Another Tack: St. Edward’s and the empty peace

Sir Humphrey: ”why close a hospital just because it has no patients?”

Sir Humphrey: ”why close a hospital just because it has no patients?”

No devotee of Yes Minister, yesteryear’s BBC’s classic, can forget St. Edward’s Hospital – that spanking new cutting edge facility that had no patients or medical personnel. Nonetheless, St. Edward’s hustled and bustled, a veritable hive of activity and creative energy. For 15-months since its much-ballyhooed inauguration, an administrative staff of 500 bureaucrats filled the hospital’s offices, pushed papers and generated red tape.

Sounds exaggerated? A bit over-the-top for real life? Not really. John Kerry’s peace project, for example, replicates the parody’s blueprints with mind-blowing precision. It is for diplomacy what St. Edward’s was for health care – an incredible lot of much-ado about absolutely nothing.

The biggest snag in Kerry’s persistent peace offensive is that it lacks the commonsense basic essentials to even begin to achieve what it was promoted to do. It couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. St Edward’s couldn’t heal the sick because none had been admitted. No doctors or nurses were on hand either. It was a hospital in name only.

Kerry’s peace process is a process in name only. It featured no negotiations between seekers of peace. Indeed there was no one who wanted what Kerry tried to ram through, just as no one got treatment at the hospital with no patients. Kerry and his crew engaged in frenetic shuttles just as the hospital’s ancillary staffers busied themselves self-importantly.

In both cases no good came of it and no good could come of it. The prodigious hum and buzz benefited no one. There was no reality behind the façade.

Kerry’s peacemaking affectation depended on there being actual peacemakers. But the last thing any Palestinian honcho could afford was to strike any sort of a deal. If Arafat couldn’t do it at Camp David back in 2000 (despite Ehud Barak’s unprecedented concessions), surely Mahmoud Abbas couldn’t do it now. Abbas’s last-minute dodge is no different from Arafat’s hasty skedaddle from the talks that America’s then-President Bill Clinton fervently fostered.

Like Arafat, who was immeasurably more powerful, Abbas doesn’t want to end the conflict and be saddled with a puny Palestinian state. His aim is to discredit, delegitimize, destabilize and eventually destroy the Jewish state (which he significantly refuses to recognize).

That’s why he disdainfully rebuffed Ehud Olmert’s egregious largesse at Annapolis in 2007. No Israeli concession – no matter how generous – can ever be good enough when compromise isn’t the real Palestinian endgame but the barely disguised means to achieve the reverse of insincere pledges.

The in-your-face extortion practiced by Abbas didn’t simply attest to an insatiable appetite. It was an effort to stymie Kerry’s entire undertaking, to put up obstacles so outrageous that no one could possibly surmount them. To Abbas’s shock and dismay, however, his Israeli interlocutors proved to be softer soft-touches than he conceivably imagined.

Abbas could never have anticipated that Kerry would so stanchly side with the Palestinian Authority and essentially function as its accomplice in squeezing and duping Israel. The American Secretary of State repeatedly threatened Israel with petrifying BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) punishment. He also offered one shriveled carrot – belatedly freeing Jonathan Pollard, who’s anyway soon up for parole and who by any criteria should have been liberated long ago.

The idea of exchanging Pollard for sadistic mass-murders isn’t just morally repugnant. It also substantiates suspicion that Pollard is kept behind bars as a bargaining chip. Erstwhile American Special Envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, owned up that he had recommended using Pollard as a quasi-hostage to be held for ransom. Simple justice was evidently out of the equation in this case.

In his 2004 book The Missing Peace, Ross quotes himself as telling Clinton at the 1998 Wye Summit (p.438) that “I was in favor of his [Pollard’s] release, believing that he had received a harsher sentence than others who had committed comparable crimes. I preferred not tying his release to any agreement, but if that was what we were going to do, then I favored saving it for permanent status.”

Get it? Pollard, as an asset of statecraft, should not be squandered on any interim arrangement but reserved for the bigger barter transaction – official Washington’s variation on the human-trafficking theme.

