June 30 / July 1, 2007
Occupation? What Occupation?
A Dark Summit
By URI AVNERYThere never was a darker Middle East summit meeting. The darkest there can be.
The four leaders at Sharm al-Sheik did not sit together at an intimate round table. Each one sat alone behind a huge table of his own. That ensured a striking separation between them. The four long tables hardly touched. Each one of the leaders, with his assistants behind him, sat like a solitary island in a vast sea.
All four–Hosni Mubarak, King Abdallah of Jordan, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas–bore a severe countenance. Throughout the official part of the conference, not a single smile could be seen.
One after the other, the four delivered their monologues. An exercise in shallow hypocrisy, in empty deceit. Not one of the four raised himself above the murky puddle of sanctimonious phrases.
A short monologue from Mubarak. A short monologue from Abdallah. A medium-length monologue from Abbas. An interminably long monologue from Olmert–a typical Israeli speech, overbearing, educating the whole world, sermonizing and dripping with morality. Held, of course, in Hebrew, with the obvious aim of appealing to the home public.
The speech included all the required phrases–Our soul longs for peace, The vision of two states, We do not want to rule over another people, For the good of coming generations, bla-bla-bla. All in standard colonial style: Olmert even talked about “Judea and Samaria”, using the official terminology of the occupation.
But in order to “strengthen” Abbas, Olmert addressed him as “President” and not as “Chairman”, which has been the de rigueur title used by all Israeli representatives since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. (The wise men of Oslo circumvented this difficulty by referring -in all three languages–to the head of the Authority by the Arab title of Ra’is, which can mean both president and chairman.
And the word that did not appear throughout this long monologue?