It’s a peace initiative, Charlie Brown

One wonders when Arab publics are finally going to get tired of having their chains yanked by their own leaders. Here’s what happens: A senior U.S. official, be it Secretary of State Condi Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, or the prez himself, visits Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Arab allies of the United States to ...

601879_070515_charliebrown_05.jpg
601879_070515_charliebrown_05.jpg

One wonders when Arab publics are finally going to get tired of having their chains yanked by their own leaders. Here's what happens: A senior U.S. official, be it Secretary of State Condi Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, or the prez himself, visits Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Arab allies of the United States to line up support for the latest U.S. initiative in the region. The usual quid pro quo is that the United States must make a public show of pressuring the Israelis to make strides on the Palestinian front, which is quietly dropped after a decent interval.

So it's no shock that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is announcing his readiness to negotiate with Arab leaders just as Cheney finishes his tour of the region. The Bush administration knows that Olmert is far too weak to cut any sort of deal right now: Witness Condi Rice's recent cancellation of a planned trip to Israel to talk about peace negotiations. So this move by Olmert is probably just the currency paid for Arab support vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran.

Perhaps Arab leaders are being naïve. More likely, they understand the political realities all too well. They're manipulating their publics in order to try and show that they really care about the Palestinians. With little risk that they'll actually have to make painful concessions to the Israelis, making it look like they really know how to use their leverage with the United States is a no-brainer. How long can they play this cynical game and get away with it?

One wonders when Arab publics are finally going to get tired of having their chains yanked by their own leaders. Here’s what happens: A senior U.S. official, be it Secretary of State Condi Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, or the prez himself, visits Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Arab allies of the United States to line up support for the latest U.S. initiative in the region. The usual quid pro quo is that the United States must make a public show of pressuring the Israelis to make strides on the Palestinian front, which is quietly dropped after a decent interval.

So it’s no shock that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is announcing his readiness to negotiate with Arab leaders just as Cheney finishes his tour of the region. The Bush administration knows that Olmert is far too weak to cut any sort of deal right now: Witness Condi Rice’s recent cancellation of a planned trip to Israel to talk about peace negotiations. So this move by Olmert is probably just the currency paid for Arab support vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran.

Perhaps Arab leaders are being naïve. More likely, they understand the political realities all too well. They’re manipulating their publics in order to try and show that they really care about the Palestinians. With little risk that they’ll actually have to make painful concessions to the Israelis, making it look like they really know how to use their leverage with the United States is a no-brainer. How long can they play this cynical game and get away with it?

(Hat tip: Eric Martin

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