Thursday, May 1, 2008

The great pretenders

Not even the United States has much hope for progress this weekend when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Israel and the West Bank for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials. Rice, one of President Bush's longtime advisers, plans to meet with leaders from both sides separately and together in an effort to find out what is blocking progress in peace negotiations and how to put the talks back on track, according to the Reuters international news service. The Bush administration is trying to arrange an agreement to establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza before it leaves office in January. Good luck. It would be difficult enough to settle the historic differences between Arabs and Jews if both sides wanted to settle them, much less when they don't. The rhetoric coming from Ramallah, not to mention Hamas, which occupies Gaza and makes no secret of its enmity toward Israel, demonstrates the near-impossibility of her task. Word last week that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was angry when he left the White House after meeting with Bush and, presumably, Rice may be a harbinger of things to come. If the administration told Abbas to stop pretending and start facing reality, he probably would rather be angry than helpful. The Israelis could take steps to ease the economic crisis in the Palestinian territories, short of endangering their own security, but Abbas apparently does not have enough authority in his own territory to move the peace process forward. It is no help to peace if the end result of giving financial and military aid to the PA is that all the material and materiel ends up under the control of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority could start to change the hopeless dynamic by ending its pretense that Israel is the cause of all of its problems — the territories already are in open revolt. Abbas is like a leader without a country. The situation will not be able to change until the Palestinians stop educating their children to hate Israel and Israelis — what is going on in Gaza, where Hamas kicked the PA out, is the harvest of this sowing of hatred. Rice's trip begins Friday in London with meetings on the Palestinian economy, Iran's nuclear program and support for Kosovo.

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