A Successful "Negotiation" of Israel-Palestine Peace Treaty

tags: Middle East, Israel, Hamas, Gaza



Bernard Weiner, a poet, playwright, photographer and Ph.D. in government & international relations, is co-founder and co-editor of The Crisis Papers website (www.crisispapers.org). For two decades, he was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle. To email the author: crisispapers@comcast.net .

I have been writing effectively the same essay about Israel/Palestine for the past dozen years or so. The wording hardly ever changes, because the two sides never change their essential stances. Locked into delusion and ideological dead-ends, each side thinks with just a bit more pressure, a bit more violence, the other side will holler "uncle" and simply disappear.  Deadly magical thinking. And so the slaughter continues, ad infinitum. It's the dance of death.

Public opinion polls for years in both Israel and Palestine indicate broad support among both peoples for a peaceful settlement of the issues, but the political leaders seem locked into rigidity (moral rigor mortis). Here's one scenario for how that peace could be made:


The Negotiation

A Short Play*

(Two charismatic, silver-haired older men, their arms linked, enter a well-appointed room with a beautiful, round wooden table. On the table are some flowers, a fruit bowl, and two overlapping small flags: one representing Israel, and the other Palestine. (THEY are bantering, like old professional friends.)

                    MOISHE
It was such a pleasure seeing Yasmeen and your kids again. You are one lucky man to have found her, Heshim.
                   HESHIM
Luck had nothing to do with it. All I had to do was tell her I was friends with the great Moishe and she was mine. Your status elevated me. I'm just sorry your Miriam couldn't have been there as well. 
                    MOISHE
How I wish. (starts to tear up; HESHIM rests his hand on MOISHE's shoulder) 

