FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Hands of Esau

Which of the two men is the leader of the greatest power on earth and which is the boss of a small client state?

A visitor from another planet, attending the press conference in Jerusalem, would find it hard not to answer: Olmert is the president of the great power, Bush is his vassal.

Olmert is taller. He talked endlessly, while Bush listened patiently. While Olmert anointed Bush with flattery that would have made a Byzantine emperor blush, it was quite clear that it is Olmert who decides policy, while Bush humbly accepts the Israeli diktat. And Bush’s flattery of Olmert exceeded even Olmert’s flattery of Bush.

Both, we learned, are “courageous”. Both are “determined”. Both have a “vision”. The word “vision”, once reserved for prophets, starred in every second sentence. (Bush could not know that in Israel, “vision” has long become a jocular appellation for highfaluting speeches, usually in combination with the word “Zionism”.)

The President and the Prime Minister have something else in common: not a word of what they said at the press conference had any connection with the truth.

One OF the most moving dramas in the Bible tells about our old blind forefather, Isaac, who wanted to bless his eldest son, Esau, a reddish and hairy hunter. But the second son, the homebody (or rather tent-body) Jacob, exploited the absence of his brother and went to his father in order to steal the blessing. He wore Esau’s clothes and covered his arms with hairy goat skins. The ruse nearly failed, when the father felt the arms of Jacob and his suspicion was aroused.

That’s when he uttered the famous words: “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” (Genesis, 27: 22).

Yet Jacob, the impostor, did receive the blessing and became the father of the nation which was named after him (he was also called Israel). It seems that Ehud Olmert is a true successor: there is no connection between his voice and his hands.

Anyone who listens to him – not just at the press conference, but also on every other occasion – hears words of peace and reason: The Palestinians must have a state of their own. The “vision” must be realized while Bush is president, because Israel has never had and never will have a truer friend. The settlement outposts must be removed, as promised by us again and again. The settlements must be frozen. Etc. etc.

That is the voice of Jacob. But the hands, well, they are the hands of Esau.

* * *

BEFORE ANNAPOLIS, during Annapolis and after Annapolis, nothing at all was done to promote the Two-State Solution. The negotiations were about to begin – any moment now – a year ago, and now they are again about to begin – any moment now. Yes, the “core issues” – borders, Jerusalem, refugees – will be addressed. Sure. Any moment now.

But in the meantime, the hands of Esau are working feverishly. All over the occupied territories, the settlements are being enlarged. The existing outposts remain untouched, new ones spring up from time to time. Around them, a well choreographed dance has evolved, a kind of formal ballet executed by the settlers and the army. The settlers set up a new outpost, the army removes it, the settlers return and set it up again, the army dismantles, and so forth.

In the meantime the outpost gets bigger and bigger. The government connects it to the electricity and water systems and builds a road. And the army, of course, protects it day and night. We cannot leave good Jews at the mercy of the evil Palestinian terrorists, can we?

Bush knows all this and still continues to blabber that “the illegal outposts must be removed”. And so it continues: the voice is Jacob’s voice, the hands are the hands of Esau.

But one cannot fool all of the people all of the time, to quote another American President who was slightly more intelligent than the present incumbent.

And so, after Olmert and Bush repeated the mantra about removing the outposts and freezing the settlements, one of the journalists popped an innocent question: How does this fit together with the announcement about the building of a huge new housing project at Har Homa?

If anyone thought that this would embarrass Olmert, he was sadly mistaken. Olmert just cannot be embarrassed. He simply answered that this promise does not apply to Jerusalem, nor to the “Jewish population centers” beyond the Green Line.

“Jerusalem” – since the time of Levy Eshkol – is not only the Old City and the Holy Basin. It is the huge tract of land annexed to Israel after the Six-Day War, from the approaches to Bethlehem to the outskirts of Ramallah. This area includes the hill that was once forested and called Jebel Abu-Ghneim, now the site of the big and ugly Har Homa settlement. And the “population centers” are the big settlement blocs in the occupied Palestinian territories, which President Bush so generously presented to Ariel Sharon.

This means that almost all the extensive building activities that are now going on beyond the Green Line are not covered by the Israeli undertaking to freeze the settlements. And while Olmert publicly announced this, President Bush was standing at his side, smiling foolishly and painting on another layer of compliments.