Clearly, then, the notion of trading Pollard isn’t new. This leads us, on the eve of Passover to ponder one more Seder-like “how-is-this-different” question. How is this recent Pollard sweetener different from the sweetener dangled under Netanyahu’s nose 16 years ago?

Actually it’s not very different. In both cases American higher-ups considered it fine and dandy for the Land of the Free to use a trapped human being as leverage in diplomatic haggling.

If any scintilla of dissimilarity does present itself, it’s that Clinton did take Ross’s advice and wasn’t ready to let go of his valuable pawn for a partial solution. Kerry, in contrast, is less slick than Clinton but far more cynical and desperate. In his pushy officious way, Kerry was gung-ho to go for broke merely to prolong talks about talks – nothing more. The aim was to prop-up the frail façade. It was clear that no real talks will materialize and that the non-talks won’t produce results.

All this surely bedeviled Abbas.

Kerry intimidated and enticed the Israeli side far beyond anything that Abbas could foresee and, worse yet from Abbas’s vantage point, the Israelis kept giving in. No matter how preposterous the demands he pressed, the malleable Israelis kept yielding bit by painful bit. It must have been maddeningly frustrating for Abbas as he sought pretexts to back out.

Finally, having apparently had enough, Abbas decided to just blindside everyone and bail out from Kerry’s version of the empty St. Edward’s. His escape hatch consisted of a televised spectacle in which he signed applications for state-like membership in 15 international organizations, at least a dozen of them affiliated with the UN.

*These applications were then ceremoniously delivered to Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Paul Garnier, the permanent representative of Switzerland to the United Nations.

Abbas’s part of the initial bargain last year was to refrain from unilateral moves to win international recognition during the course of the peace talks. It wasn’t anything irreversible and was likely to be reneged upon as soon as Israel stopped forking over shakedown payments or as soon as the duration of the current chinwag was over.

It was a sham concession eminently fitting a sham peace process.

In a sense, Israel never paid to keep the talks going but to keep Abbas from going to the UN. That, predictably, was a fool’s choice – the postponement of the inevitable. Sooner or later Abbas was sure to do just what he temporarily desisted from doing and what Israel attempted to dissuade him from doing for a little negligible while longer.

It’s hard to figure what could in the long run be gained from putting things off. Odds are that absolutely nothing. Indisputably, Israel’s gain from releasing convicted mass-murderers was a sham gain – eminently fitting a sham peace process.

As in St. Edward’s, nothing is what it seems.

And thus, fantastically, Kerry tried to save face by insisting – with a barefaced disregard for the truth – that the outfits the PA applied to join weren’t associated with the UN and that therefore it hadn’t technically broken its commitments.

“Let me make it absolutely clear,” he declared at a Brussels press conference, “None of the agencies that President Abbas signed involve the UN. None of them… And President Abbas has given his word to me that he will keep his agreement and that he intends to negotiate through the end of the month of April.”

It was a sham assertion, eminently fitting a sham peace process.

Kerry’s bogus deadpan pedantry rang as true as that of the fictional Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Administrative Affairs. When his minister, Jim Hacker, demanded that St. Edward’s be closed, Humphrey was downright flabbergasted: “Why should we close a hospital just because it has no patients? We don’t disband the Army just because there isn’t a war.”

Humphrey was indignant at the very assumption that “the staff have nothing to do, simply because there are no patients there.”  And to prove his point he promptly rattled off all of the hospital’s ongoing operations: “Contingency Planning Department, Data and Research Department, Finance, Purchasing Department, Technical Department, Building Department, Maintenance, Catering, Personnel, Administration.” It was a mere unfortunate hitch that due to “government cutbacks at that time, there was no money left for the medical services.”

Another sham vindication of a sham, as eminently befits sham priorities.

Still, every downside has an upside. St. Edward’s was judged “one of the best-run hospitals in the country.” It was a candidate for “the Florence Nightingale award” which is “given to the most hygienic hospital in the region.”  All of which upheld the contention that leaving patients out of a hospital can be a “very good thing in some ways. Prolongs its life. Cuts down running costs.”

