Amo, Hamas, Amat
Actual high-level diplomacy in the Middle East — who woulda thunk the Bush regime was capable of such a thing? Yet there was Condoleezza Rice yesterday, officially breaking the ice with Hamas.
Americans remain flooded by news of the Virginia Tech massacre — a dump of coverage that saved beleaguered faux banker Paul Wolfowitz from continued widely publicized embarrassments, such as the Government Accountability Project's scoop that Wolfie's ex-flunky Doug Feith ordered a Defense contractor back in 2003 to hire Wolfie's gal pal, Shaha Ali Riza, for an Iraq project.
Meanwhile, Rice flashed her gums, instead of the War Department's guns, to make a diplomatic point that could help slow down the Palestinian-Israeli death dance that used to feature such depressing scenes as joint appearances by doubleplusunpeaceniks Ariel Sharon and Dick Cheney.
In an unannounced — but not unplanned — move, the Secretary of State stopped by an April 17 meeting at the State Department between one of her assistants, David Welch, and Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad to shake hands with Fayyad.
As usual, the New York Times got scooped, running only wire accounts. However, the L.A. Times and Washington Post got it. The Virginia Tech massacre did shove the Post piece all the way back to A19 in the Post's print edition. But it's worth reading (thank you, U.S. warmongers, for the Internet) because until now, high-level U.S. officials had been careful to shun all members of the Palestinian government, even Fayyad, who's regarded as a smart moderate and who worked for years in the U.S. at the World Bank's International Monetary Fund.
A U.S.-led boycott on the transfer of international funds has crippled the new Palestinian government, but Rice's gesture toward Fayyad brought hope of a thaw.
Fayyad recognized the irony, as the Post's Glenn Kessler writes:
Yeah, but at least it's something, he recognized, and he spoke positively about it. Rice's steps toward sanity came only two days after Israel's Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas held a precedent-shattering meeting at which they actually talked about talking about peace.
Kessler's story this morning notes that this was Rice's first meeting with a person in the Hamas-led Palestinian "unity" government:
But Rice, at least, is finally straying from the neocon script and seems to be playing the game of international politics the way others do. In that game, such visits and handshakes aren't officially scheduled and they don't come up during daily press briefings (see for yourself). Then, senior diplomatic officials reach out to reporters with spins of such unannounced meetings. Kessler writes:
Is it possible that U .S. policy in the Middle East will finally detach itself form the clutches of hard-line fanatics in the U.S. and Israel?
The Israeli daily Haaretz reports the Rice-Fayyad meeting, quoting Fayyad as saying the U.S. is thinking of lifting its ban on international banking with the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Fayyad even says, "Things are evolving in a positive way."
Maybe someone at Foggy Bottom is finally listening to people like General Anthony Zinni, who tried to argue years ago that the U.S. should be focusing on stopping the madness between Jews and Arabs in Israel instead of inflaming passions with a military adventure elsewhere in the Middle East. As I recently once again quoted Zinni as saying way back in 2004 about the invasion of Iraq: