January 8, 2001

uring George W.'s first attempt in late January to moderate a meeting at Camp David between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, he reveals his understanding that the "state of Palestine" is a U.S. protectorate somewhere near the island of Guam, and that the solution to Israeli-Palestinian problem is a simple matter of establishing some faith-based charities whose volunteers would teach the two peoples how to fish and scuba-dive in their tropical waters. Both Barak and Arafat throw up their hands in disgust and walk out, feeling even more discouraged than when they had first entered the meeting.

Out of desperation, they board a plane together to travel to Atlanta, Georgia, to meet with another American leader -- one who is better known for his diplomatic skills and knowledge than the hapless George W. Unbeknownst to them, the shared plane flight leads to a pleasant conversation in which they share some common ground.

The two leaders order Cokes from the flight attendant and chat about the failed meeting.

"I cannot believe what an idiot that man is!" exclaims Arafat.

"He makes Boris Yeltsin look good," retorts Barak.

"That is for certain," Arafat agrees. "What I do not understand is, how can Americans choose such a stupid man to be their leader?"

"Well, I heard he was not exactly elected," Barak hints.

"Oh, yes," responds Arafat, "I have also heard much about the so-called 'democracy' in America."

Barak guffaws. "Do not get me started!"

Arafat nods. Both men become quiet. They sip their Cokes and gaze out the window for a few minutes.

Barak looks at Arafat. "You know," he says, "despite all of our problems, Mr. Arafat, at least we can say we are not completely bereft of essential knowledge about the world. We are both familiar with history, geography, and politics."

"Not to mention the fact that we can both read a book!" Both men chuckle.

Their countenances become serious again. Barak takes a deep breath. "With our collective intelligence, surely we can reach an agreement," he says.

"I concur," Arafat says unblinkingly. "We have to reach an agreement. The violence must end. There cannot be one more who dies."

Barak looks down at his hands and nods. He sighs and quietly retreats to his thoughts. Then he looks up at Arafat and says, "Perhaps the man in Atlanta can help."

fter disembarking from the airplane, the Middle Eastern leaders check into a hotel in Atlanta. The next day, they share a limousine ride and arrive at 453 Freedom Parkway. They enter a posh meeting room and sit for a few minutes while they wait for their host to arrive. When the man whom they have come to see enters the room, they both stand to greet him.

"Shalom, Ehud," greets the host, who is a smiling and soft-spoken gentleman. He and Barak warmly shake hands.

Former President Jimmy Carter then turns to Arafat.

"Marhaba, Yasser. Q'if halak?" Carter says to Arafat.

Arafat smiles broadly and replies, "I am very well, thank you. And how are you, Jimmy?"

"Mapsut, Yasser," Carter says. "And shukran-lek for asking."

"Oh, stop showing off, Jimmy!" Barak interjects. The three men laugh.

Carter indicates for them to sit down at an elegant round table. As they sit, Carter explains, "Please pardon me. My daughter Amy gave me an Arabic language CD-ROM for Christmas and I'm taking the opportunity to practice my conversational skills."

Barak and Arafat both convey their encouragement to Carter for his budding fluency in Arabic, and the serious discussion begins. It continues for several days, with each day's meetings accomplishing more than those of the day before.

fter the talks conclude, the Middle Eastern leaders return to Israel with new plans for a peace settlement between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinians. The agreement assures the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland in exchange for a Palestinian declaration of Israel as a permanent Jewish state, in which Jews can continue to settle and prosper. When housing runs short, Jimmy Carter lends his assistance again -- this time as a carpenter with Habitat for Humanity. Israeli and Palestinian leaders create a bicultural committee comprising moderate Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and historical scholars to oversee the protection and maintenance of the holy compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Arabs as Haram al-Sharif. The Palestinian people are finally awarded sovereignty and control over their natural resources, and Israeli Jews and Palestinians are gradually integrated in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, the government, and the army. This peaceful integration is expected to continue through future generations, as Israeli and Palestinian young people participate in educational and cultural-understanding projects modeled on the Seeds of Peace program. The Israeli army lays down its weapons against the Palestinians, and the Palestinians are happy to toss aside their rocks now that they have access to freedom, resources, and opportunity. The leaders of the two peoples establish an annual day of mourning for those who died during the conflict. The rest of the world looks to this small but diverse region as an example of successful peacemaking and coexistence.

eanwhile, back in the U.S., George W. is caught snorting cocaine in the men's bathroom of the Pentagon and is promptly impeached for breaking his own draconian anti-drug laws. Upon hearing this news, Vice President Dick Cheney is so overwhelmed by excitement that he has heart attack -- this time a more serious one that renders him incapacitated to serve as President. Next in line, Speaker of the House Denny Hastert retires unexpectedly and passes the baton to President Pro Tempore of the Senate Strom Thurmond, who is deemed, by an official board of gerontological psychiatrists, mentally incompetent after showing up in the Capitol building without his shoes on. Due to concerns of Secretary of State Colin Powell using executive powers to bomb various foreign nations just for the heck of it, the Democrats get their act together and stage a coup to circumvent the Presidential Succession Law of 1947. A popular election is held, and Hillary Clinton becomes the new President. Hillary turns out to have more integrity than her sellout husband did, as many people had predicted she would. Former President Bill Clinton agrees with this assessment when asked about it by a guest on his NBC talk show.

Copyright 2001 Mariva H. Aviram. All rights reserved.