In the past I have been a fan and admirer of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Indeed, it is my fond hope that when the George W. Bush Administration ends, she will return to Stanford, and prepare for a U.S. Senate run to contest the seat now held by Barbara Boxer.
However, currently, Secretary of State Rice appears to be morphing into Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In a desperate effort to insulate the Bush foreign policy legacy from the Iraq controversy, she has flung herself into the Big Muddy River of Middle East diplomacy. As Irving Kristol once memorably remarked, "Whom the gods would destroy, they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict."
For the probable consequences of this late-game attempt by a U.S. President to bring peace to the Middle East, we need only look back to the July 2000 Camp David peace conference, the failure of which led to the eruption of the Second Intifada and almost constant violence ever since. Although Bill Clinton is not a person prone to reflection and self-criticism, in his memoirs, My Life, Clinton called Camp David "the failure of my life." He wrote:
"Right before I left office, Arafat thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a great man I was. 'Mr Chairman,' I replied, 'I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me a failure.'"
Please read what Caroline Glick, the Senior Middle Eastern Fellow for Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, had to say about Secretary's Rice quixotic quest in last week in the Jerusalem Post. She notes that although the U.S. needs Egypt and Saudi Arabia to play an active positive role at the conference, those two nations are thwarting the U.S. policy of isolating Hamas, by encouraging a Hamas-Fatah reapproachment. Frustrated in that direction, Secretary Rice has predictably reacted by putting pressure for concessions on the only party over which the U.S. has leverage, Israel. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in turn, sensing the desperation of the Bush Administration and the Olmert government in Israel, is expanding his pre-conference demands, despite his political inability to deliver on any agreement he might make:
Over the past week, Abbas announced his adherence to maximal Palestinian demands from Israel. These include the full transfer of sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians; the complete surrender of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians; and an Israeli acceptance of the so-called "right of return" that would force Israel to accept millions of foreign Arabs as immigrants within its truncated borders. Abbas's stances are a reflection of his inability to make any concessions for peace.
The failure of Rice's summit will directly benefit Hamas, which will be able to say that as it had warned, diplomacy is pointless. Understanding this, Abbas himself has let it be known that he is negotiating with Hamas. Then too, ahead of his meeting this past Wednesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas dispatched his representatives to threaten Israel with war.
For an appropriate metaphor for Secretary Rice's diplomatic fantasy, Glick is compelled to look to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:
Rice is dragging Israel with her in her madcap descent down the diplomatic rabbit hole - and not for the first time. Rice has a record of forcing Israel to sacrifice its security in the interest of her "peace" processes.
In November 2005, Rice coerced then-prime minister Ariel Sharon into accepting her agreement on the passages joining Gaza to Egypt and Israel. That agreement denied Israel the ability to prevent terrorists and arms from being smuggled into Gaza. This week's Egyptian agreement to allow some 90 Hamas terrorists - many of whom underwent military training in Iran and Syria - to enter Gaza was easily implemented in spite of Israeli objections in large part as a consequence of Rice's heavy-handed treatment of Israel.
So too, Rice forced Israel to agree to have US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton train and arm Fatah forces in Gaza. That disastrous plan led to the indirect US arming of Hamas when Fatah forces surrendered their weapons to Hamas without a fight in June. And of course, Rice was the architect of the cease-fire with Hizbullah last year that has enabled the Iranian terror group to rearm and to reassert its control over south Lebanon.
Apparently hoping to avoid an association with the failed Camp David peace conference, the Administration has chosen to locate its international Middle East peace conference, tentatively scheduled for November 2007, in Annapolis. Unfortunately, as Ms. Glick demonstrates, the conference not only remains in the same State as Camp David (Maryland), but also is trapped by the same state of mind--achievement of an agreement at all costs, and no matter what the ultimate cost to Israel.