About 12 years ago James Baker was in Israel on one of his visits.
He was already a former secretary of state at the time, but still wielded considerable influence. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin held a dinner for him at his residence, to which I, a minister in his cabinet, was invited too. The evening was pleasant, but mainly, it was interesting. In a collective attack of feeble-minded candor, the participants opened their hearts.
I remember Baker's words on that night clearly. "I know," he said, "that in Israel I am always suspect. I am not regarded as a friend here. Some of you believe that I am too tough, that my hidden agenda is to impose an agreement. This is a complete misunderstanding of my position. A day will come and you will realize that I, of all people, was a true friend of Israel."
And that day has come - with the release of the Baker-Hamilton report. Only one who lives from hand to mouth, from one news bulletin to the next, from an off-the-cuff speech in Herzliya to an off-the-wall speech in Sde Boker, could continue to describe Baker as harboring "anti-Israeli prejudices." Only someone obstinately plotting, manipulating, surviving at any price and waging a rearguard battle, could turn Baker at this time into another link in the axis of evil.
Of course, one could pick on some seemingly weak point or other in the report. But the document's great advantage is not in points but in lines; and all the lines lead to the correct, inevitable blueprint for settling the Israeli-Arab conflict. There is no alternative, only false substitutes and short-term spins.
If President George Bush rejects the report or ignores it, if he yet again spares us the rod of reality in the Middle East - it would not be from love of Israel, but from hatred. Someone who allows a blind man to walk along the edge of a cliff is only setting him up for a fall.
Ehud Olmert and his ministers are the blind man, and so far a lame administration has been carrying them on its shoulders toward the marsh triangle - Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, while Iran led the lost American-Israeli convoy astray.
The cripple and his rider sank into the mud. Perhaps now they will switch roles - the blind will carry the lame and with draining but combined strength they will manage to move forward, not only to wallow.
The first responses to the report are not at all encouraging, especially the comments made in "Olmert's vicinity." "There is no cause for concern," responded the autistic vicinity, which remains unmoved. "The sky hasn't fallen down on us," reports the prime minister's bureau, noting that "Israel is mentioned in only three of the 79 recommendations, and in any case the president won't adopt the recommendations."
Did the officials from the prime minister's bureau not read the report? Did they read it but fail to understand? Is the Israeli government completely out of touch with the altered political situation in America? Will a faltering president who managed to get rid of his good friend Donald (Rumsfeld) and his eager servant John (Bolton) have any trouble shaking off the blind man on his back, if his sole desire is to save himself from the Iraqi curse? If all he wants now is to save his name from the wrath of history, lurking in wait for him in a dark corner?
An earthquake is taking place in Washington, and Jerusalem doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. One gets the impression that it is not Nasrallah who has been hiding in a bunker since the war, but Olmert, who has not been exposed to what is clear as the light of day.
After the designated secretary of defense, Robert Gates, warned this week against military action against Iran, confirmed the possibility of a nuclear attack on Israel and linked the Iranian nuclear program to Israel's, let us call out to Israel's prime minister: Olmert, Olmert, come out, call George on the telephone urgently and tell him: "Dear President, I haven't had time to have a first thought yet, but on second thought, this report isn't so terrible after all and Baker himself is not selling Israel down the river.
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