All four--Hosni Mubarak, King Abdallah of Jordan, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas--bore a severe countenance. Throughout the official part of the conference, not a single smile could be seen.Hm, so what happened to that then? It hasn't ended, that's for sure. But where is the Palestinian President, Abbas, in all this?
One after the other, the four delivered their monologues. An exercise in shallow hypocrisy, in empty deceit. Not one of the four raised himself above the murky puddle of sanctimonious phrases.
A short monologue from Mubarak. A short monologue from Abdallah. A medium-length monologue from Abbas. An interminably long monologue from Olmert--a typical Israeli speech, overbearing, educating the whole world, sermonizing and dripping with morality. Held, of course, in Hebrew, with the obvious aim of appealing to the home public.
The speech included all the required phrases--Our soul longs for peace, The vision of two states, We do not want to rule over another people, For the good of coming generations, bla-bla-bla. All in standard colonial style: Olmert even talked about "Judea and Samaria", using the official terminology of the occupation.
But in order to "strengthen" Abbas, Olmert addressed him as "President" and not as "Chairman", which has been the de rigueur title used by all Israeli representatives since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. (The wise men of Oslo circumvented this difficulty by referring -in all three languages--to the head of the Authority by the Arab title of Ra'is, which can mean both president and chairman.
And the word that did not appear throughout this long monologue? "Occupation".
With the air of a Sultan throwing coins to the paupers in the street, Olmert announced his intention of releasing some Fatah prisoners. 250 coins, 250 prisoners. That was the "generous gift" that was to make the Palestinians jump for joy, "strengthen" Abbas and awaken to new life the dry bones of his organization.Having his face spat in.
If Olmert had not been sitting so far away from Abbas, he could just as well have spat in his face.
First at all, the number is ridiculous. There are now about 10,000 (ten thousand) Palestinian "security" prisoners in Israeli prisons. Every night, about a dozen more are being taken from their homes. Since there is no more room in the prison facilities, the wardens will be pleased to get rid of some inmates. In previous gestures of this nature, the Israeli government has set free prisoners whose term was nearing the end anyhow, and car thieves.
Olmert's announcement of his readiness to release Fatah--and only Fatah--prisoners is designed to sabotage this unity. It could stigmatize the Fatah people as collaborators, and Abbas as a leader who is concerned only with the members of his own organization, not giving a damn for the others.And this to "strengthen" Abbas?
And was Abbas strengthened?
The sole winner was Olmert. The conference has proved that Mubarak's and Abdallah's influence on Israel is nil, and that Abbas' position is even worse.And the occupation?
To eliminate any doubt about this, Olmert sent the army at once into the kasbah of Nablus, the heart of Abbas' virtual kingdom, in order to "arrest" the leaders of the military arm of Fatah. They put up determined resistance, wounding several soldiers. A lieutenant lost a hand and a leg. In another incursion, this time into Gaza, 13 Palestinians were killed, including a boy of 9. According to the official version, the aim was to throw the militants off balance so that they would feel hunted.It's disappeared from discussion. But again, where is Abbas in this?
If this is not occupation, what is it? But God forbid that anyone mention this word in diplomatic discourse--the ten letters that have turned into an obscenity. A ten-letter word that has become taboo in polite society.
All the talk about "strengthening" is conducted in this context: Abbas and his people are supposed to function as an administration under occupation. According to Olmert's and Bush's perception, their job is to fulfil the orders of the occupation, in return for their own money and perhaps some small arms. Incidentally, that is very similar to the "autonomy" promised by Menachem Begin to the "Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District". Olmert is quite ready to talk about the "Two-State Solution"--much talk, with a lot of bloated words and pathos--while doing everything possible in practice to prevent this "vision" from being realized before the coming of the Messiah.The Messiah?
Into this reality Tony Blair is now stepping.....As bombs are being found from London to Glasgow, Avnery might extend some this woe to us here in the UK. Bombs here and our support for the racist war criminals of the State of Israel might not be related of course, but it wouldn't hurt to accept the possibility that they are.
Blair will come, meet, make declarations, ooze charm from every pore, generate headlines, fly, come back, make more announcements, meet again with kings, presidents and prime ministers. A long tail of news-thirsty journalists will follow him everywhere, generate media noise, write, tape and take pictures, as if he were a male Paris Hilton.
Meanwhile Palestinians and Israelis will keep dying, the wall will be finished, more land will be expropriated, settlements will be enlarged, targeted "terrorists" will be killed, the blockade on Gaza will be tightened, and all the hundred and one daily activities of the occupation will go on, the occupation that dares not speak its name.
The declared task of Blair, too, is to "strengthen Abbas". Woe to the task. Woe to Blair. Woe in particular to Abbas.