Talking out of both sides of our mouth

Here’s another scene from the theater of the absurd that is our current government’s foreign policy.

The Foreign Ministry has expressed its disappointment with the European Union over the EU’s move toward warmer relations with Syria. Sure, that seems like business as usual, but hold on.

For its part, the EU sees making kissy face with Damascus as a palliative for a region that is as turbulent as ever. Diplomatically, Europeans hope that a smiling front will show Syria that it will be rewarded for “playing nice” with Lebanon, its former vassal state. Economically, there are ties in the making that would be threatened by a sour public tone from European capitals.

To Israel, though, Syria remains the main conduit for Iranian weapons shipments to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Also, the United Nations probe into the assassinations of about a dozen different anti-Syria politicians in Lebanon, which already includes a very damning preliminary report on the role of the Syrian government in those murders, is still ongoing. It’s only natural for the Foreign Ministry to scowl at an EU that overlooks such things.

One would have to forgive European diplomats, however, for feeling confused. After all, isn’t Israel’s prime minister busy promoting peace talks with Syria and, by extension, selling the idea that Bashar Assad is worthy of engagement from the West? Indeed, he is.

George W. Bush called Ehud Olmert on this very point, according to a report that surfaced this week.

According to the report in Haaretz:

 Bush believes that Israel is offering Syria the Golan Heights without getting anything in exchange, according to sources briefed on his White House meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week.
After Olmert updated Bush on Israel’s indirect talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the US president demanded, “Why do you want to give Assad the Golan for nothing?” the sources said.
“It’s not for nothing,” Olmert insisted. “It’s in exchange for a change in the region’s strategic alignment.”
Bush persisted: “Why should you believe him?” And to that, Olmert did not reply.

Note to Ehud Olmert: When a simple question from George Bush makes you look like a fool, you’re in trouble.


One Response

  1. Great point, Sam!


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