The following day, Bush visited Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and told the shocked Palestinians that the innumerable Israeli roadblocks in the West Bank, which turn the life of the Palestinians into hell, are necessary for the protection of Israel and must remain where they are – until after the establishment of the hoped-for democratic Palestinian state.

Condoleezza Rice was quick to remind him in private that this was not very wise, since he was about to visit half a dozen Arab countries. So Bush hastened to call another press conference in Jerusalem, talking about the “core issues”: there would be a “contiguous” Palestinian state, but the 1949 borders (the Green Line) would not be restored. He would not speak about Jerusalem. Also, the refugee problem would be settled by an international fund – meaning that none at all would be allowed to return.

Altogether, much less than Bill Clinton’s 2000 “parameters”, and less than most Israelis are already prepared to accept. It amounts to 110% support for the official Israeli government line.

After that, Bush had dinner with Israeli cabinet ministers. He cordially shook the hand of Minister Rafael Eitan, the former spymaster who controlled the Israeli spy in Washington, Jonathan Pollard, whom Bush refuses to pardon. (Eitan would be arrested the moment he set foot on American soil.) He spoke cordially with the ultra-rightist Minister Avigdor Liberman, urging him to support Olmert. Throughout the dinner, he talked and talked, until Condi sent him a discreet note suggesting that he shut up. Bush, in high spirits, read the note out loud.

* * *

I HAVE mentioned more than once the British World War II poster which was pasted up on the walls in Palestine: “Is this trip really necessary?”

That is again the question now: Is this trip of Bush’s really necessary?

The answer is: Of course. Necessary for Bush. Necessary for Olmert. Necessary for Abbas, too.

For Bush, because he is a lame duck, in the last year of his term, and therefore almost paralyzed. In the United States he is rapidly becoming irrelevant. His touted Middle East tour has been drowned out by the primary elections mayhem, which produces a new drama almost every day. While Hillary wrestles with Obama and the glib Bill competes with an impressive black grandma, who cares where the worst president in American history is traipsing around?

Olmert is well aware of the situation. When he declares that the last year of the term of his noble friend must be used, what he really means to say is: he cannot exert any pressure on us, he cannot even “nudge” us, as he promises. There is no need to remove even one single outpost for him. So let us squeeze the last drop of juice out of his presidency, before he is thrown onto the trash pile of history.

But Olmert needs the presence of Bush at his side, because his position is not much more secure than Bush’s. Bush is bankrupt in a big way, after starting one of the most pointless and unsuccessful wars in US history. That is true for Olmert in a small way. He is bankrupt too, and he also started a pointless, failed war.

In two weeks time, the Winograd Commission will publish its final report on Lebanon War II, and everyone expects it to come down on Olmert like a 16 ton weight. He may survive, if only because there is now no credible substitute. But he needs all the help he can get – and what better help than the “Leader of the Free World” gazing at him with liquid eyes?

It’s the old story about the lame and the blind.

* * *

THIS WAS NOT Bush’s last presidential visit to Israel. He has already promised to return on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state, which falls this year (in accordance with the Hebrew calendar) on May 8. What else can a president do in his last months in office, except star in ceremonies with kings, presidents and prime ministers?

Perhaps he had intended to finish with a big bang, a historic climax that would overshadow even his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, such as a grand attack on Iran. But it seems that the US intelligence community, in a patriotic act that makes up for some of its earlier sins, has prevented this by publishing its sensational report.

True, this week something happened that put on a warning light. Some small Iranian boats were reported to have made a provocative gesture against the powerful American warships in the Strait of Hormuz.

That takes us right back to 1964 and to what has become known as the “Gulf of Tonkin incident”. President Lyndon Johnson announced that Vietnamese vessels had attacked American warships. That was a lie, but it was enough for Congress to empower the president to widen the war that killed millions of people (and buried Johnson’s career).

But this time the red light went out quickly. The US Congress is not what it was, it seems that the Americans have no stomach for another war, the historical parallel was too obvious. Bush has been left without an option for war. He has been left with nothing.

Apart from Olmert’s flattery, of course.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is o a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

 

 

 

More articles by:

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail