The rules of decorum are binding: Welcome - to the U.S. Secretary of State and United Nations secretary-general, who have come here, and to the German chancellor, who is due next week. But the rules of logic are no less binding, and we must ask: So, why have you come?
All three have declared that they are coming here to further a solution. But this whole show, we must tell them, is no more than a ridiculous masked ball: In their pointless and fruitless visits, they only perpetuate and entrench the conflict that most threatens world peace.
The fact that all three boycott the elected Palestinian prime minister predetermines that there is no chance for progress. This blind trio is looking in the wrong place. If they really wished to contribute, they would have to do two things: meet with Ismail Haniyeh and pressure him to recognize Israel, and meet with Ehud Olmert and pressure him to put an end to the occupation. Without these two elements - nothing will move forward.
It is hard to understand how once again Israel manages to coerce the international community to dance to its tune. After it dragged the world into a futile boycott of Yasser Arafat, it now drags them into a boycott of Haniyeh, and thus only serves the desired aim of the government, which holds the key to ending the conflict: to reject any negotiations.
Europe and the United States must understand that the Palestinian unity government has created a partner. They must also understand that it is impossible to make peace with half the leadership and that it is precisely the presence of Hamas in the government that will ensure that every solution reached can be implemented.
Boycotting the elected prime minister only because this is what the rejectionist front in Israel and Washington want is an act of folly. A visit to the Palestinian Authority while boycotting the prime minister is pointless.
Democracy is an exalted value for the United States. Yet, when the PA became the only place in the Arab world in which free elections were held, the rest of the world turned its back on it. What does the world wish to signal to the Palestinians? That elections are a just mechanism, but only if the results are predetermined? This is a blatantly anti-democratic message for the budding Palestinian democracy. It is also a negative message with respect to nonviolence: Hamas, which adopted a cease-fire, is not receiving any political return.
If it is possible to understand this boycott visit of Condoleezza Rice, the mother of the boycott doctrine, and also perhaps that of Angela Merkel, whose country needs to tread carefully concerning its policies vis-a-vis Israel - it is impossible to understand the boycott on the part of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Who appointed him to boycott an elected prime minister? Was there a decision by the UN General Assembly that the world should boycott the unity government? Is this how an honest broker behaves?
It is no less revolting that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is playing along with this charade. If he were a leader of some standing, he would tell his guests: "Ahlan wa sahlan [welcome] - but no boycotts." And he would say: I also have an intense debate with my prime minister, but that argument needs to be settled with dialogue, not by boycott. You wish to meet with me? Then also meet with Haniyeh. You want to invite me to Washington? Then include my senior partner.
In the absence of a courageous stance, Abbas appears to be a weak leader. Perhaps not a chick, but surely a puppet - just like Israel and the U.S. wish him to be.
This is all the more true regarding the economic boycott. Those who want to see political progress need also to seek improvement in the inhuman living conditions in the territories. The world has to dull the pain of the occupation. By preventing aid to the Palestinians, the boycotters become full-fledged accomplices to the injustice of the Israeli occupation. An ostracizing world cannot make any demands of Israel when it comes to occupation.
Israel should be the main interested party in ending the boycott. If it truly wished for peace, it should have welcomed the establishment of a unity government, and it should encourage world leaders to meet with its leadership. Whom does the boycott - which is pushing Hamas into the arms of Iran - serve? Not Israel and not the chances for peace.
Today, when the red carpets are being unrolled in Ramallah and Jerusalem, it has become clear: This is a dangerous masked ball.
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