The same can be said about a peace process with no prospects. It’s easier to dicker than to preserve a peace that one prime participant (Abbas) patently does not want. If we listen carefully, we could almost hear Sir Humphrey making the case for pointless palaver.

The longevity of the process, he would be sure to point out, is almost limitless especially since the other prime participant (Netanyahu) positively dreads the collapse of the non-negotiations.

Suckers may convince themselves that they’re actually being sensible and that their accommodating spirit will score them PR brownie points. It won’t. Cold hard evidence, though, won’t keep incorrigible suckers from paying through the nose to keep the sham going.

In our circumstances this foremost means sustaining the sham that a peace partner at all exists, that Kerry is an honest broker and that the international community appreciates the sucker’s self-sacrifice.

But all isn’t doom and gloom. There’s a bright side to futility. In the words of Sir Humphrey (with which Kerry would doubtless heartily concur), “we don’t measure our success by results but by activity.”

6 thoughts on “Another Tack: St. Edward’s and the empty peace

  1. There is very little one can add to Sarah Honig’s, as always, amazingly insightful thoughts and conclusions regarding Mr. Kerry’s, and his Boss’s, “Bridge to Nowhere” escapade, over the past year.

    For hundreds of years, people sought some type of near magical means and/or process to “create” the precious substance known as Gold. Gold- the substance that has driven the world mad since before the Pharaohs built the Pyramids and the Conquistadores devastated the so called “New World” with their insatiable thirst for that yellow substance, barbarously cutting off the hands of any enslaved native who failed to work hard enough and fast enough to produce his expected daily quota of gold nuggets for his Masters.

    Becoming the first person who can claim he/she brought about a “final lasting Peace” in the Mid East is the new Gold Rush. Everyone for more than half a century has wanted to lay claim to this “Prize”, so certain to lead to a Nobel Peace Prize, countless other prizes and of course self perceived Everlasting Glory in the world’s History Books.

    But it is all a great and pitiful delusion on the part of the many seekers reaching for this gold colored, Brass Ring, that they so desperately try to snatch as the Merry Go Round goes forever round and round in a world of self made illusions.

    The elusive Peace all the seekers believe is just within inches of their grasp does not exist and never has and never will exist.

    And that is because the enemies of the State of Israel are not really the least bit interested in any so called final “Peace Agreement”. What they are interested in is a “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem”. The solution that the German Third Reich almost succeeded in achieving.

    Even if the so-called present day “Palestinians” ever decided they had been led astray and exploited and used and abused, by people like Arafat (who died a Billionaire) and Abbas, a weak version of Arafat, the greater surrounding Arab world which outnumbers the population of Israel a million to one, or the equivalent, in numbers and land area, will never accept some sort of permanent “Peace” arrangement with the State of Israel but only a permanent state of wishful thinking that one day, even if it requires a thousand years, the Middle East will become Judenfrei.

    And thus, just as it has always been, in the most distant past, and is now, in the present, and will always be even in the most distant future, the Jewish people will remain “The Other”, the non welcomed, the uninvited so called interlopers- the claimed “occupiers”.

    There were no tears being shed in America in the highest levels of the US State Dept. during the Holocaust. The Holocaust they knew all about from its earliest horrific days in 1939 and 1940 at which time the Jews of Europe were already being massacred and murdered in the order of tens of thousands- and then later by the millions. In America, in England, in fact everywhere on Earth, this was all seen as something inevitable, unavoidable, indeed to be expected. After all everyone “knew” that all the world’s most ancient problems were the fault of “the Jews” and could be laid at their doorstep no matter where they settled and lived, from the Dawn of History.

    So everything we see happening now is really nothing new. Indeed nothing in this world has changed in the slightest for thousands of years when it comes to the Jewish People.

    The Haters of the Jewish People will always exist and there will never be a shortage of people like Mr. Kerry and his Boss, Mr. Obama who go through the futile motions of thinking (or pretending to think) that the world will one day come to think of and treat the Jewish People of the State of Israel as equals among the community of nations.

