THIS just in: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has cancelled a visit to China so she can monitor Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Stop the presses. The world is now safe for democracy. Freedom rings. Terrorists live in fear. Another couple hundred Palestinian civilians die.There is probably nothing lamer than the lame duck President Bush than the do-nothing, but all-seeing and all-knowing Condoleezza Rice.
If the international community bothered to check and see what Rice is doing these days, there will be nothing to see but an empty skirt. She has about as much bite in her diplomatic portfolio as a yapping, toothless poodle.
But one thing Rice does well is monitor things. She can stand on the sidelines and say startling – and, I suppose, “frank” – remarks like, “Frankly, it’s time for the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Or, “We frankly have better things to do than invite people to Annapolis for a photo op.” (As it turns out that’s all that Annapolis was, a photo op.) Or this gem: “Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against the forces of (Palestinian Authority) President Mahmoud Abbas.”
Rice and Bush never had much interest in the Israeli-Palestinian affair, somehow believing the salvation of the Middle East could be found in conquering Iraq and Afghanistan. They never realized they lost sight of the fact that the key to maintaining a lasting peace in the Middle East is dealing with the daily horrors committed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Rice showed about as much interest in dealing with the Palestinian issue as an 8-year-old forced by her parents to take piano lessons against her will.So in the end we are treated to empty statements, photo ops of Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and then the ridiculous Annapolis summit that nobody, including the Israelis and Palestinians, wanted to attend.
The result of Annapolis was the promise by the Bush administration that peace will be achieved by January 2009. That’s now and appears not to have worked out too well.To compound the problem the Bush administration last week blocked approval of a United Nations Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel and expressing concern at the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas.
It seems that the only thing the US can do effectively is bully the Security Council, which plays the weak sister in the international community. Imagine if Rice had the foresight to use those bullying tactics with another set of weaklings: Olmert and Abbas.Rice has insisted over the past couple of years to bring together Olmert and Abbas, who are both in the twilight of their careers and have done virtually nothing to shore up their poor political standing by hammering out a peace agreement.
If these two men had the strength, under the guiding and principled hand of a competent secretary of state, then Hamas could have been pacified and the disaster we see today could very well have been averted.While making predictions is a dangerous business for a journalist’s reputation, I will go out on a limb and predict that Hillary Clinton, President-elect Obama’s choice for Rice’s replacement, will do a heck of a lot better than Rice.
Clinton is everything Rice is not. She’s a forceful, downright negotiator who can brawl with the best of any diplomat, whether it’s in the mould of Jimmy Carter or the rather nasty former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. She’s nobody’s fool.Yes, she has set off alarm bells in the Middle East with her unwavering support of Israel and that bit of nonsense of bombing Iran if it misbehaved, but that is presidential campaign talk.
That’s showmanship. After all, Clinton wanted to be president.Well, now with that out of the way she answers not to herself or to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which shames American politicians into submission, but to Mr. Obama. And if there is anybody that can whip Olmert, Abbas or anyone else into shape it’s her.Yet I can’t be too optimistic.
Clearly, Israel is not interested in peace. It’s not interested in lifting its devastating blockade. And Hamas is not interested in ceasing its rocket attacks. Clinton has her work cut out for her. But let’s hope she demonstrates more imagination than Rice, who prefers to watch from the sidelines.