The Hands of Esau

By Uri Avnery

15/01/08 “ICH” — – Which of the two men is the leader of the greatest power on earth and which is the boss of a small client state?

A visitor from another planet, attending the press conference in Jerusalem, would find it hard not to answer: Olmert is the president of the great power, Bush is his vassal.

Olmert is taller. He talked endlessly, while Bush listened patiently. While Olmert anointed Bush with flattery that would have made a Byzantine emperor blush, it was quite clear that it is Olmert who decides policy, while Bush humbly accepts the Israeli diktat. And Bush’s flattery of Olmert exceeded even Olmert’s flattery of Bush.

Both, we learned, are “courageous”. Both are “determined”. Both have a “vision”. The word “vision”, once reserved for prophets, starred in every second sentence. (Bush could not know that in Israel, “vision” has long become a jocular appellation for highfaluting speeches, usually in combination with the word “Zionism”.)

The President and the Prime Minister have something else in common: not a word of what they said at the press conference had any connection with the truth.

One OF the most moving dramas in the Bible tells about our old blind forefather, Isaac, who wanted to bless his eldest son, Esau, a reddish and hairy hunter. But the second son, the homebody (or rather tent-body) Jacob, exploited the absence of his brother and went to his father in order to steal the blessing. He wore Esau’s clothes and covered his arms with hairy goat skins. The ruse nearly failed, when the father felt the arms of Jacob and his suspicion was aroused.

That’s when he uttered the famous words: “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” (Genesis, 27: 22).

Yet Jacob, the impostor, did receive the blessing and became the father of the nation which was named after him (he was also called Israel). It seems that Ehud Olmert is a true successor: there is no connection between his voice and his hands.

Anyone who listens to him – not just at the press conference, but also on every other occasion – hears words of peace and reason: The Palestinians must have a state of their own. The “vision” must be realized while Bush is president, because Israel has never had and never will have a truer friend. The settlement outposts must be removed, as promised by us again and again. The settlements must be frozen. Etc. etc.

That is the voice of Jacob. But the hands, well, they are the hands of Esau.           

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