Cheney visits the Palestinian President in Ramallah — by helicopter

According to Israel’s YNet, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said in remarks to the press after his brief meeting with the Palestinian President (Mahmoud Abbas) in the Muqata’a compound in Ramallah: “No one deserves to go through life in a climate of fear of deprivation … That should not be and must not be the direction of events in this region.” The full YNet report on Cheney’s visit to Ramallah is posted here.

But who was he talking about?

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney did not take the risk of travelling by road from Jerusalem to Ramallah today to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or the present Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad. Instead, Cheney flew by helicopter to the Muqata’a Presidential Compound for the meetings.

An adviser to the Palestinian President said two days ago that there were no plans to show Cheney either The Wall or the many checkpoints and roadblocks in the near vicinity of the meeting.

The adviser said he doubted it would make any impact, anyway. “Colin Powell and George Tenet came here when the Israeli tanks were halfway in the badly-damaged compound, threatening Yasser Arafat, and Powell and Tenet said they did not see the situation as a threat to Arafat’s security”, he said.

“Cheney asked for a meeting with the President, and we gave him an appointment”, the adviser said, shrugging.

He indicated he saw it only as an act of polite courtesy, and that he did not expect anything substantive to come out of the meeting — which came as difficult talks between two antagonistic Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah, were extended in Yemen. Just before the Cheney-Abbas meeting, it was announced that Hamas and Fatah would continue talks in about two weeks’ time — so the meeting did not end in total failure. It seemed designed, in part, as a message of rebuff to Cheney, who takes a very hard line on what he sees as Islamic radicalism.

Meanwhile, Egypt reportedly continues American-backed efforts to deal with Israel, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other “Palestinian factions” to ease a steadily worsening situation with extremely difficult humanitarian consequences in the Gaza Strip.

Cheney arrived Saturday night and met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who Cheney is expected to meet again on Monday morning, before departing for Turkey.

Cheney was to have participated in a Easter Sunday morning worship service, to mark one of the most spiritually important Christian holidays in Jerusalem — as Palestinians in the adjacent West Bank continue under security lockdown for the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Such were his security concerns that Cheney attended Easter Sunday services in West Jerusalem, at the chapel of the Lazarus Monastery on Agron Street.

He apparently did not even enter East Jerusalem, where the nicest sunrise service is on the grounds of the Augusta Victoria Hospital, overlooking on its east side the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea and the hills of Jordan rising behind.

The Lazarus Monastery appears to be next to the U.S. Consulate in West Jerusalem, and the premises have even been rented by the U.S. Goverment to serve as a base to “the public diplomacy and management sections and the U.S. Security Coordinator team”, as the U.S. Consul-General in West Jerusalem said when the rental was announced in 2006.

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