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December 01, 2007

If You Weep At This, May You Weep Forever

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Andy McCarthy of the National Review looks at what Condi Rice said at the closing session of the Annapolis summit:

"Like the Israelis, I know what it is like to go to sleep at night, not knowing if you will be bombed, of being afraid to be in your own neighborhood, of being afraid to go to your church," she said.

But, she added, as a black child in the South, being told she could not use certain water fountains or eat in certain restaurants, she also understood the feelings and emotions of the Palestinians.

"I know what it is like to hear to that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are Palestinian," she said. "I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness."

"There is pain on both sides," Rice concluded. "This has gone on too long."

McCarthy's comment: "Excruciating on a number of levels."  I assume that one of those levels is just that somebody is expressing sympathy for Palestinians as well as Israelis.  And if that wounds him, may his suffering never cease. 

Rice's sentiments are exactly right.  The majority of Israelis are reasonable people who want to be safe from terrorism, while the majority of Palestinians are reasonable people who want to live under a real government that regards them as its citizens.  Their desires are compatible, and the only reason these majorities can't get together and work things out is that the extremists of each side do everything they can to convince the other side's moderates that negotiation is worthless.  I'm not a big Condi Rice fan overall, but in this administration now and in today's Republican Party, she's the voice of sanity. 

December 1, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

It sounds like Rice did really well. I guess she's always been capable. What's changed is that Bush no longer faces any elections (not even a Congressional midterm election), so she is free to treat the Annapolis conference as a diplomatic opportunity rather than as an opportunity to posture for the Republican base.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist | Dec 1, 2007 4:02:18 AM

I agree, it was a lovely statement... and she could have said it seven years ago, too, and pressed much sooner for much more and not watched so much time and so many more lives go wasted. Seven years to figure out that the Clinton Administration was basically on the right track. Again, lovely sentiments. Wasted time.

Posted by: weboy | Dec 1, 2007 7:41:37 AM

I agree, it was a lovely statement... and she could have said it seven years ago, too, and pressed much sooner for much more and not watched so much time and so many more lives go wasted. Seven years to figure out that the Clinton Administration was basically on the right track. Again, lovely sentiments. Wasted time.

Posted by: weboy | Dec 1, 2007 7:45:06 AM

What weboy said. Both times. :-)

Posted by: litbrit | Dec 1, 2007 8:02:58 AM

Do you happen to remember a monster by the name of Arafat? You don't think the reason so much progress has been made so quickly has anything to do with him being dead and Hamas out of the picture for the time being? As long as Arafat was in charge peace was never going to happen. To deny that Clinton, although he did make a great effort, achieved nothing in the way of peace is dishonest. It wasn't for lack of trying or effort but the parties in power at the time didn't want piece and thus it was not to be. The attack on Bush is a foolish argument borne of BDS not fact.

Posted by: Nate O | Dec 1, 2007 8:49:16 AM

Au contraire, Nate O. The reason progress is being made (if it actually is being made) is that Hamas is very much in the picture. Notice how the wheels started turning when Hamas took over Gaza and motivated both Fatah and the Israelis to cobble together some sort of agreement to preempt them?

Posted by: William Burns | Dec 1, 2007 9:55:35 AM

And Nate, Arafat's been dead for a number of years, too. There are plenty of excuses to be made, but there was a way to restart the peace process well before this year, and the Bush Administration squandered pretty much every opportunity. And now, Rice acts if she just suddenly realized there might be another way to solve the mideast crisis. This is not new, and it's late. And nothing Rice said has been materially different during the entire administration - and part of the reason for that is her, not either side.

Posted by: weboy | Dec 1, 2007 10:00:42 AM

It sounds like Rice did really well. I guess she's always been capable. What's changed is that Bush no longer faces any elections (not even a Congressional midterm election), so she is free to treat the Annapolis conference as a diplomatic opportunity rather than as an opportunity to posture for the Republican base.

Well, no. The central fact is that Bush has never treated this conflict as much of a priority for U.S. Middle East policy, contrary to previous presidents. For the first several years of his presidency, the Israelis had a strong right-wing leader who rejected negotiations under fire and knew how to talk Bush's language, while the Palestinians were led by a discredited revolutionary who constantly lied about his dealings with terrorists. 9/11 accentuated those factors, so Bush didn't want much to do with the whole thing, no matter what Rice (or his political base) did or didn't want. But now, the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are both saying that they want to negotiate in order to undermine Teh Evil Terrorists, so Bush is willing to lend his name to the efforts...just so long as they don't expect too much of him, of course.

