As the second round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians got under way last week, some 80 percent of all Israelis were reportedly skeptical that anything would be born of them. I, on the other hand, found myself feeling pregnant with expectation.
Perhaps the sensation had something to do with the time frame announced for completion of the talks: nine months. I generally pride myself on not letting gender factor into my assessment of things, but I can’t help thinking that the declaration might have had something to do with Tzipi Livni’s innate feminine instinct. If the most miraculous of all things human takes only 38 weeks to bring into being, from conception to delivery, why should it possibly take any longer to reach a peace agreement with our neighbors? Saeb Erekat might not have been overjoyed with the pronouncement, but in my estimation he essentially had no choice but to reconcile himself to the inevitable. By now he has presumably realized that there are simply some things a man no longer has any control over once a seed has been planted in a woman’s… well, for present purposes, let’s say “mind.” Anyway, it’s too late now for second thoughts. If he really isn’t happy with the idea of what may emerge come next April, he should have been cautious enough not to have gone into a room alone with Ms. Livni in the first place, certainly not a room that, as we’ve now been told, is cloaked in a total blackout.
Or was it she who went in after him? Details may one day emerge as to who seduced, cajoled, coaxed or sweet-talked whom into the relationship we’re now in, but for the time being I imagine it had little to do with any direct communication between the parties. It was probably far more the doing of the consummate matchmaker Barack Obama and his charismatic sidekick John Kerry.
It was they who played the role of the best friend in sixth grade who runs back and forth relaying messages between two freshly pubescent and giggly classmates (not always with the utmost accuracy) who are anxious to get into that darkened room together behind a closed door for “seven minutes in heaven,” though they really have little idea what awaits them inside, or, for that matter, what they are supposed to do once they are in there.
Of course, there are those on our side of the relationship who are damn sure and understandably indignant about what took place out of sight during the several months leading up to the resumption of talks. As far as they are concerned, our release of convicted terrorists guilty of the most heinous of crimes, even before any serious negotiations had begun, amounted to nothing short of outright rape. While the full story may one day reveal a different version of events, right now even I must admit that it does feel that we have been despoiled, even if I would have voted with the prime minister on the matter.
It is important as we move ahead, however, that those who oppose the deal not accuse those who brokered it of having enjoyed the experience. To do so would be as repugnant as a sitting judge saying such a thing – or even thinking it – about a woman who had been violated while her assailant is on trial.
But let’s get back to the consequences of the act, and a few observations and some sage advice to keep in mind as things move along from one trimester to the next.
1. I’m not completely naïve. I realize that at this embryonic stage of the talks, things could easily miscarry. For good reason it is commonplace for couples to wait three months before sharing their news even with family so as not to raise expectations that could easily turn into disappointment. Nor am I unaware that even if things should proceed to full term, that which so many of us are anxiously awaiting could yet be stillborn, as has happened before at Camp David.
2. In the meantime, to those who view the current expansion of settlements over the Green Line as disagreeable, I caution patience and understanding.
Accept that this may be an inevitable byproduct of the process. Never has anyone given birth without first swelling in circumference. Be comforted in knowing that after delivery, there is every reason to believe that Israel will be slimmer and healthier than she has been for decades, sporting a figure and disposition that will enrapture even those who have been put off by her current size and appearance.
3. To those who find the growing girth appealing, enjoy the thousands of new units that have been or will be sanctioned over the coming months if you must, but know that they are only being approved as part of a prescription for a two-state solution. Indeed, their authorization might lead to the abortion of what many are convinced was an ill-conceived notion to begin with. But then again, they may not. Agreeing to the housing starts might simply be a way of nourishing a nascent Palestinian state.
4. While current negotiations are aimed at reaching an amicable separation between us and our neighbors, with each of us ending up in a home where we might live with dignity, self-respect and security, the matter of custody over Jerusalem remains the most difficult of issues.
Resolving it will require either Solomonic wisdom or the skill of a surgeon able to separate Siamese twins while leaving both alive and healthy. It will presumably also require all of us not to reject creative solutions without due consideration.
5. This conundrum aside, we all know the basic contours of what it is that Tzipi and Saeb are nurturing. True, details will only emerge as matters progress from one ultrasound to the next, but in the meantime, all of us must already begin searching our hearts for an answer to the question of whether or not we will be able to embrace whatever it is that they are parenting, defects and all.
We may yet be asked to give our answer in a national referendum.
I know that if this process is to bear fruit, it is inevitably going to hurt. I, for one, am ready for the pain, which I trust will be accompanied by tears of relief if not joy. While others may already be bracing themselves for postpartum depression, I choose to keep dreaming of what may be born of all this. I’ve even already picked out a name for the child. If it’s a boy, I’ll call him Shalom. If a girl, Tikva. Personally I’m hoping for twins. The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Jewish Agency executive. The opinions expressed herein are entirely his own. A collection of his articles may be found at keepdreaminginzion.org.
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