All Quiet on Israel's Eastern Front? Not Quite.

Minerals Management Service officials Lucy Querques Denett, left, and Debbie Gibbs-Tschudy with
Minerals Management Service officials Lucy Querques Denett, left, and Debbie Gibbs-Tschudy with "public at large" representative David Deal at an industry awards event. (Mineral Management Service)
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip last week to the Middle East produced some odd moments.

For example, in London, Rice chatted with reporters, explaining how "the removal of Saddam Hussein set in motion a number of other circumstances, other changes in the Middle East: the removal of an eastern-front threat for Israel, for instance."

We pause here, just for a moment, to suggest that perhaps a map of the region be consulted. Okay, let's see. On the "eastern front" of Israel we find Syria and Jordan on the borders. Iraq would have had to go through hundreds of miles of desert -- not a lot of ground cover -- or through Damascus -- to get there. The threat on Iran's western front, however, has been neatly eliminated.

Barbara Slavin of USA Today asked: "What is new and different? It seems to me that [Ehud] Olmert now is weaker, frankly, than [Ehud] Barak was, and certainly [Mahmoud] Abbas is weaker than [Yasser] Arafat was."

"Let's look at where it really was in 2000, all right?" Rice countered. "You had Yasser Arafat, who I think . . . had one foot in terror and one foot in politics." Well, better than both feet in terror.

"It's also the case that you had at that time a Palestinian Authority that was overrun by corruption, overrun by its ties with terrorism," Rice pointed out. "And strangely, you had Hamas, of course, sitting out as a resistance movement," and not involved.

"Resistance movement"? We pause here once again and set aside the map to pick up State's 2000 list of terrorist groups and find that, in Section H, Hamas, which now controls the Palestinian legislature, is listed as a terrorist group. Ditto on Page 118 of our National Counterterrorism Center 2007 daily planner.

"In fact, the United States had been, in past times, and not too far in the distant future -- or in the distant past, opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state," she said. "And so when you have a Palestinian state -- the president declared that a Palestinian state is going to be the outcome here, it begins to change the -- it begins to condition the environment."

The administration has often trumpeted the notion that President Bush was the first president to call for creation of a Palestinian state. He certainly appears to be the first Republican president to have called for a Palestinian state. But President Bill Clinton, just before he left office, said a peace deal would mean "an independent and sovereign state with al-Quds [East Jerusalem] as its capital, recognized by all."

A Wild Time in Minerals Management

Speaking of the environment, the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service has been making news lately because of allegations that it has been too cozy with the offshore oil industry it helps regulate and from whom it collects royalties and lease money.

But that won't stop them from partying on. So they'll be celebrating the ninth annual industry awards programs this year at a bash in Houston on April 17. Last year's drew 700 folks from the agency and the companies.

A regular attendee and prior award winner is David Deal, a former American Petroleum Institute lawyer, who got an MMS award in 2003 for "utilizing expertise gained from his years of participation in numerous MMS regulatory initiatives to . . . propose viable options for resolving differences, reducing litigation, and developing simplified royalty processes."

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