader to Tunis.
This time, Israel is insisting that it will keep Arafat isolated in the compound until some 19 men Israeli considers "wanted" surrender from inside. They include Tawfiq Tirawi, chief of the general intelligence service for the West Bank, who is accused of planning terrorist attacks, and Mahmoud Darma, head of Force 17, Arafat's personal security service, who Israeli accuses of leading a West Bank terrorist cell that has killed Israelis.
Ben-Eliezer, speaking on Army Radio, said, "We are not planning to use weapons or force, but to maintain the pressure so that everyone who is in there will come out."
Speaking of Arafat, he said, "As for the chairman, we have no intention of expelling him or firing at him. We want to isolate him."
Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said he believed the demand for the wanted men was "a pretext." He said both Tirawi and Darma were living openly in Ramallah since Israeli troops entered the city in April, and "no one mentioned their names to me."
"I think it's to cover their real intentions," Erekat said. "I believe what we are witnessing is Sharon's end-game. Sharon is using the opportunity of the American's focus on Iraq to execute his end-game."
As part of that "end-game," Erekat, Sharon "wants to destroy the peace process. He wants to destroy the Palestinian Authority and he's done a damned good job of it. Third, he wants to expel of kill President Arafat, and he will do it. And fourth, he wants the re-occupation of the West Bank."
Some 20 people did come out of the compound and surrender early today, with their hands held in the air. But Israel said none of them were the fugitives they were seeking.
The Palestinians reported that one person inside the compound was shot and killed by an Israeli army sniper.
The siege could be long, and was reminiscent of the similar Israeli siege in April around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which Christians revere as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Then, as now, Israel demanded the surrender of Palestinian "fugitives" inside, and the standoff ended when the United States helped broker a deal to allow some of the Palestinians to be exiled abroad, and others to go to the Gaza Strip.
Some Palestinians at the time criticized that deal, saying it legitimized exile as a form of punishment for people Israel has deemed terrorist. Arafat may be under pressure not to agree to a similar deal this time.
Water and electricity was not cut to the compound, unlike last April when Arafat gained worldwide sympathy when he appeared holding press conferences by candlelight. This afternoon, electrical workers in cars were busy working around the compound, apparently making sure the electricity stayed on, even as the bulldozers continued their demolition.
Ramallah today was declared a closed military area, but some journalists, driving in armored vehicles, were able to venture up to the walls of the compound where the bulldozers were busy plowing down rubble.
The streets of Ramallah were largely deserted, with only a few people venturing outdoors and all shops and restaurants shuttered.
Residents living in the vicinity of Mukata compound said they spent a fearful night sheltered in their homes, hearing the shooting, and the sound of the explosions as the buildings on the grounds were blown up.
"There were many explosions, starting around 4:30 in the morning until now," said Abel Deis, who lives in a house on a hillside directly overlooking the compound. He said the last explosion came around noon, which seemed to be an already-damaged intelligence building that was brought down in a controlled explosion.
He said seven families lived inside the building where he has lived for 23 years. He said every time there is an attack against Israelis, like Thursday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, residents here brace for a new assault. "Even if we are not afraid, the kids will be afraid and we will be worried about them."
"We heard two strong explosions. We didn't know what they were," said Ibrahim Atari, a musician and university music teacher who has not seen much work in recent weeks. "It's very bad. It's scary. It's miserable for people who have young kids. We don't understand what they want here."
"The problem is not whether they open fire," he said. "The problem is that for the last six months, we don't know what they want from us. They impose a curfew, then they lift it. We don't know what they want, and we don't know if they know what they want. As a result, we cannot work, we can't do anything."
What else would one expect from the butcher of Lebanon?
Sep 21st, 2002, 10:32 AM
god, the ignorance:rolleyes: . I bet you didn't even know that in the Sabra and Shatila killings you are reffering to christian arabs killed muslim arabs. Sharon was accused only of backing his forces out of the villages too soon, and not being around to stop that. and he was cleared. at any rate no one ever accused him of planning the murderes:rolleyes: .
Lucas, there was no one in the building. not a single person was hurt. they blow up in the middle of our cities, and we take down buildings that are centers for terrorist activities. I think that's pretty reasonable. did you know a missile (sp) lab was found in that building? and if we wanted to kill Arafat, he'd be dead now:rolleyes: .
you are ofcourse right that this is a never ending cycle. but our actions are preventative, and we can't just stand by and do nothing while they use tactics that even animals would find too low. it's just so simplistic to say "the countries should co-operate".
