A black stretch limousine, of the sort in which Hollywood stars pamper themselves, pulled up on Thursday at the headquarters of the Mossad intelligence agency, north of Tel Aviv. On the roof of the limousine flashed the blue light of a security vehicle and out stepped three men - Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; Ambassador Marc Otte, the EU ambassador to Israel; and Oded Eran, Israel's ambassador to the European Union. Otte and Eran accompanied Solana in his talk with Mossad chief Meir Dagan, in one of the Mossad guest rooms.
This was not Solana's first meeting with Dagan - "I've known him since he was [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's advisor" - nor was it his debut appearance at Mossad headquarters. Solana, formerly the foreign minister of Spain and the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a regular interlocutor with the heads of the security system. After the visit at the Mossad, he had a meeting scheduled with Shin Bet security service head Avi Dichter, not far from there, for a discussion of the situation in the Palestinian arena.
Solana had originally been scheduled to dine that evening with Dichter, on the best delicacies the Shin Bet has to offer. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lured Solana to Israel in order to discuss European aid for the disengagement from Gaza, but between the idea and its realization the European countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against the route of the separation fence in the West Bank.
Thus it happened that Solana landed at Ben-Gurion Airport two days too late; his cheeks were slapped, not kissed. His invitations to meals - a breakfast with Sharon, the dinner with Dichter and a luncheon with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom - were demonstratively canceled. He reacted with silent frustration and acerbic restraint, praising his bitter foe Silvan Shalom and Trade and Industry Minister Ehud Olmert for signing the agreement on rules of origin, which is like a stop sign for products from the Jewish settlements in the territories.
Solan met with Dagan during a bad period for the head of the Mossad, a personal and political appointment of Sharon's. In his efforts to solve the crossword puzzle of the top echelon of the Mossad, he got confused between "across" and "down;" and the resounding failure in New Zealand earned him the proverbial yellow card - another foul-up like that and he is out of the game.
Dagan came to his meeting with Solana armed with a fluent and orderly philosophy, but his guest did not come armed with a mood to be convinced. This was not exactly a conversation, said Solana afterward - how much conversation is possible in 45 minutes? It was a briefing.
Dagan had three emphases: Iran is building up its nuclear capacity, the danger of terror from the international jihad is increasing, and the northern front is threatened by Syria and Hezbollah missiles and rockets. Solana did not disagree with the danger inherent in Iran's nuclear program, but refrained from joining in the obvious operational conclusion. When he was asked afterward about support for a military operation to destroy Iran's nuclear capability, he responded by noting the exaggeration in the intelligence on Iraq.
Europe's message to Israel, to translate it from diplomat-speak, is that U.S. President George W. Bush is a friend but not a soloist, and that anyone who wants more aid, in Gaza as in Iraq, is kindly requested to take annoying positions into account, as he sees it.
On the eve of his visit to Israel, Solana held a multi-lateral consultation with the foreign ministers of Egypt and of the countries that border on Iraq - Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Each of them has an independent policy and various aspirations in Iraq, but all of them have a common interest in its stability.
What has Europe to do with Iraq? The same as it has to do with Gaza. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is happening in Europe's backyard and threatening to spill over into its borders, and Europe is prepared to invest in its resolution, among other things by covering for Egypt, which is apprehensive about taking exclusive responsibility for the Gaza Strip after the Israel Defense Forces withdraw. The EU will agree to provide a measure of presence, including uniformed personnel, to participate in the instruction and training of Palestinian security and administrative elements, in order to show that Egypt is not there alone. This is not a favor to Israel - it is of essential importance to Europe. And what is Europe asking for in return for enlisting in the withdrawal? Just some good attitude.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now