You remember that old Donovan song, Juanita, whose lyrics go: “First there is a mountain then there is no mountain then there is?” Well, yesterday’s meeting of Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Mahmoud Abbas made me think of that song and the shifting sands that are Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. From the San Jose Mercury News:
Israel wants to reopen a serious dialogue with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and work with him to establish a Palestinian state, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday.
Livni spoke after meeting Monday with Abbas in New York, in the first working session between high-ranking Israeli and Palestinian officials in four months…
“I don’t see this as one meeting and each side checks off a box and goes home,” Livni told Israel’s Army Radio about her talks with Abbas on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. “The idea is to establish a permanent channel of dialogue.”
Wasn’t this the same Tzipi Livni quoted in this NY Times article only six months ago:
Israel’s foreign minister said Sunday that Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was “no longer relevant” in a Palestinian government that will soon be led by the militant Islamic group Hamas…
Ms. Livni told Israel radio that Mr. Abbas…”cannot serve as the pretty face of ugly terrorism, which is hiding behind him.”
“I think it will be a mistake to take comfort in the arms of Abu Mazen as the sole legitimate figure,” she said. “The ball is in the Palestinian court now, and the future Hamas government has to do something with it, and Abu Mazen, in this context, is no longer relevant.”
Amazing how someone dismissed as an ineffectual figurehead a few months ago can all of a sudden become your best bud. And this, of course, is the problem with Israeli policy. It flits from one extreme to another, flirts with one approach (remember ‘convergence’?) and then backs off only to fall head over heels with another. There is no consistency, there is no plan, there is no “there” there.
You’ll also recall Sharon and Olmert’s dismissal of the Road Map as being irrelevant to Israel’s view of the peace process. Then out of the blue last week, an Olmert desperate for something, anything peace-like on which to hang his hat starts talking up the Road Map as if it’s always been his best friend.
This is the mark of someone who scurries about looking for a political angle, for momentary advantage in the game of scoring points. It is not the mark of a statesman who can lead his people to peace.