Sep 21st, 2002, 10:38 AM
I don't think I'll be around again today, Lucas. maybe we'll pick this up tommorow? I'm enjoying this new thing of talking to you without yelling at you:) . goLleyt, however, is getting on my bad side. you are not worthy of the Lleyton name;) .
Sep 21st, 2002, 10:45 AM
Israeli soldiers also shot dead a 12 yr old boy who broke the curfew to go and buy cigarettes for his dad
thats shocking ....... shooting an innocent little kid.
what did he do ????
Sep 21st, 2002, 11:59 AM
they throw rocks, and take bottles and put cloth soaked in oil, and light them and throw at the soldiers, they have knives, and some even have weapons, and they stand on top of buildings throwing stones from above, and they sat traps in the streets. we don't walk around looking to shoot kids, sometimes we have no choice. a bullet shot by a twelve year old kills you just as much as bullets shot by an adult. if you want to be shocked at something, be shocked that their mothers let them go and risk themselves "for the cause", and that they are raised to worship suicide bombers. you know, TBE, I don't think we're perfect, but I am always amazed at how shallow people's perception is of this conflict, and how one sided. no one hates this state of things more than Israelis, and no one recognizes the hopelessness of it more than us. if you think that if we saw another way out we wouldn't take it, than your understanding is lacking, and you are showing yourself a fool. a recent poll showed 80% of Israelis would be willing to give up the west bank for peace. with this kind of statistics maybe it's time to look a little deeper and wonder why, then, peace isn't happening. maybe it's because we've been proven again and again throughout Israel's existance that the other side is not about peace. and maybe it's because after years and years of the other side using methods that are simply not human, we've finally did give up on the possibility to reason with them.
but you know, I'm so tired of this. I don't care anymore what you people think. we can't win with you, you are just not capable of understanding, and you've painted yourselves a picture of us that you're just not interested in changing, wether it's true or not. we will fight for our existance, and are so beyond caring what Europeans opinion of us is. we apply our on morals, and believe it or not, there is a never ending debate in Israel as to Israeli actions. I think throughout the madness of the situation we are behaving in the most moral way anyone can behave in a war. that's good enough for me.
Sep 21st, 2002, 12:06 PM
they send their kids into danger, and then put it on tv for europeans to be shocked. unlike them, we don't put our dead 12 year olds on tv, and couldn't care less if we get your sympathy or not. our children aren't "rating" tools. you are so easy to manipulate, but we don't play this game. they've built a well oiled PR machine, designed for easily convinced Europeans. we could do the same, but we're not interested in you feeling sorry for us.
Sep 21st, 2002, 12:37 PM
Originally posted by GoLleyt
What else would one expect from the butcher of Lebanon?
After being tossed out of Jordan by King Hussein for being a major source of instability and terror, Arafat relocated PLO bases to Lebanon. From there attacks on Israel and Israeli interests where coordinated. Including the Munich hostage taking and killing of Israeli Olympic athletes.
Arafat and his ilk were a main factor in the Lebanese civil war (the Syrians had an important role to play as well, and still do) which cost the lives of up to 100,000 civilians.
The real butcher of Lebanon is Arafat. He had set up a terrorist state inside the country when the Israelis ousted him.
Sep 21st, 2002, 02:05 PM
Well there's always two sides on each story. I think no country would stand by without acting when its people are being blown up by suicide bombers. However I have serious doubts as to whether the tactics of destroying Palestinian infrastructure will help to resolve this problem. The Israeli government wants the Palestinian authority to do more to stop terror attacks, yet Palestinian infrastructure is destroyed.
I agree however that Arafat is not the right man for peace, neither is Sharon btw.
Sep 21st, 2002, 02:55 PM
that's fine. I actually agree with that. damn, Josh, every time I'm about to go back to my old ways and give up on Europeans you're making it impossible:) :hearts: .
thank you too, Iconoclast, you always make me feel a little better about foreigners:)
Sep 21st, 2002, 03:31 PM
It must be the European blood in your veins. ;)
Sep 22nd, 2002, 12:24 AM
i dont want to sound disrespectful,but isreal isnt doing much to help its own cause.
by killing children ,blowing up apartment blocks and quite frankly being tyrants toward the palestinian people isreal may keep some of the "terrorists"(but they are actualy fighting for a nation and against opression-just like some of the jewish groups who faught to create isreal-are they terrorists cause they are arab?-any way whos ever side their on killing people is wrong!:fiery: )
at bay for a few more days but it does nothing to stop the problem in the long term,and from a foreighn perspective,isreal seems to show more intrest in gunning down children who may be bearing a stone or somthing,than in saving its own peoples asses from being blown up.
