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Just like the (good?) old days

With US diplomats roaming the streets of Jerusalem, talking to all sides, it's like the intifada never happened.

An Israeli holds a placard during a right-wing protest in Jerusalem against U.S. President Barack Obama's demand to freeze Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, July 27, 2009. The United States launched a fresh drive on Sunday to restart Middle East peace talks, sending senior officials to the region to deal with issues ranging from Jewish settlements to Iran's nuclear ambitions. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

JERUSALEM — It’s like the intifada never happened.

American diplomats mobbed the streets of Jerusalem this week. Even Iran point man Dennis Ross, whose sad-sack demeanor was a frequent feature of the Oslo peace process, stopped by to keep the U.S. defense secretary, the Mideast peace envoy, and the national security adviser company.

Meanwhile, in Palestinian politics, where hatred of Israel once brought everyone together for secret terror summits, Hamas again hates Fatah, which hates Hamas and also dislikes itself. In Israel, the two most powerful men are Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.

Just like the old days. Before the five years of violence known as the intifada that began in September 2000, when Palestinian riots turned into gunbattles and the Israeli army reoccupied all the Palestinian towns it had evacuated during the previous seven years of the peace process.

Except there’s one reminder this week that the intifada actually did take place: Fouad Shoubaki is still screwed.

The man who ran military procurement and budgets for Yasser Arafat was convicted by an Israeli military court Wednesday of handing on $7 million worth in arms to the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which used the weapons to kill Israelis during the intifada.

The court also found Shoubaki guilty of paying $125,000 (from Arafat) to fund the voyage of a ship called the Karine A. When Israeli commandos from the Shayetet 13 — the equivalent of the Navy Seals — captured the Karine A in January 2002, it was carrying 50 tons of guns, missiles and material, loaded on board by Hezbollah operatives off the Iranian coast.

Though the intifada was 15 months old at the time the Karine A was captured, many in Washington and other world capitals became convinced that Arafat really did think he was at war with Israel. They stopped talking about “putting the peace process back on track.” Until recently.

The Palestinians put Shoubaki in jail in Jericho. The Israelis said all along that he was just a fall guy being held for appearances sake. In 2006, when it seemed Shoubaki might be released, the Israelis raided the Jericho jail and captured him. His trial lasted three years.

In the court, Shoubaki claimed to “have sought peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis and to build neighborly relations.” He said he was close to current Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who’s considered a moderate in favor of peace talks with Israel (although he won’t talk to them just now).

But the court also heard that Shoubaki admitted some unneighborly actions during his interrogation by the Israeli domestic security service, the Shin Bet.