To reduce the whole picture to Bush's domestic political outlook is to pretend (bizarrely) that Bush really did want to get more involved all along, but felt that he couldn't because his base wouldn't like it. That makes very little sense.

Posted by: Haggai | Dec 1, 2007 10:39:29 AM

Or, to look at it another way, we can't know whether anything would have come from negotiating with Arafat for the last 7 years because the Bush administration was so intensely unwilling to do so.

Posted by: Sam L. | Dec 1, 2007 10:40:35 AM

It would have been hard to negotiate with him in the last 3 years, since he's been dead.

I guess I often forget that people don't always know where I'm coming from on this stuff. Of course Bush was wrong to decrease the priority level of dealing with this conflict below other Middle East issues, and of course it doesn't work to leave things boiling with no mechanism for resolution just because this or that leader seems untrustworthy. All I was doing was pointing out reasons (many of which I disagreed with on the merits) for Bush's actions during his presidency--reasons that actually add up, as opposed to "he's not facing any more elections," which doesn't.

Posted by: Haggai | Dec 1, 2007 10:54:29 AM

Sounds more like its 4th down and 28 yards to go for the Bush legacy and he's got nothing to lose. But, if it works, I'll take it.

Posted by: Texican | Dec 1, 2007 11:42:18 AM

Whatever, that guy hasn't been in a decent movie since Weekend at Bernie's 2.

Posted by: Jason C. | Dec 1, 2007 12:00:44 PM

What Haggai said.

Furthermore, the entire point of US mediation between Palestinians and Israelis has traditionally been to prevent the conflict from escalating too far, as much as both sides might, under other circumstances want the situation to escalate.

Bush, on the other hand, is of the "creative destruction" school of thought, in the Middle East (eg, Iraq), and this extended to his thoughts on Israel and the Palestinians-- that they should metaphorically meet on the plains of Megiddo and then afterwards the situation would be easier to deal with because, as he said "Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things."

Posted by: Tyro | Dec 1, 2007 1:13:02 PM

Condi's such a great woman that she has spent her entire adult life working to eliminate the civil rights that her parents fought so hard for.

Come on.

She's smarter than the rest of the Bush cabal, and because of that she's saner. But that doesn't exactly make her a great person.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 1, 2007 1:53:53 PM

Do you happen to remember a monster by the name of Arafat?

Arafat was a flawed human being (as which of us isn't?) and a politician of limited accomplishments, but he was not a monster. Attempting to dehumanize your adversaries may make you feel all tingly, but it's not a very productive approach to diplomacy or international relations generally.

The attack on Bush is a foolish argument borne of BDS not fact.

Right, Bush has worked wonders in the middle east.

Posted by: Herschel | Dec 1, 2007 4:33:21 PM

in this administration now and in today's Republican Party, she's the voice of sanity

A bar so low a dust mite could clear it.

Posted by: Uncle Kvetch | Dec 1, 2007 5:49:33 PM

Which President do you feel has worked wonders? When exactly in the past 60 years has the ME been a pleasant peaceful place? I would argue the ME is in much better shape now then 10 years ago. We know have peaceful partners with constructive relationships. We still have problems with 3, Iraq, Syria, and Iran, but that’s better then decades ago. Maybe throw Yemen in there who knows what side they are taking this second. The relationships and peace have increased as more countries recognize Israel and develop relations, which started after Israel handed them their ass by the way. Bush has accomplished as much as any other President, which is next to nothing. When it was all said and done what did Clinton have to show for his efforts? Some times you need to grade results not just effort.

“Arafat was a flawed human being (as which of us isn't?)” Your right, I mean hey who here hasn’t participated in the murder of 11 athletes, organized the murder of women and children via terrorist acts, and isn’t at least partially responsible for the deaths of thousands. History has shown pandering to terrorist and mass murders to not be very productive either.

