A Successful "Negotiation" of
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Paper
August 1, 2014
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:
A Short Play by Bernard Weiner
Staged Reading first presented by The
at 2010 Writers With Attitude Festival
Throckmorton Theatre, Milll Valley, CA.
Copyright 2010 by the author
(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.)
It was such a pleasure seeing Yasmeen and your kids again.
You are one lucky man to have found her, 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.
How I wish. (starts to tear up; HESHIM rests his hand on
(THEY reach the table, formally shake hands and seat
themselves. Their demeanor shifts as they move into their negotiating roles.
You know, my peoples’ lives would have been so much easier
if your people would have simply disappeared.
We had the same thought about your people: Why can't they
Just out of curiosity, where did you think we would
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?
We hoped your fellow Arabs would have carved out a
Palestinian state for you inside their borders.
That’ll be the day. Not very realistic, were we? (THEY
The truth is that no country in Europe wants us Jews to
arrive en masse on their doorstep.
And nobody wants us Palestinians as a group to show up in
any Arab country.
Finally, something in common: the brotherhood of political
A good place to start from to fashion a peace settlement,
That's why we're locked inside this room, Heshim. We're
Too many generations have spilled their blood, too many
children raised in hate and suspicion--
Time to give something, get something. That’s why we were
given the mandate: end the slaughter on the battlefields, make the peace.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Not the old Jews-as-Nazis cliché. We're just going around
in circles again.
(long beat) The Americans may not be in the room
physically, but I can hear them speaking to us anyway.
What are they saying?
You mean like in courtrooms?
Yes. Both sides agree to something obvious so they don't
have to keep arguing about it during the trial.
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.
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.
And, we must admit that we both besmirched our causes,
committed war crimes, went a little crazy in our zeal. Lost our way.
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
(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.)
(drinking some water) Thank you, Heshim. I couldn’t
breathe. Thank you, my friend.
I would have done it anyway. But I also owed you a big
one, for getting my teenage son released from that Israeli prison.
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.)
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
Interesting format. OK, here goes: Recognition of the
State of Israel.
No starting off small; you went right to the heart of our
most fervent wish.
And my solution to this matter is: We solve the other
issues and recognition of Israel's right to exist follows automatically.
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.
That's the one.
And how do you suggest we resolve the issue?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
It's not going to happen easily, but (slaps the table)
Jerusalem and “right of return” to their ancestral land.
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.
(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.
Once there is peace, Palestinian workers can come and go.
Agreed. We’ll also be creating infrastructure jobs in our
own country. We could use Israeli help and support.
Can be arranged. Water?
Share the freshwater and build more nanotechnology
desalinization plants within both countries.
You know, each of these issues was settled in principle,
piecemeal, over many years -- at Camp David, Madrid, Oslo.
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.)
(As friends, THEY ritually exchange the three kisses on
the cheeks, then realize that’s too formal and give each other genuine bear
Why couldn’t we have done this while you and I were still
(THEY turn and face the audience. Slow fade to black. End
This short play, and others, are
available at Bernard Weiner's new creative-arts website (www.bernardweiner.org);
permission needed to produce (contact: >>
firstname.lastname@example.org <<. Weiner, a playwright, poet,
photographer and Ph.D. in government and international relations, has taught
at universities in California and Washington, and was the San Francisco
Chronicle's theatre critic for 16 years.