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 highfalutin speeches, usually in combination with the word "Zionism".)
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).
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.
BEFORE ANNAPOLIS, during Annapolis and after Annapolis, nothing at all was done to promote the Two-State Solution. The negotiations were about to begin - any moment now - a year ago, and now they are again about to begin - any moment now. Yes, the "core issues" - borders, Jerusalem, refugees - will be addressed. Sure. Any moment now.
But in the meantime, the hands of Esau are working feverishly. All over the occupied territories, the settlements are being enlarged. The existing outposts remain untouched, new ones spring up from time to time. Around them, a well choreographed dance has evolved, a kind of formal ballet executed by the settlers and the army. The settlers set up a new outpost, the army removes it, the settlers return and set it up again, the army dismantles, and so forth.
In the meantime the outpost gets bigger and bigger. The government connects it to the electricity and water systems and builds a road. And the army, of course, protects it day and night. We cannot leave good Jews at the mercy of the evil Palestinian terrorists, can we?
But one cannot fool all of the people all of the time, to quote another American President who was slightly more intelligent than the present incumbent.
And so, after Olmert and Bush repeated the mantra about removing the outposts and freezing the settlements, one of the journalists popped an innocent question: How does this fit together with the announcement about the building of a huge new housing project at Har Homa?