Looking for standup comedy in the Middle East? Try Israel’s acting prime minister Ehud Olmert. His latest material is epitomized by a routine in which he makes a generous offer to talk to a Palestinian govenrment as long as that government had nothing to do with Hamas. He even helpfully offers to talk directly to President Mahmoud Abbas, as long as Abbas doesn’t cooperate with Hamas. (More correct, may be to say unless Abbas ceases the cooperation with Hamas that has been essential to his ability to keep what little “calm” there has been over the past year.) Charming idea, of course, even if it’s the exact opposite of everything both Israel and the Americans had insisted on while Arafat was President. They want Abbas to act as if the democratic election that returned Hamas by a landslide simply never happened.
Bertolt Brecht had his own solution to the problem of pesky electorates who won’t do as they’re told. Commenting on a bizarre statement by the Stalinist leadership in East Germany after a series of demonstrations, in which the party declared that the people had “forfeited the confidence” of the government. (In the same way as the Palestinians appear to have forfeited the confidence of the Israelis and Americans.) “Would it not be easier in that case,” wrote Brecht,
“for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”