Even as political tensions rise and the situation on the ground worsens, America seems to (finally) be pushing for an independent Palestinian state, if just in foreign policy rhetoric.
"Frankly it is time for the establishment of a Palestinian state," Ms Rice told reporters in a news conference which she held with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
One unique thing about the Bush administration is that it has always expressed a wish for a Palestinian state, something even the Clinton-led White House wasn't willing to do in public. Rice's wish for a sovereign state conflicts with the very slanted policy the US has held in favor of Israel, especially under President Bush.
Israel has attacked Syria; Hamas has offered to at least try to kiss and half-heartedly make up with its rival Fatah — news, both good and bad, has been coming out of this area of the Middle East. In the midst of all of it, I am frankly surprised to hear such a bold, but not bad, statement from the American secretary of state.
Rice hopes for a diplomatic meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on American turf. I don't know what to make of that idea. On one hand, there is a desperate need for a peace settlement that results from concessions from both sides. One the other hand, assuming the proposed talks fail is this just an excuse for the US to say, 'Well, we gave it a try'? Will important Palestinian factions be kept out of the meeting, thus further alienating many and helping the radicals? I neither want to be too optimistic nor too pessimistic. United States isn't the only external party in this diplomatic picture: the Quartet, of which it is a member, has acted incorrectly at the wrong times — where is it when it's most needed and why can countries not be more flexible?
This summer the major unresolved issue (besides security) that prevented any progress between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators was refugees; now it looks like land rights in Jerusalem, a holy city to both Muslims and Jews, is a central focus.
It is believable that the White House wants a Palestinian state; I do not doubt that their intentions are good. But after years of poor policy under this president and others, I do not see what can change at this point as long as America has a role in the change. It is time for a Palestinian state; but shouldn't stability and agreement on the basic issues come first?