Was it a spontaneous kiss, like Haim Ramon's? Was it planned by both parties in advance of the summit dinner? Or was it a little surprise cooked up by Ehud Olmert? One way or another, Abu Mazen's face paled a little, as if he were about to faint, when our prime minister planted that pair of kisses on his cheeks.
From the mortified look on his face, the president of the Palestinian Authority was probably visualizing all the ridicule, anger and sarcastic comments that would be waiting for him at home: Over here we're starving, and you sit there eating osso buco and trading kisses with the leader of the Jews.
Okay, so it's all the rage nowadays at social gatherings of the penthouse and villa crowd to peck people on the check. According to my dictionary, there are two categories: the kissable and the kissers. But politicians in this country mainly shake hands, or slap each other on the back.
The only memorable kissing scene in Israeli politics took place on the stage of the Ohel Theater in 1965, at the Mapai convention where David Ben-Gurion split from the party and established Rafi. Moshe Sharett, terminally ill and sitting in a wheelchair, raked his bitter foe, Ben-Gurion, over the coals. When he was done, Golda Meir walked over and planted a big kiss on his forehead. Ben-Gurion's men dubbed it the "kiss of the Black Widow," after the poisonous spider.
Prime Minister Yitzkak Rabin, who hated physical contact in any shape or form, broke out in a sweat at the Oslo Accords signing ceremony on the White House lawn when Yasser Arafat grabbed both his hands and wouldn't let go, to the point where Rabin practically had to pry himself free.
Olmert's kiss was clearly a source of embarrassment for the two Fatah leaders, Abbas and Qureia. The smile that froze on their faces gave it away. So why did he do it? Couldn't he see that Hamas and Palestinian public opinion would eat them for lunch? Was it a local version of the Mafia custom where the rat fink in the family gets a kiss before he's blown away? It was a kiss of the "kiss the dust" variety.
It took Olmert eight hours to decide on the 33-Day War in Lebanon. I wonder how much time he spent thinking about "Operation Kiss." In what forum was this plan discussed? The Knesset plenary? The defense cabinet? Was it another one of Dan Halutz's ideas? Did someone hit the turbo button?
If the purpose of these kisses was to convey the impression that we have embarked on the path to dialogue and concessions, it wasn't very convincing. What did Olmert think? That kisses could compensate for his 10-month refusal to meet with Abu Mazen? Apparently so.
Like the European settlers, who bought diamonds and gold in Africa for mirrors and glass beads, Olmert tried to create the illusion of turning over a new leaf with gestures like hanging a Palestinian flag next to the Israeli flag, and addressing Abu Mazen as "president," which has always been taboo. As a bonus, Olmert presented his wife, Aliza. Abu Mazen could have kissed Her Majesty's hand, but being the gentleman that he is, he made do with a handshake.
At summit dinners like these, it is customary to exchange gifts and mementos. Olmert promised to unfreeze 100 million of the 500 million dollars belonging to the Palestinian Authority and hand it over to his guests, a dribble at a time. He promised to "work on" eliminating some of the checkpoints in the West Bank, and generally consider releasing a few dozen prisoners (mostly PLO members), out of the thousands that Israel is holding, before Gilad Shalit is set free.
What harm would it have done if Olmert had saved his kisses and, instead, given back all the frozen assets and released a large number of "valued" prisoners, in order to strengthen the "president" in his fight against Hamas and motivate him to do more to stop the Qassam rockets?
It could have been the start of a beautiful friendship, to quote the immortal parting words of the movie "Casablanca," if the two figures swallowed up in the dark of the night, heading into the unknown future, were not a pair of feeble leaders who want, but can't.
P.S. There was evening, there was morning, and four Qassams hit Israel. One Qassam for every kiss.
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