(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
President Shimon Peres: With a parliament for a stage, where politicians enact the swelling scene of distrust and conspiracy, play you, the reader of this page, with your fancies, and in them behold how a prime minister and a foreign minister commiserate in the Knesset eatery. Work your thoughts, and in them see a defense minister raging at his rebels, and a woman of opposition who seeks to slay them all.
But enough preamble! An honest tale speeds best by being plainly told. So I beg of you, dear reader, be kind, as you imagine this performance in your mind.
Foreign Minister Avigdor (Yvette) Lieberman enters the Knesset dining room: What news, what news in this our tottering state? Why so sad, Bibi?
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: Not sad, troubled. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown of premiership. Obama still speaks in infinite detail of nothing but settlements. His reasons against natural growth are as two grains of wheat in two bushels of chaff: You shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them they are not worth the search. But why you, Yvette - why are you so sad this day?
Yvette: 'Tis to do with he who calls himself Mazuz, and by the title attorney-general. I never see his face but I think upon hell-fire - a stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, incapable of pity, void and empty from any dream of mercy. That young start-up has all the glory of my overthrow. If I can cross him anyway I bless myself every way. I crave the law, not his persecution.
Bibi: Then assume a virtue even if you have it not.
Yvette: Have it not? Lord, Lord, how subject we politicians are to this vice of lying. You know as I know, the devil can cite Scripture for its purpose. A plague upon it when thieves cannot be true to one another.
Bibi: True - every man hath his fault, yet I believe honesty is yours. I have heard you have taken great pains to exhibit your innocence of all foul deeds.
Yvette: I am as honest as any man living, yet verily, those prosecutors they kill us politicians for their sport.
Bibi: God hath given us one face and they make of us another. How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless magistrate void of gratitude for the goodly deeds we do.
Yvette: I hate ingratitude more in man than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness or taint or vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.
Bibi: Therefore, fear not. Since having done nothing, nothing can you lose. But beware. Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it does singe yourself. Incite not the Russian street. Tread carefully, as carefully as you tread the world, peering at maps for capitals you fear to enter for fear of being unnoticed, unobserved, overlooked, unseen, disregarded, even set upon.
Yvette (rising): I see my sandy hourglass runs, and so I take my leave. I pray you know me when we meet again.
(Exit Lieberman, enter Defense Minister Ehud Barak.)
Bibi: Good morrow my good Ehud. How now? What news among your rebels?
Ehud: My rebels? They have turned this season into the summer of my discontent. I dote on their very absence. Being a politician in this land is like being kidnapped, and then sold into slavery.
Bibi: Give such thoughts no tongue, Ehud. I was adored once too. Fishes live in the sea as men do on land; the great ones eat up the little ones.
Ehud: Believe me, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. I was born great. And like you, I hold the world but as the world - a stage where every man must play a part. When we are born we cry, then we come to this great stage of fools called politics. In it, the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
Bibi: Speak not thus.
Ehud: Would that I had remained a soldier. By my troth, in war strong reasons make resolute actions. Ascertain that the design for battle is wise, that the arms are fair when the intent of bearing them is just, then pursue the joust resolutely; weigh the enemy more mighty than he seems so that the proportions of attack and defense are filled, and then do not forgo the purpose that you resolved to perfect. That is soldiering. But politics! Politics acquaint a man with strange bedfellows. It is full of artless jealousies. Suspicion always haunts the mind. It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
Bibi: Forsooth, let us refreshment take. Your unhappy talk leaves me undone. (Calls over waiter).
Waiter: What is your gracious pleasure, good sirs?
Waiter: What manner of tea, good sirs?
Bibi: Tea, tea.
Ehud: What else but tea?
Waiter: Well, truly sirs, out of respect for you and in respect of tea, I am but, as you would say, in respect of being a merchant of teas. There is Indian tea, and Ceylon tea, and Chinese tea and...
Bibi: Is this a jest? Get thee to a kettle and bring what you shall bring, and we shall drink down all unkindness.
Waiter: Unkindness, sirs? Here in our Knesset - unkindness? (Begins to sing): One who sits here for gain and follows but for form, will pack when it begins to rain, and leave thee in the storm.
And I the waiter have seen them all, I've seen the wise men fly. And those who've stayed but lost the race, I'm here to wave good-bye.
(Enter the leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni.)
Tzipi: What mirth is this? What pretty follies are these? Are our prime minister and defense minister engaged in a merry meeting when the dogs of war are afoot? I shall to the public tell all. Truth is truth, as you shall yet learn when the nation brings you tumbling.
Ehud to Bibi: Why this is it when men are ruled by women. If fortune be a woman, she's a good wench for this gear. Leave her to those thorns that in her bosom lodge to prick and sting her.
Tzipi to Ehud (in scorn): So who is your companion now, Ehud? You have every month a new sworn political brother. You wear your conviction but as a fashion of a hat - it changes with every season.
Ehud to Bibi: I go to leave you with this woman's frailty and her insolence. Fare thee well.
Bibi: Hear that, Tzipi? Frailty thou art woman.
Tzipi: Say you so? My words fly up but my thoughts remain below - say you so? To you life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore, so do your minutes hasten to their end. For there is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. Bibi, you have missed the tide.
Bibi (to himself): Oh when she is angry she is keen and shrewd. She was a vixen even when she went to school. And though she was but little then, she is grown fiercer now. (To her): Methinks the lady doth protest too much.
Tzipi: Do I? To you, alas, I am a mere woman, and ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Well, hear this knave: I am made of that self metal as you but without your villain's mind.
Bibi: Fie, fie! Go to your bosom. Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know to be true.
Tzipi: It doth know that your false face must hide what the false heart doth know, and which the people shall again discover as they did in years past.
Bibi: And you? In this, your political life, you who have found tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything that Palestinian tongues have spoken. Two states you say? As soon go kindle a fire with snow as seek to quench the fire of appeasement you have kindled.
Tzipi: Words, words, words, nothing but words. You always end with a jade's trick. I know you of old. I shall yet meet you on the field of battle where the ballots reign.
Peres: And thus do I bring our imagined scene swiftly to a close. Leashed in like hounds within the cockpit of power, the players continue to enact their lines with confidence in the hope of winning yours. For within the girdle of the Knesset walls all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts. I know, for I have spoken those lines often, and played those parts many a time. But in the stars my constant destiny was to lose the race. I am however content, for in the script which is now mine I play the role of president.
The writer served on the personal staffs of five prime ministers. Menachem Begin dubbed him "My Shakespeare."
His book The Prime Ministers will appear in Spring 2010.
Email the author: email@example.com