Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pausing for Condi?

She's been here before; she'll probably be here again, but you can't deny that the government of Israel certainly puts out the welcome mat for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Just to make her visit all that less unpleasant, Israel withdrew its forces from the northern Gaza Strip, unable to have dealt a blow to the Hamas missilers. That's all she needed -- another visit to the region while guns and missiles are blazing. She can certainly say: "Been there; done that." Back at the end of July, 2006, when Israel was trying to stop a more formidable missile menace from Lebanon, Condi was conferring with Olmert et al. just as word of the air strike at Qana arrived. Boy, was that ever embarassing! So none of that this time, no matter what the downside might be.

Truth is, the Israeli pullout from Gaza comes after a measurable downturn in Hamas missile launches. Whether the limited supply of Grad rockets (range about 13 miles; warhead about 15 lbs) has been expended, or Hamas has sufficiently made its point for now, there is a palpable sense that the threatening posturing of both sides has receded in the last 24 hours, as Gazans and Israelis celebrate their respective pyrrhic victories.

Condi will be gone soon enough, with no real resolution, and the only "progress" she can possibly hope to achieve is a resumption of the now-suspended "consultations" between the West Bank Palestinian regime and the Israelis. In other words, for Condi the only measure of success will be returning to the deadlock of a week ago, before the rockets fell on Ashqelon. So much for an agreement between Israel and Palestine by year's end (as promised by lame duck Dubya when he visited the region in January). Two months into this supposedly fateful year, and the region is in worse shape now than when empty promises were thrown into the air just 4 months ago in Annapolis. Anyone who expected otherwise -- well, that is the true meaning of the audacity of hope.

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