    A decade from now, three decades- even a dozen decades, nothing radical will have changed.
    After all if nothing has changed in three thousand years, then why would anyone expect to witness any sort of change in a mere fraction of that great time span.

    The only real change to be noted is that we as a People, have returned Home. And we have the means to protect that Home today, tomorrow and forever- till the end of time.

    Long after people exclaim in the distant future “Kerry who ?”, “Oslo what?”- the State of Israel will still be standing and thriving and yes- making still more, countless contributions to the world in the fields of Science, Medicine, Water conservation, Land reclamation- Disease control, Exploration of Outer Space, the list goes on and on. Ten thousand times more contributions to bettering the condition of the human race than all of Israel’s enemies combined (-who all continue to recede ever further backward into the darkness and modes of barbaric thinking of the Middle Ages.)

    On all these things- and more- you can bet the Kibbutz.

  2. Sarah, again, a brilliant analogy! The question is; When will the leaders of Israel ever ‘wake up and smell the roses’? Israel’s pressing problem is to gain back the respect that has been lost because of continuing blindsided appeasment to those who believe that Israel ‘must relinquish land, and more land for the fantasy of ‘Peace with the Palestinians’, and the ‘Two-State Solution’. Until Israel Faces the World Wide Camera, as Menachem Begin so aptly did as PM, with such ‘force and clarity’ to those naysayers of the state of Israel.. and announce; “TODAY, ISRAEL WILL WITHDRAW FROM ALL PROPOSED PEACE TALKS until the Palestinians and all surrounding Arab countries announce publically that they ‘Recongnize the Nation State of Israel’, it’s announced borders, all of its existing terrorities intact within its borders, and that ‘Peace between our nations’ will not experience terrorism and war, once and for all”. SIXTY SIX YEARS OF INDECISION ABOUT WHO AND WHAT ISRAEL IS ALL ABOUT IS LONG ENOUGH!. It is time for Israel and its leadership to ‘DEFINE ITSELF’ for all the worlds nations to understand who ISRAEL REALLY IS!.

  3. There is also a dark side to all the activity; the untreated patient (Israel) becomes weaker and sicker. And this is what both Abbas and Obama want; a dead patient !

  4. The bad news is, that the suckers have released a bunch of dangerous terrorists…to achieve WHAT ????
    Thanks to Israels BEST ally: Abu Mazen !
    There shouldn’t have been talks to surrender Israels past AND future, Judea and Samaria !
    Without Kerrys and Obamas bullying, NO talks would have been held at all.
    Thank you so much Sarah, to enligthen us about the OBSCENCE American plan, to use Pollard as a pawn.
    Suckers WAKE UP FINALLY !!!!

  5. Countries nowadays are difficult to run…Netanyahu almost certainly understood much of what Sara Honig is saying…but sometimes it is difficult to say no to your most important ally…perhaps even more so when that country is being run by a president probably too young and certainly far too naïve…and with a strange background…the poor Israelis have to be realists…in international affairs in a region as unpredictable and unstable as the Middle East…you cannot always make the right choices… ‘Yes Minister’ was also a good example of this…S H Cohen

  6. What was the name of the steamboat that didn’t make it? In the 1966 movie “Khartoum,” Gen. Gordon(Charlton Heston), sends his aide, Col. Stewart(Richard Johnson) up the Nile to get reinforcements, to relieve the besieged city of Khartoum. The steamboat has to stop to refuel, before they get to Egypt, and is attacked by the Mahdi’s jihadists. Stewart is killed, and beheaded. His head is later displayed to Gordon, by the Mahdi(Sir Laurence Olivier). The boat’s name? Why, the ABBAS.(of course) As Sarah deftly shows, Kerry’s waste-of-time peace process ran out of fuel, too. But Kerry gets to keep his head. However, why does Ehud Olmert keep on pounding a long-dead horse, constantly telling us that Israel must make concessions?

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