Washington Sits on Its Hands

The terms we routinely use for our situation are beginning to sound more literary than political. "Road map" could be from a Shlomo Artzi song performed by the Gevatron. "Political horizon" is a phrase that suggests we're dealing with poetry, not politics.

The horizon, in the Israeli-Arab context, is not an especially successful image. Every child knows that a horizon is tricky; the closer you approach the farther it moves out of reach. The Middle East does not need horizons, it needs leaders with horizons, and they better be broad ones. But the world of this region's leaders - both ours and theirs - is as narrow as an ant's - another image taken from poetry.

Condoleezza Rice and Tzipi Livni borrowed the horizon from old Hollywood movies, which they must have loved in their romantic period. Rice and Livni are walking arm in arm toward the distant horizon, but this heavenly gliding is usually toward the sunset, while we here are still waiting for the sun to rise. This beautiful betrothal also marks the happy ending to this movie, we're still waiting for it to begin.

If Condoleezza Rice won't or can't do what is required in this explosive region, then it is not clear why she insists on not doing it here. To do nothing she could stay in the White House with her best friend, whom she serves with blind obedience. It is also much more convenient to do nothing in Washington, because here it is much more dangerous and desperate Levantines might threaten the safety of the entire world.

The negotiations between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas will reportedly not include the three core issues - Jerusalem, refugees and borders. After three such hieroglyphic nos it is difficult to detect the remains of a single yes. Rice is already familiar with the powers-that-aren't and she should know by now that they are prisoners of their own device. Olmert's hands are tied and Abbas' feet are chained. Scared of their own shadow, they won't move. Someone must release them from their bondage, but there is nobody to do so. That someone is now busy up to his neck in Iraq.

Instead of going from here to Riyadh, Rice preferred to return to Washington. How could she come to the Arab summit conference with empty hands? Once again the United States is missing an opportunity, for the umpteenth time, and who knows when it will present itself again.

The Saudi initiative, despite its flaws, is a good blueprint; there's no better one in sight on the "political horizon." A serious person, who also happens to be secretary of state, would not have let it slip away. He would have grabbed it by the horns and not let go until all the sides accepted it - a comprehensive peace with all the Arab and Muslim states in exchange for complete withdrawal from all the occupied territories. That's the deal basically, there is no other, and all the other controversies, including the Palestinian refugees issue, will be settled in negotiations and only by mutual consent.

But Rice made do with stating "I came to open doors and not to close them." She came, she said, she left. Maybe someone told her that in six days' time, on Seder night, we all leave a door open for a prophet. But Elijah has not come yet. Will George?