isreal is the one holding all the playing cards,just let them have their palestine(it seems only fair as they were there first)and from there keep out of their hair,you will save your selves alot of bother!
the persecution that is being directed toward the palestinian people's seems only too reminding of apartied!,and whats the point in letting this continue just for sharon to feel like he is the king,when the anger of the opressed people just go's straight onto the innocent people-its not worth it!
its time for peace not war,so mr sharon should stop being so arrogant and stubborn and getting in the way of peace.
palestine holds no real power,they cannot be the ones to make things work,it can only be isreal at this time.
isreal dosnt seem to be gaining any friends in this one abroad,and people are getting pissed at the situation (as in their starting just not to care)which is sad for the victems of either side.
Sep 22nd, 2002, 08:30 AM
here are some things that might surprise you:
1)"they are actualy fighting for a nation and against opression-just like some of the jewish groups who faught to create isreal-are they terrorists cause they are arab?" people keep bringing this up, but they just don't know what they're talking about. Israeli actions to promote the establishment of the state of Israel were, first and formost, directed ONLY at army soldiers and the british rulers appointed to Israel, never at civilians. they were also mostly directed at property (mainly bridges) not people. the few times actions were taken that may have risked human life, warnings were sent to the authorities before the action. no offence, but the very comparison shows the lack of understanding and the bias against us.
2) "just let them have their palestine". see, this is what drives me up the wall. this kind of arrogant remarks. yes, the solution is just so simple and we are just too dumb to see:rolleyes: .
it's not about the land. we are willing to give up the west bank. it's as simple as that. it's just that after 50 years we no longer believe it's what they want. and you know how we know that? because both Rabin and Barak have offered to give them the land they are sitting on, and they refused. they want all of Israel, plain and clear. they want us completly gone. if you knew anything about history, you'd know that. did you know that upon the ending of the british rule in Israel, a plan was suggested by the UN, to divide the country between the 2 peoples? we accepted, they declined. the arab countries thought they could force us out, and have started numerous wars for that end exactly. they have finally accepted they will never be able to beat us at war, so they switched to terror. over the years we made quite a few offers to them, which finally came to Barak offering to them 97% of the land they demanded. they didn't accept, and I'm not sure we'll be offering again. you can only be naive for so long. take me as the average Israeli. I am willing to have Israel completly withdraw from the west bank and Gaza, and acknoledge a palestinian state. I've been supporting a settlement like that for years. I no longer support it, because I no longer believe they want to live in peace with us. (I still support Israel withdrawing from there, just not as a part of a peace agreement). we have lost any kind of trust in them, and what good is an agreement with someone whos word is as good as garbage to you?
3)"they were there first". no, actually we've been here first. there has been a constant jewish presence in Israel for 7,000 years. if anyone was wrongfully denied the country it was us, when large part of our people were forcefully exiled. and we set in place just about every goddamn stone that stands in this country, so give it a rest.
4)"isreal dosnt seem to be gaining any friends in this one abroad,and people are getting pissed at the situation"
no offence, but they can kiss our asses. in 7'000 years of jewish existance we were never the most popular kid in class, it's not like being disliked by you is anything new to us.
Sep 22nd, 2002, 08:31 AM
5)lastly, and this is for TBE too, enough with the "innocent 12 year olds being killed", ok? you are being fed crap, and are taking it in and asking for seconds. "a boy got shot going out in curfew to get his dad cigarettes". cigarettes my ass. how stupid can you be? they use their kids in this battle. they know the soldiers are so uninclined to shoot children, so they send them out on missions instead of going out themselves. and then, if the kid can do it- great, if he dies- well, then you can just sell him as a little martyr to the dumb europeans. it's a win-win situation. you people make fun of Bush and the americans but you are the shallow ones, taking everything at face value. no kid should be shot, but they are using their kids and we are once again in an impossible situation. I've said it before, bullets shot by kids, or explosives delivered to bomb makers by kids, kill you just the same.