(THEY reach the table, formally shake hands and seat themselves. Their demeanor shifts as they move into their negotiating roles. Long pause.)
                   MOISHE
You know, my peoples’ lives would have been so much easier if your people would have simply disappeared.
                   HESHIM
We had the same thought about your people: Why can't they simply vanish?
                   MOISHE
Just out of curiosity, where did you think we would "vanish" to?
                   HESHIM
We hoped that Europe, maybe out of a sense of guilt, would have invited you Jews back, maybe create a home state for you. (beat) Where did you think we'd "disappear" to?
                   MOISHE
We hoped your fellow Arabs would have carved out a Palestinian state for you inside their borders.
                   HESHIM
That’ll be the day. Not very realistic, were we? (THEY laugh)
                   MOISHE
The truth is that no country in Europe wants us Jews to arrive en masse on their doorstep.
                   HESHIM
And nobody wants us Palestinians as a group to show up in any Arab country.
                   MOISHE
Finally, something in common: the brotherhood of political leprosy.
                   HESHIM
A good place to start from to fashion a peace settlement, yes?
                   MOISHE
That's why we're locked inside this room, Heshim. We're the deal-makers.
                   HESHIM
Too many generations have spilled their blood, too many children raised in hate and suspicion--
                   MOISHE
Time to give something, get something. That’s why we were given the mandate: end the slaughter on the battlefields, make the peace.
                   HESHIM
You know, Moishe, we were well aware that we could never beat you on that battlefield. You had all the tanks, airplanes, helicopters, even nuclear bombs. So we fought you with public relations, letting the world see the big bully Israel beating up on defenseless Palestinians. It worked, too.
                   MOISHE
Uh, Heshim, it was a bit more than rock-throwing by children in the street. You’re forgetting the hijacked airplanes and cruise ships, the massacre of our athletes at the Olympics, suicide bombers in pizza parlors and wedding receptions inside Israel, deadly rockets into our towns and villages.
                   HESHIM
What were we supposed to do? Live on our knees forever without taking action? Let you occupy our lands, terrorize our people, and not respond? I think the world understood our breaking point, understood the effect of decades of humiliation and repression.
                   MOISHE
The world may indeed have understood your rage but your response was way too extreme. You become reviled terrorists -- all those innocent civilians. You lost the moral high ground.
                   HESHIM
And you think you stood on any moral high ground? You went to extremes as well: You were brutal occupiers of Gaza and the West Bank, so determined to shake your reputation of going to the gas chambers without protest that, without realizing it or admitting it, you emulated your German oppressors.
                   MOISHE
Not the old Jews-as-Nazis cliché. We're just going around in circles again.
                   HESHIM
(long beat) The Americans may not be in the room physically, but I can hear them speaking to us anyway.
                   MOISHE
What are they saying?
                   HESHIM
Stipulate. 
                   MOISHE
You mean like in courtrooms?
                   HESHIM
Yes. Both sides agree to something obvious so they don't have to keep arguing about it during the trial.
                    MOISHE
I think we should stipulate that both peoples have history on their side. We have Biblical history for our claim to be here -- or at least we've chosen to believe that translation of the Torah -- and yes, many of your people got pushed out or felt they had to leave when we came in.
                   HESHIM
In other words, we each have right on our side, and we won't get bogged down in who did what first to whom. We stipulate that both peoples are victims.
                    MOISHE
And, we must admit that we both besmirched our causes, committed war crimes, went a little crazy in our zeal. Lost our way.
                   HESHIM
Yes, it’s true. But at least for purposes of this negotiation, we will stipulate that old history doesn’t count. We can't totally ignore it, but it will rest at the side of the table. There, but silent. Agreed?
                   MOISHE
Agreed.
(Silence. MOISHE is eating a tangerine and suddenly starts choking on pulp caught in his throat. HE eventually can’t breathe and is clearly in distress. HESHIM comes up behind him and performs the Heimlich maneuver. The obstruction pops out of his mouth.)
                   MOISHE
(drinking some water) Thank you, Heshim. I couldn’t breathe. Thank you, my friend. 
                   HESHIM
I would have done it anyway. But I also owed you a big one, for getting my teenage son released from that Israeli prison.
                   MOISHE
I was happy to be able to help, Heshim. No problem. Our peoples are kind of cousins, after all... (They are almost overcome by emotion. They raise their water glasses in a silent toast.)
                   MOISHE
So. Let's get down to the stickier subjects. I've got an idea: You choose a subject for our side to press on, and I'll do the same for you.
                   HESHIM
Interesting format. OK, here goes: Recognition of the State of Israel.
                   MOISHE
No starting off small; you went right to the heart of our most fervent wish.
                   HESHIM
And my solution to this matter is: We solve the other issues and recognition of Israel's right to exist follows automatically.
                   MOISHE
That's kicking the can down the road, but OK for now. I'll choose for you: Getting rid of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem so that the new state of Palestine will be viable.  
                   HESHIM
That's the one. 
                   MOISHE
And how do you suggest we resolve the issue?
                   HESHIM
You know that being an occupying power is a political and military pain in the...touchas (indicating his butt; MOISHE pokes HESHIM playfully at his use of the word) not worth holding onto by force. The way out: Israel will withdraw from all settlements on Palestinian land, back to its pre-1967 borders.
                   MOISHE
A few settlements overlap into Palestinian lands, and those boundaries might have to be adjusted a bit. Otherwise, I think that if we gain security and recognition and the rocket and suicide-bomb attacks are officially forbidden, we can agree to that kind of pullback. It won't be easy; some of our fundamentalist settlers are crazed -- like some of your hotheads -- and will resist being moved with force.
                   HESHIM
But you have precedent on your side. Your police and army moved your wild-eyed, violent settlers out of their villages previously in Gaza and elsewhere. You can do it again.
                   MOISHE
Yes, I believe so. But that raises a vital issue: How do we deal with those who will oppose a peace settlement? In each of our societies, there are individuals and factions who do not want peace, who do not want compromise, who would rather try to exterminate the other side.
                   HESHIM
We must stipulate again: Yes, there will be acts of violence by factions and individuals against the other side. We must agree to proceed anyway, using our criminal courts for those violent ones but basically playing down their occasional suicide-bomb or rocket or assassination.
                   MOISHE
It's not going to happen easily, but (slaps the table) Agreed.
                   HESHIM
Jerusalem and “right of return” to their ancestral land. 
                   MOISHE
We allow some Palestinians to return to their ancient homes, for symbolic reasons, but we pay a handsome real-estate price to the rest of the claimants.
                   HESHIM
(as each man says the word “Agreed,” he slaps the table) Agreed. Jerusalem? It becomes an international city, run by a United Nations commission, with an advisory council composed of leaders from the three great religions in the region.
                   MOISHE
Agreed.
                   HESHIM
Jobs.
                   MOISHE
Once there is peace, Palestinian workers can come and go.
                   HESHIM
Agreed. We’ll also be creating infrastructure jobs in our own country. We could use Israeli help and support.
                   MOISHE
Can be arranged. Water?
                    HESHIM
Share the freshwater and build more nanotechnology desalinization plants within both countries.
                   MOISHE
Done.
                   HESHIM
And done. 
                   MOISHE
You know, each of these issues was settled in principle, piecemeal, over many years -- at Camp David, Madrid, Oslo.
                   HESHIM
But here we are now, and with this treaty you and I are about to actually launch them all into existence.
(Pause. THEY both look at each other, energized and exhausted, joyous and frightened by the enormity of what lies ahead. They shake hands formally.)
                   MOISHE
Heshim?
                   HESHIM
Moishe.

(As friends, THEY ritually exchange the three kisses on the cheeks, then realize that’s too formal and give each other genuine bear hugs.)
                   BOTH
Why couldn’t we have done this while you and I were still alive?
(THEY turn and face the audience. Slow fade to black. End of play.) #
*Staged Reading first presented by The Playwrights' Lab at 2010 Writers With Attitude Festival, Throckmorton Theatre, Milll Valley, CA. Copyright 2010 by the author.


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