If you have parties that are using the peace process to cover for continued violence what purpose are you serving? Arafat would sit at the table for decades if we let him, they continually attacked Israel the entire time and if Israel responded they where accused of hurting the piece process. They would never make piece with Arafat and Hamas. Now that both are away from the table they can make peace with Abbas. It’ not complete piece on the entire ME but its better then open conflict. Every part of the ME that turns the corner and makes piece with Israel is a step in the right direction and puts more pressure on the few remaining countries/territories that have not. Being at piece with 10/13 of the ME is better then 9/13 no?

Posted by: Nate O | Dec 1, 2007 6:08:43 PM

If only we could go back to the Carter day's the ME was so great for America those days right?

Posted by: Nate O | Dec 1, 2007 6:09:41 PM

If only we could go back to the Carter day's the ME was so great for America those days right?

When was the last time Israel and Egypt went to war? When was the last time Egypt was considered within the Soviet orbit?

I don't think anyone really refers Arafat "a monster," outside of a few freaks, and those are the same freaks singing the praises of Ariel Sharon and Yitzak Shamir, so I generally ignore that crowd.

Posted by: Tyro | Dec 1, 2007 6:35:25 PM

As a Jew who has lived in Israel (and a person in general filled with contempt for Condi Rice), I have to agree with her sentiments. While in Israel, I came to see the orthodox Jews and settlers as fully equal to Palestinian extremists in their will to prevent the peace process from moving forward.

Nevertheless, there is something peculiar about this time in history that sets it apart from the past. The Palestinian government is currently divided into two factions, neither of which will recognize any commitments made by the other. There is at present no one on the Palestinian side who can deliver on any concessions that they might make. Until this situation is resolved, there is no hope for a stable peace process.

Posted by: Carl from L.A. | Dec 1, 2007 8:57:23 PM

Delivering on concessions? This is a worry?

There exists a rather clear Arab proposal, "Saudi plan" or whatever you may call it. Israel can make an offer, either something long term, or perhaps something about checkpoints, illegal settlements and some such. I expect zero.

Not because they are monsters, but because any offer like that may lead to some bother, and to withstand it, and Israeli prime minister has to show that he was "fighting to get the best deal". But there is no fight, so any concession would be out of Israeli sense of goodness, and this is an electoral looser (even if Olmert would contemplate something like that for a fleeting moment). Israel is strong with weak government, Palestinians are totally weak, USA is totally indifferent. Ergo, nothing will happen.

And yeah, Rice is perhaps not totally indifferent, but is Cheney interested? Remember that he is our velayet-e-faqih, the ruler over the ruler.

Posted by: piotr | Dec 1, 2007 9:44:33 PM

“Arafat was a flawed human being (as which of us isn't?)” Your right, I mean hey who here hasn’t participated in the murder of 11 athletes, organized the murder of women and children via terrorist acts, and isn’t at least partially responsible for the deaths of thousands. History has shown pandering to terrorist and mass murders to not be very productive either.

Okay, I'll see your Munich and raise you Sabra and Shatila. By that metric, who is the bigger monster, Arafat or Sharon? The problem with views like yours is that you locate all wickedness on the side of the Palestinians, no matter how clearly victimized and oppressed they are, and all virtue on the side of Israel, no matter how destructive or oppressive its actions. That approach will never, ever lead to peace for either side. Stop it.

Posted by: Herschel | Dec 1, 2007 11:28:51 PM

"To reduce the whole picture to Bush's domestic political outlook is to pretend (bizarrely) that Bush really did want to get more involved all along, but felt that he couldn't because his base wouldn't like it."

I guess I didn't explain too clearly, so let me try again. I don't think that Bush is capable of caring deeply about anything besides himself. The 2004 election was a referendum on Bush, and the 2002 and 2006 elections were probably viewed by Bush as referendums on Bush as well. (The haste with which he dumped Rumsfeld after the 2006 election supports this.) With the 2006 election over, all he has left to worry about is his "legacy." Rice, who is strongly committed to Bush (in a Freudian slip, she once referred to Bush as her husband), is trying to improve his legacy (and perhaps salvage her own reputation), and to do that she needs to actually accomplish something. That, in my view, is why she is now trying hard to do something about the Iraeli/Palestian conflict.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist | Dec 2, 2007 2:26:57 AM

Well Rice is only half as ineffectual as Sec of State as she was as NSA so that is something.

Posted by: When is the principals meeting? | Dec 2, 2007 4:15:08 AM

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