Colin says he’s pleased by Palestinian election preparations; Bush asks “did someone say something?”

Lame duck Secretary of State Colin Powell, in Israel and the Palestinian territories for the first time in sixteen months (is it actually conceivable that an American Secretary of State has been absent from Israel for that long?) announced that he was pleased with both preparations by the Palestinians for their election and preparations by the Israelis to actually allow Palestinian candidates to move around to campaign and Palestinian voters to vote.
I suppose Powell is in the area because “the quartet” (USA, EU, UN and… Russia? RUSSIA?) are meeting at the Sharm el Sheik resort in Egypt to discuss peace in the post-Arafat world.
Needless to say, Powell IS interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and yet, on Bush-family business, didn’t want to appear in the region within over a year before the election. We can only imagine the intense of level of interest that will be shown by Powell’s successor, “Dr.” Rice.
This is a fascinating freebie, which we are guaranteed to squander. We can basically ride the sudden wave of enthusiasm among Israeli public opinion for Israeli withdrawal (starting with unilateral withdrawal from Gaza) and take advantage of Arafat’s fortuitous death (let’s face it; just as the old joke is that whatever day Arafat died would be a Jewish holiday, so any time he died would be fortuitous) to actually ram peace down the parties’ throats. We could, for example, tie the hands of extremist/irredentist Jews who refused to give up the settlements by threatening Security Council action against Israel for not playing ball (NOT the Arab and third-world dictatorship dominated General Assembly), or more importantly, threatening to cut Israel off financially.
Of course, none of this is politically viable because of domestic American politics… even for Mandate Man … Still, there are plenty of intermediate pressure points we could play to move things along– again, given that there is a fortuitous willingness among most Israelis right now for some action in this department.
Not to worry. We won’t do anything much. If Arik Sharon wants a deal, we will green-light it. Given that the deal he envisions would involve a few islands of Palestinian pockets in a sea of Jewish settlement, it doesn’t strike me that a democratic Palestinian government seeking a viable new state would go along with it. But then, the status quo isn’t so bad… unless you’re Palestinian… or Israeli…