Sep 22nd, 2002, 09:17 AM
there are bad people on both sides of the fence.
one can easily say that the palestinians feel the same way about this as you,they may not trust isreal(isreals record isnt spotless),and they too feel that it is isreal being un co-operative on issues such as settlers and refugees.
when i meant that "they were there first",i was meaning it in more modern terms,when the modern isreal was created,wernt many palestinians forced off of their land and into refugee camps?-how would you feel if this happened to you-i know id feel pissed.
secondly what im trying to say is that the revenge cycle you are both on aint gonna be stopped by palestine,isreals the only one powerful enough to say were not going to lower our selves to this standard of murder.every bomb is met by a bullet and each bullet is met by a bomb.....
the first step in solving a long term problem is to solve any short term ones first.
im sorry if this pissed you off i-girl,but their are 3 perspectives.(x2 inside,x1 outside,which is un dawnted by hatred)
Sep 22nd, 2002, 10:18 AM
you didn't piss me off:) . I've heard so much worse on this board. if you knew me, you would know that that was me keeping my cool;) . I'm a lot worse usually:p .
look, it doesn't escape us that we are in a nonsensical cycle of violence. I don't always agree with the Israeli responses to suicide bombings myself, and there is a massive debate going on in Israel, if we're bahaving cleverly or not. but saying "take the high road" is problematic. we are not taking buildings down to punish them. we are very specifically targeting terror nests. to leave them alone means more bombs going off in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. you know, for a month before the attack 2 days ago, there were no suicide attacks, and everyone were saying how we have a month of peace. but that's decieving. in that month a car with 400 kg. of explosives was caught heading to Tel Aviv for a "mega- attack". there was an attempt to blow up an oil truck in the main oil reserve of Israel. there were so many attempts you guys over there don't even hear about, and why didn't they happen? because of our preventative measures. that lab that we bombed near Araft compound? well, that's hundreds of Israeli lives saved right there. we can't "take the high road". the high road will just kill us more quickly.
that said, obviously something will have to happen, because things can't go on the way the are. personally, I support (like a growing number of Israelis) in immidiate withdrawl from the west bank, and establishing a guarded boarder, without any negotiations. this will provide better safety for Israelis, and will give palestinians the things they claim to want. I do think, unfortunately, that in reality the situation will escalate into an all out war. especialy if the US goes after Iraq.
Sep 22nd, 2002, 10:32 AM
i totaly agree with your latter sugestion,by ignoring the palestinian "leadership"as well as blocking them out,they might realise its time to negotiate because terrorism dosnt work-well thats the naive idea;)
and so many disasters being avoided shows that good policing and intellagence can work,and that the helecopter attacks etc are only for revenge-im shure sharon knows that his retaliation will bring its own retaliation(whether he takes heed is up to him):) when i say take the high road things that are stratigic are obviously not ment to kill people and thats common sense,its just resedentual targets which are a bit trickey.
ahhhhh! i-girl,you can be worse:eek: ,god i shall have to watch out!;)
Sep 22nd, 2002, 10:35 AM
oh,and i also think that when the u.s. gos after iraq,some other middle eastern nations may view isreal as a very close u.s.allie and isreal may see their backs(and prey that its not their gun's or there goes ww3)
Sep 22nd, 2002, 10:54 AM
ok, I did not understand a word on your last 2 posts:) ...
were you being sarcastic when you said the unilateral withdrawl idea was good? it's a very good idea. it would be much easier logistically to guard a distinct border rather then the entire area of the west bank, and it would start the process of separation for the 2 people. I really don't think the palestinians will like it, even though they'll be getting a country of their own, but they will have to live with that. we're not too happy with giving away land in our little country,. so no one is getting everything here. the bottom line is, we are not going back to the negotiations table anytime soon. the atmosphere is not right for that, the hatred on both sides is unimaginable. so the best way, the only way in which this situation won't end in war, is we just take our stuff and get out of there. after a period of separation maybe we can start talking peace.
I'm also not sure what you were trying to say about the americans. Israel IS a close american ally... what do you mean "we will see their backs"? that they will attack us? but that's what we are expecting to happen! man, you really succeeded in confusing me here:) .
Sep 22nd, 2002, 11:09 AM
i wasnt being psarcastic!-by pulling out of palestine they will have less cause to attack isreal thus clearing the air to negotiate...
and the americans,if isreal voices their support arab nations may get sower with isreal,like america.if isreal gos to war with america(providing the arabs dont support america and get realy angry over the war),it would make an "easy"target to directly or indirectly target america.-i hope thats clear for you:)
Sep 22nd, 2002, 11:13 AM
I'm sorry, I understood the first part but not the second... arab countries will get "sower" with Israel? they already are... were you trying to say that if Israel supports the US against Iraq (which we will), arab countries will resent the US? or were you trying to say that if we support the US, arab countries might attack us?
