NEW YORK – “Don’t sit there,” one of the women working with the Prime Minister’s
Office told me hastily as I reached for a chair leaning against the table.
“That’s for the prime minister and his staff.”
I walked away and found
another chair. This one right by an outlet and, as it turned out, the air
Thursday was a beautiful fall day in New York, but
with more than a minyan of Israeli reporters in what under ordinary
circumstances would be an ordinary hotel room, the space was being preemptively
cooled. The temperature in my particular seat was 10 degrees cooler.
it wouldn’t matter for too much longer, I thought. Any moment now, as soon as
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were
done with their one-on-one talks, Netanyahu would come in the room with his
aides and do a briefing, at various levels of off- and on-the record, depending
on what would be said.
“Maybe they should send Hillary in here instead,”
someone remarked. “As a cultural exchange kind of thing?” An hour went by, and
With the passage of time went our collective resistance to the
peanutbutter chip and chocolate chip cookies placed in the room, inexplicably
sprinkled with loose M&Ms. Coffee was poured, ice water drunk. Every now and
then, the door would open – only for someone to say, “There’s no word
“Maybe Bibi and Hillary are having makeup sex, and that’s what’s
taking so long?” someone quipped, to ample male snickers.(This is the
kind of thing that often happens in rooms where there’s only one female
Members of the prime ministers’ staff came in, and reporters put
down their cookies and picked up their pens. But the only thing to report, for
our purposes, was that there was nothing to report – yet.
Netanyahu had met one-on-one for over two hours, they told us (eliciting
suggestively raised eyebrows from the more juvenile members of the group), and
now, they were meeting in teams. How long would it continue? No one knew – two
hours, at least, one member of the staff said.
“So it’s going long,” I said to one of staffers. “Well, that
“It’s not good for me or my deadline,” an annoyed reporter
snapped, typing furiously into his iPhone.
“You think so?” the staffer
asked, with a raised eyebrow.
“I’ve been divorced,” I told the spokesman.
“I know from personal experience that there is no such thing as a bad long
He laughed. “Exactly – if it’s not going well, you just get up
and leave. Oh, you know too much!” We exchanged business cards, and he
A while later – who was paying attention to the passage of time
anymore? – the door opened.
“I have a bit of intel for you,” an American
security guy said, leaning into the room. “They just ordered
“I’m out of here,” one of the reporters said, standing up
The sandwich information was big. After all, if they
anticipated the meeting ending within an hour or even two, only cookies and
coffee would be necessary.
No, this one was going to be a long day’s
journey into night.
“The worst is when THEY get sandwiches, but YOU
don’t,” someone quipped. A consensus was reached: time to go get our own
E-mailing back and forth with the office, I took longer than
most to shut down, and by the time I did, the room was nearly
People exchanged phone numbers – “I’ll call you if I hear
something” – as they parted ways.
I walked down the street a few blocks,
wondering what would happen in the talks, wondering what was even possible,
during a week when inflammatory remarks had been traded back and forth in a
verbal volley. Watching my feet, I suddenly noticed I was walking in
Had I been in the meeting room so long that months had passed, and
it was now winter? No, I realized, though it sure felt that way.
just two blocks down from the hotel, someone was filming a movie on the street
that took place during winter. An entire city block, from the median in the
middle of Park Avenue to the sidewalk, had been covered with man-made snow.
Children were breaking away from their nannies to grab unseasonable snowballs,
ruining their seasonally appropriate footwear in the process.
In my head,
I ran through the various ways to weave this into my story – maybe saying
something about things being incongruously cold between the parties, or perhaps
the more accurate Ecclesiastes allusion, “to everything there is a season”? But
the fact of the matter was, all of this was too strange. In a world where people
can make snow from nothing on a beautiful fall day, maybe, just maybe, they
could make the beginnings of peace?