Taking a break from cajoling intransigent and increasingly resentful Israeli and Palestinian leaders toward a fantasy peace conference, Condi made a symbolic visit the Church of the Nativity (said to be the birthplace of Jesus) in Bethlehem. Looking to the West Bank town to provide a “model for reconciliation,” the photo itself runs completely counter.
Where do you even start with the allusions here: She doesn’t know where she’s going? She’s leading the process into a black hole? She’s operating in the dark? And then, isn’t the first lesson you learn in Secretary of State 101 that you never make any move unless its already been staked out by your advance team? (A mistake we saw just last week when Condi got played by Putin.)
I can see the attraction of retreat into Christian territory. Over their heads and out of their element, all that leftover conservative piety is still good for a detour. With all the pressure on the region, however, there is a sense now that Rice’s raising of expectations might actually swing the other way.
That risk makes the picture that much more salient. Typically, Condi’s gestural diplomacy, as she hops from place to place, mostly plays out as a barely noticeable sideshow. This time, however — as the image implies — Condi’s questionable leadership has a much a chance to unbalance an already unsteady situation.
(image: David Furst. October 17, 2006. Bethlehem. nytimes.com)