When one reads accounts of US President George Bush's futile trip to Israel last week to "kick-start" the Middle East Peace Process one might be forgiven for thinking that he had some spare air-miles that needed to be used up before leaving office.
Or perhaps he didn’t want to be the first US President in modern times that didn't make the obligatory hajj to the Holy Lands. Or perhaps he wanted indulge in some legacy-building - a common past time amongst outgoing leaders as our newly departed PM could testify to.
But what Tony Blair thought he could do with an appearance on Blue Peter, George Bush feels needs to be accomplished by building a Palestinian state out of an empty egg carton, two yogurt pots and a paperclip.
With characteristic Bush gee-whizzedness and sermonising jackassery he has earnestly informed the world that "It is vital that each side understands that satisfying the other's fundamental objectives is key to a successful agreement". With such depth of understanding, it is a wonder that he didn't try to sort this little tiff out earlier.
The results of this visit could go one of two ways. The most likely route is that of the travelling circus - staged handshakes, verbose press statements, nauseating press conference love-ins where each party is over-effusively described by the others as being "heroic" and "statesman-like" before Bush flies off into the sunset leaving no discernable trace on the Middle East aside from perhaps a few personal souvenirs like an Abrams Tank snow dome and a Security Barrier printed tea towel. With an outgoing US President and two Middle East leaders that lack any political clout, this was by far the most probable fate of the whole process.
The other way this conference could pan out is best described using words such as ‘snowball’, ‘chance’ and ‘hell’; however that small glimmer of optimism that lights the human spirit doesn't allow me to give up hope on it completely. Bush may actually try to remedy the deeply unjust societal dichotomy between the Palestinians and Israelis where random and often unsuccessful acts of aggression by Palestinians are met with state sponsored killing sprees and collective punishment by the Israelis (perfectly illustrated by the latest Israeli raid on Gaza that killed 4 people including 2 civilians that was "responding" to a rocket fired into Israel that resulted in no injuries or deaths).
Another recent event that highlights the apartheid state that Palestinians live under is the incident two weeks ago of the burning down of a 700 year old mosque in the town of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem. A mob of Israeli settlers torched an historic mosque after stealing 20 beehives from a Palestinian farm near the mosque to use as fuel for the fire. There has not been any Israeli government condemnation of the attack and there has been a complete black-out on coverage of this outrage by mainstream media outlets. This begs the question whether this represents a dry run for Israeli plans for Masjid Al Aqsa.
An image that highlights the Israelis' level of sincerity in dealing with the Palestinians can be seen from the map below that shows what must be the biggest robbery of the 20th Century. Not even the polar ice caps are disappearing at such a rate. It is in my opinion only when these real facts on the ground are debated, and the long running Israeli policy of stalling at every step to permit cleansing of Palestine of all Palestinians is seen for what it is, will there be any hope for peace in the Holy Land. But in the long run, given the now deeply entrenched positions of all concerned, the aphorism "a snowball's chance in hell" seems to be an over optimistic assessment.