Sep 22nd, 2002, 11:26 AM
OK-ofcourse the arab nations are sower toward you(,its like antarctica or somthing-always freezing!)but by supporting the u.s its just another thing for them to be pissed off about.and no one can tell the future if iraq will have arab allies in arms.but if say syria or somthing decided to help iraq against the u.s.,isreal may be seen as a close target and a good distraction to the u.s. war on iraq~but thats unlikely. :)
Sep 22nd, 2002, 11:30 AM
I get it now:) . but we are fully expecting to be attacked, first by Iraq- just like in the gulf war, and possibly by all the other arab countries. we're ready for that.
Sep 22nd, 2002, 11:32 AM
well you take care and stay safe!:)
Sep 22nd, 2002, 11:36 AM
gee, this is an unexpected friendly ending:) ! I'm beginning to think not calling people "idiots" right away is a good tactic:eek: .
Sep 22nd, 2002, 11:37 AM
thats quite amazing how cabable your defense forces are!(dont worry im not being pharcastic!),psyicaly isreal is so small-hell new zealand could not defend its self ,thats very courageous,nz has decided we are to busy in east timor and we will stay out!:)
~i already said take care:) :) :) ~
Sep 22nd, 2002, 10:36 PM
Longwe, what rock have you been living under?!! :rolleyes: A lot of the Arab nations have not liked the U.S. and Israel for many, many years. The U.S. and Israel will always be targets for them and they do not like the close friendship of our countries and the fact of us being allies. Do you remember the Gulf War? You would know all of this already. :rolleyes:
I-girl, I am with you. A lot of his posts were confusing.
Sep 23rd, 2002, 02:17 AM
duh,all they need is some excuse to make any dreams of war come true!~simple enough?
Sep 23rd, 2002, 02:25 AM
You still don't make sense. :rolleyes:
Sep 23rd, 2002, 02:41 AM
umm what is your point exactly,like what dont you understand?~im sure i didnt say anything about the arab nations liking isreal.
if isreal go's to war with iraq,and arab nations get "friendly" to iraq,isreal will get an even more colder reception,and if the palestinian situation heats up,the same nations who support (usualy) the peace efforts between palestinie and isreal ,may no longer encourage a peaceful resolution(i.e.fuel internal conflict)
Sep 23rd, 2002, 02:47 AM
I understand the whole situation very clearly as I am living through it. You are talking like this is very recent news and that YOU are informing US about it. It is very OLD news. That is my point.
Sep 23rd, 2002, 02:54 AM
erm well i wasnt trying to deliberatly,and i did say that what was/am saying comes from an OUTSIDERS perspective!:rolleyes:
(perspective = view)
Sep 23rd, 2002, 03:44 AM
I think one of i-girl's points is the key to the whole problem.
I don't know what Arafat wants now, I do know that Arafat was who started with terrorism. We all remember Arafat's famous speech in the United Nations, about the olive branch and the weapon.
For years, the OLP refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist, so did the arab countries.
Then Arafat and some arab countries realized that they wouldn't win a war against Israel and that obviously, Israel wouldn't negotiate its own destruction and decided to recognize Israel's right to exist.
But then Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other groups came to the scene. They don't recognize the existence of Israel, they don't want the West Bank, they want Israel, they want an islamic state there, so, what should Israel do?
Negotiate? with who?, not with Hamas obviously, Israel has only two choices regarding Hamas, either they kill them all, or put them all in jail or, they negotiate with the palestinian authority, but if Israel negotiates with the palestinian authority, they need something in exchange, they need terrorism to stop.
The palestinian authority either can't or doesn't want to stop terrorism, in either case, they have nothing to offer. They want (supposedely) land, Israel wants peace, Israel can give them their lands, but the palestinian authority can't give Israel peace, so, what's the point?
And let not forget that it was Arafat who instigated the palestinian uprise in the first place, it was Arafat who left the negotiation table, so, I don't think he can be portrayed as an innocent victim.
There is only one way against terrorism, and it's to destroy its head, cut the head off
Sep 23rd, 2002, 04:42 AM
The sooner Arafat is out of power for the palestiniean people the better:)
I may go completly of the subject but Yassar Arafat is not helping the the cause to try to solve the problem. He is exiled and confined to his room god knows what doing, but if Palestineans want to have peace and a better life, I honestly think they should work with Israel on this one. :)
Just an opinion
Sep 23rd, 2002, 07:21 AM
OMG, a thread with more people agreeing with me than hating me:eek: . I think I need to sit down. *touched*
Fingon, I'm glad you've returned to us from GM! I thought you may have sworn off politics or something;) .