AMMAN, Jordan, March 26--Sometimes a diplomat must face this existential question: What am I doing here?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed here this morning for separate meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah. To get here, she had to get in her motorcade, drive 45 minutes from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, get on her plane for the 20-minute flight to Amman, and then drive 30 minutes from the Amman airport to her meetings. And then after a few hours she will return to Jerusalem for more meetings, having spent about as much time on the ground in Jordan as she spent traveling.
(Rice had just seen Abbas the day before, in the West Bank city of Ramallah (about an hour's drive from the Tel Aviv airport, where she had landed after traveling from Egypt). And she had met with Abdullah in Washington earlier this month.)
One of Rice's aides described the day as "Woody Hayes diplomacy," a reference to the former Ohio State football coach known for his conservative ground game. Rather than relying on fancy football passes, Hayes's teams would advance by "three yards and a cloud of dust." Rice is shuttling back and forth between the Israelis and Palestinians, seeking agreement on a new game plan--parallel talks that she would hold with each party on the contours of a Palestinian state.
Rice is fond of springing surprises, just like Coach Hayes, who believed a pass should be used as an element of surprise; "There are three things that can happen when you pass, and two of them ain't good," he once said.
Straining the football metaphor, one could argue that the formation of the Palestinian unity government that includes both moderates and the militant Hamas group (which took Rice by surprise) was an interception. After that, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused to meet with Abbas for substantive talks on a Palestinian state. So now Rice is scrambling for some way to force another turnover and regain strong field position.
-- Glenn Kessler
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