Friday, May 2, 2008

Condi Advances her Chutzpah Count

Condoleeza Rice may continue to lag behind her boss, George W. Bush, when it comes to the number of Chutzpah of the Week awards; but she is still steadily advancing her count. Actually, this week turned into a tough call between the two of them. Bush was there with his $770 million food aid package, which might finally have thrown the guy into a humanitarian light had he not tacked the allocation on to his $70 billion Iraq war budget (the operative phrase being "tacked on," as opposed to reallocating some of that Iraq budget to wage peace rather than war). However, having just read the Al Jazeera English account of Condi's moves in preparing for today's Middle East peace talks, I decided that, this week at least, hers is the greater arrogance of power. Here is how Al Jazeera English reported her remarks prior to the meeting:

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has criticised Arab countries for "dragging their feet" on the Middle East peace process and not contributing enough to the Palestinian cause.

Rice made the remarks ahead of Middle East peace talks on Friday with foreign ministers from the Middle East Quartet in London.

The Quartet comprises of representatives from the US, Russia, the UN and the EU.

Rice said "[Arab] states that have resources ought to be looking not for how little they can do but how much they can do".

"Countries that have resources and that have an interest in the establishment of a Palestinian state need to put those resources at use now in order to lay the groundwork for the establishment of that state."

Coincidentally, the May 1 issue of The New York Review contained the latest analysis by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley (who have been filing these dispatches probably for about ten years) on the extent of progress (or lack thereof) towards an enduring peace between Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East. The chutzpah in Rice's remarks basically concerns a "target bias." Everything she says may well be valid; but it is equally valid for Israel, which also has many "resources" that could be committed to good-neighbor relations with Palestine as an alternative to the current relationship, which, at least in the area of Gaza, seems to involve little more than mutual target-practice.

A recurring theme in the Agha-Malley analyses involves the extent to which the United States can legitimately present itself as an "honest broker" in moderating dialogs between Israel and any of the Arab countries. Since the Arab's are as aware as the rest of us of the high level of lobbying influenced exercised by organizations such as AIPAC, they have every right to be suspicious of our "honest broker" posturing. So, when a new round of dialogs is about to begin, prefacing the meeting with remarks that are so overtly biased against the Arab side can only aggravate those suspicions; and, when those remarks are made from that "honest broker" pose, their very utterance constitutes chutzpah at a critical time when chutzpah is the last thing needed! For this Rice can now claim her fourth Chutzpah of the Week award (on grounds not that different from those for her third)!

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