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"Diplomatic Double-Talk" Print E-mail
By Jay Bushinsky
January 17, 2007


JERUSALEM -- There may be much more than meets the eye in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's latest tour of the Middle East.  If there is not, then the repetitive rhetoric that has accompanied it is her way of treading diplomatic water.

Her highly-publicized one-on-one's with the region's heads of government, starting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and including Jordanian King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may have focused on one problem which the U.S. shares with each of them: Iran's nuclear ambitions and what will be done about them. Some of her hosts may play more active roles than others when the chips finally are down, but all must be privy to the military and political options. At the same time, they need American assurances that their geographical proximity to Iran will not make them potential targets or subject them to nuclear fallout or radioactive clouds caused by an Iranian strike or counter-strike.

The tactical aspects of this potential problem are not meant for the news media at this stage of the international game.  But the fact that the secretary is conferring at great length and in considerable depth with all of the region's moderate and pro-American leaders suggests that her agenda is not limited to the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock and its consequences.

By the same token, it is standard diplomatic practice to conjure up plausible verbal cover-ups of the subjects under discussion.  Travels with her predecessors and foreign counterparts revealed that official talks always are followed by a search for suitable double-talk.

The standard question immediately after the principals adjourn usually is: 'What are we going to tell the press?' xDiplomatic history reveals that what was said behind closed doors was one thing and what was said for public consumption another.

The secretary of state may have slipped up, however, when she insisted that the so-called Road Map for Middle East Peace drafted nearly a decade ago by the U.S., European Union, Russia and the UN, is the only route to solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Almost at the very moment she was saying this, her Egyptian host, President Hosni Mubarak, was stating in Cairo that the existing Road Map is out of date and must be replaced by a new one.

One of its premises is the two-state solution according to which a Palestinian state must be established adjacent to Israel.  This may be a sensible idea to those who disregard the Jews' ancient link to the Land of Israel, i.e. Biblical Palestine.

It also may be an attractive scheme for advocates of genuine democracy in which nations do not subjugate or dominate other nations -- in this case, Israelis vs. Palestinians.  But the political reality simply does not facilitate implementation of these ideas.

Last year's Palestinian election in the West Bank and Gaza Strip brought the Hamas movement to power, its voters knowing full well that Hamas opposes Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within its current boundaries or any other boundaries that would encompass any part of pre-1918 Palestine.

Hamas' incumbent prime minister (who Rice has never met) told an Arab media interview that his movement will not recognize Israel even after the establishment of a Palestinian state.  Its chief ideologist and ultimate chief, Khaled Mash'al, who is based in Damascus, bolsters this attitude by predicting that Israel's days are  numbered and that it, like the former Soviet Union, will collapse.  He expects this to happen within a decade or two at most.

So what is the point of joining PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a three-sided meeting when the former is unable to control the areas under his jurisdiction, order his police to locate and free Cpl. Gil'ad Shalit who was abducted by Hamas and other gunmen seven months ago or send his security forces to the launching pads from which Qassam missiles are fired at Sderot and the western Negev kibbutzim?

Abbas' impotence and the concurrent internecine bloodshed in which his Fatah followers have been battling their Hamas rivals do not prove that the Palestinians are ready for statehood.  Perhaps Knesset Deputy Yossi Beilin, one of Israel's arch-doves and an architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords on the basis of which the PA was created, put it best when he said that Secretary of State Rice should not come here if she has nothing new to say and nothing new to propose.  In other words, she should call a spade a spade and act accordingly.
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MGI News is the sole U.S. incorporated news and programming organization specializing in the Middle East directed by Jay Bushinsky, founding Bureau Chief of CNN Jerusalem. Topics from President Barak Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas, Hizbollah and more...

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