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.

August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail