Charade in Jerusalem
It speaks volumes when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flies to Jerusalem to try to revive peace talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and cannot even get the two to show up when she reads out the content-free joint statement to which they have grudgingly agreed.
Ms. Rice’s diplomatic default was all the keener since this just might have been a moment for breaking the stalemate that has prevailed since Hamas won control of the Palestinian Parliament last year.
Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist and its people’s right to live free from terrorism is undeniably the biggest single obstacle to peace. But Mr. Abbas and his more moderate Fatah movement already accept both points. And the imperfect agreement Mr. Abbas reached with Hamas this month on a cease-fire between the two groups (reeling them back from civil war) and a coalition government gave him more authority, after months of flailing, to bargain on behalf of the Palestinians.
Israel could have reinforced Mr. Abbas’s position and increased the chances for progress with a series of low-risk steps: committing to serious negotiations, freezing the expansion of settlements and easing restrictions on civilians’ movements in the West Bank. Those steps would have given new hope to Palestinian moderates and thereby increased the political pressure on Hamas to abandon terrorism.
Instead, Ms. Rice indulged Mr. Olmert’s inherent caution and his own political weakness, settling for an agreement that the two leaders will meet again some (still to be determined) day. Israel further qualified that promise yesterday, threatening to stop talking to Mr. Abbas altogether if he forms a coalition government with Hamas. With Palestinian frustrations rising — and demographers predicting an eventual Palestinian majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan — just saying no is not a viable option for Israel.
Such illogic. Is this Tom Friedman's composition?