I have already done a post on a story. To keep things even, as it were, I now refer the reader to today's opinion piece by David Ignatius. I was quite stunned to read that the United States will be hosting peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in Annapolis later this month or early next month:
It's an unlikely recipe for peace: Take one unpopular Israeli prime minister still suffering from setbacks in Lebanon; add one politically weak Palestinian president who has lost control of part of his territory; fold in lukewarm support from Arab states. Now, beat the mixture with an energetic secretary of state and cook over high heat.
The diplomat in the chef's hat, Condoleezza Rice, hopes to produce something palatable in time for a big peace conference in Annapolis in late November or the first half of December. The conference will bring together Israelis and Palestinians, along with a coterie of Arab and international officials. The goal is a document that will commit everyone to creation of a Palestinian state and recognition of the state of Israel.
Ignatius goes on to discuss the possibility of substantive progress in this area (which, in a sane universe, would have been a top priority for a United States hell-bent on military action in the Arab world) without ever once discussing two relative points that might put Rice's venture into some kind of perspective.
In the fall of 2000, President Clinton initiated a peace conference at Camp David between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Substantively, the entire process became a bone of contention, as Barak stormed out of the meeting, refusing to discuss the terms set out by President Clinton. The entire process has since become mired in controversy, as the terms of the agreement proposed by Pres. Clinton, and accepted by Arafat and rejected by Barak, have been hashed, rehashed, discussed, disputed, belittled, and dismissed. At the time, however, the most salient feature of the entire process was the way it was framed in the press. The infection of horrid framing by the press spread overseas, as is evident in this story from the UK's Telegraph newspaper, datelined January 9, 2001. The opening sentence sums up the stupid way the entire issue was framed:
BILL CLINTON'S hopes of ending his presidency with a Middle East peace agreement were dashed yesterday as opinion hardened on both sides against his proposals.
The discussion of the peace conference centered not on the merits, or lack thereof, of President Clinton's proposal. The discussion did not focus on the possible results of either Israeli or Palestinian concessions on what had been, until then, points upon which neither side refused to yield. The entire event became focused on Pres. Clinton, and how he was trying to burnish his "legacy" with some kind of breakthrough on Israeli-Palestinian peace. In fact, one might have thought that even if this were an issue of substantive importance, there might have been some consideration of what a successful summit might have meant for the future of the United States' dealings with the Arab states in the region, as well as Israel.
The stories, almost compulsively, centered on how the entire thing was nothing more than Bill Clinton trying to do something positive for his "legacy". I wonder if we will hear stories about how George Bush is trying to burnish his legacy with a breakthrough on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? Probably not, actually, because even the institutionally developmentally disabled press corps knows two things:
1) Relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis are so bad right now, and (as Ignatius points out very clearly) the leaders of both nations are so weakened right now, that any substantive deal would only be preliminary to further discussions.
2) This is Condi's deal. Pres. George W. Bush has neither the intellect, time, nor temperament to come up with a plan and serve as a moderator of serious diplomatic negotiation. In actual fact, Sec. of State Rice doesn't either, but the press pretends she does because she has the letter "Ph.D." after her name.
Here is the other thing we are forgetting - Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has no legitimacy. Not even in the State Department. Indeed, as Tbogg reminded us on Friday, this week has been, for Madam Secretary, the "Very Bad Not-So-Good I-Wish-I-Was-Shoe-Shopping Week". So, along with a weakened leader of Israel, a Palestinian leader whose party has no control over half his territory and an incipient civil war on his hands, we have a hostess and moderator who has zero credibility here or abroad. Don't believe me? See what they're doing to her image in Ankara:
This is a recipe for success. Not.