Thank God for the CIA. The director, no less, of an organisation that tried to assassinate Fidel Castro, organised the Bay of Pigs fiasco, trained a host of Latin American murderers and armed almost every Islamic extremist in Afghanistan is going to chair a "trilateral commission" to save the Middle East "peace process". Even Yasser Arafat apparently agrees to this (the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, wisely showing less enthusiasm). And why not?
After all, 10 years ago Mr Arafat was a scourge of Zionism, freedom-fighter and "super-terrorist", seven years ago he signed the Oslo agreement, five years ago he allowed the CIA to train his intelligence services; and just 24 hours ago as the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, screamed "close the gates" he was imprisoned inside the US ambassador's residence in Paris. Like a marble rolling down steps, Mr Arafat's descent into American protection has been unstoppable.
And still he thinks, apparently, that he's going to get a square deal. The boys in the suits with their Mossad allies and the Palestinian thugs they have taught are going to tell us what really happened over the past week, whether Palestinians were provoked to violence, whether Mr Arafat could have controlled his police force (not, of course, whether Mr Barak should have controlled his own police force), and whether throwing stones and petrol bombs was worthy of live-fire killings and whether Israeli helicopter pilots firing missiles into apartment blocks might not have been a bit over the top.
And this, supposedly, is going to save the peace. Frankly, the omens do not look good. For a start, we've already had the US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke the man who cooked up the Bosnian "peace" announcing that "it's not the time to start distributing blame".
We've already had the US abstaining from a Security Council condemnation of Ariel Sharon's preposterous visit to the holy places last Thursday and from UN condemnation of Israel's use of "disproportionate force" against Palestinians.
Meanwhile our impartial media continues to suggest that there's nothing very odd about using tanks and missiles against rioters and gunmen. The Los Angeles Times is now talking of the Israeli tactics as "heavy handed" like a schoolmaster who prefers six of the best to three of the best while BBC Television news told us whenthe first helicopter fired a missile into a Palestinian apartment block that the Israelis were "resorting to extreme measures".
Is that what the Los Angeles Times and the BBC would have said if the Palestinians had fired a missile into an Israeli apartment block? I doubt it. I suspect our old friend "terrorism" would have been produced to account for such a barbarity.
I wonder if the CIA will use that highly pejorative word? Or if a single Palestinian will believe what they say? Or a single Israeli for that matter? For it seems a profound reflection on the state of Middle East peace-making that the intelligence service of Israel's principal ally should be deciding who was to blame this week. What next? An inquiry by former KGB men into Russian "heavy-handedness" in Chechnya?
All the same, Mr Arafat and the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, seemed pleased with themselves as Ms Albright announced to the astonishment, no doubt, of the Israelis that the Paris talks were a success. At a six-hour meeting, the two sides had discussed "what the problems were for both sides" and both agreed that the "peace process" was "not dead".
No wonder Mr Barak fled back to Israel from Paris, choosing to let Mr Arafat and Ms Albright fly to Egypt alone. If those who were supposed to bring a just peace to the Middle East can agree only that peace is not dead, we'd better keep the flak-jackets handy.
© 2000 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd.