December 26; As a peace gesture, Israel released five Hezbollah members from prison. The gesture was mainly directed at Syria. Two Israeli positions in south Lebanon were hit by rife and anti-tank grenade fire. There were no casualties, which is not uncommon for these kinds of hit and run attacks.
President Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa for talks on the Middle East peace process. Clinton announced that both sides had agreed to a news blackout in order to reach an agreement without having every individual facet of it subjected to public scrutiny before the entire package is complete. Syrian Foreign Minster Sharaa told reporters that he was "very satisfied" by the progress. The current round of meetings are to set a timetable and agenda for talks next year. The US is remaining closely involved in order to avoid another "Rabin commitment" (i.e., Syria's claim that Israeli PM Rabin agreed to return the entire Golan Heights, a promise Israel denies was made).--Stephen V Cole
December 25; Despite a Christmas day truce, Hezbollah guerillas fired on Israeli positions in south Lebanon. One Hezbollah fighter was killed and one pro-Israeli Lebanese was injured.
December 24; Israel announced that it might withdraw from south Lebanon this Spring, rather than this Summer. Hezbollah said that it would increase its attacks on Israeli troops in south Lebanon, in order to inflict maximum damage before the Israelis withdrew.
December 23; Israel plans to shut down its nuclear reactors for 48 hours starting on New Year's Eve to make absolutely sure that there is no problem with the Y2K computer bug. Israel has two reactors: the 30-year-old nuclear weapons factory at Dimona and the nuclear research facility at Nahal Sorek. Israel has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and refuses to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its reactors. --Stephen V Cole
December 23; The US government has approved the sale of Joint Direct Attack Munition conversion kits to Israel. These can be added to existing "dumb" bombs to provide precision satellite (GPS) guidance. Israel is to buy 700 of the kits for $45 million. --Stephen V Cole
December 23; A special study panel commissioned by the Israeli Defense Ministry has recommended major increases in spending for Research and Development, concentrating on satellite reconnaissance, information technology (cyberwar), precision-guided weapons, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The panel noted that 15 years ago, Israel spent three times as much on R&D as it does today, and that the spending in that era is why Israel has a technological edge over its enemies today. Israeli R&D today is 8% of the defense budget, compared to 13% of the US defense budget. --Stephen V Cole