Tuesday, November 16, 2004

James Baker's realpolitik 

Bush Sr's Secretary of State, Bush Jr's special envoy on Iraqi debt, and Kerry's not-to-be Middle East envoy, James Baker, has called on Israel to release one of its star prisoners:
"There is now. . . . in an Israeli prison a man named Marwan Barghouti, who is one of the young guard of Palestinians, and if the Palestinians are going to make this work against the really hard-line elements, the Islamists and some of the people of Hamas, they're going to have to have a coalition of the young guard and the old guard."
(hat tip: Little Green Footballs) Marwan Barghouti, the leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, is currently serving five life sentences plus 40 years for murder of five Israeli civilians and other terrorist activity. Should we be concerned if Baker's idea of a moderate to posit against "the really hard-line elements" is somebody like Barghouti?

James Baker, by the way, is well known for his sensitive approach to the Jewish question:

Quotable quote no 1: "Don't worry, Jews remember the Holocaust, but they forget insults as soon as they smell cash."

Quotable quote No 2: "Fuck the Jews, they didn't vote for us anyway."

Baker is not the only one to jump on the Barghouti as Palestinian Mandela meme. Now that Barghouti has indicated his intention to run for Palestinian president it will be interesting to see whether Palestinians's first democratic election in almost a decade will effectively be narrowed down to a choice between fundamentalist terrorists and more secular terrorists. And if the latter are a lesser evil, will they prove to be visionary enough to accept the two-state solution and move the Middle East beyond the current stagnant status quo? Barghouti wouldn't be the first terrorist or insurgent to become a national leader, and if he can deliver lasting peace, his past will largely be forgiven. For the sake of the region's future I hope that the Bakers of this world won't be disappointed. But I'm not putting my money on it either.


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