A presidential chat on exemplary elections

The Baltimore Sun

JERUSALEM -On Wednesday, President Barack Obama called Israeli President Shimon Peres to congratulate him on the general elections held here the day before. The White House quoted President Obama's remark to President Peres that "the Israeli people should be very happy about the democratic example they have set for the world."

The White House went on to tell us that the two men "had a good discussion."

Ah, but how did the discussion proceed? Here is my best guess:

"Mr. President, let me congratulate you on the general elections held in your country."

"Thank you, Mr. President, and let me congratulate you again on your victory in your elections, in November."

"Thank you, Mr. President. The Israeli people should be very happy about the democratic example they have set for the world."

"That's very kind of you, Mr. President."

"Now, Mr. President, may I ask you a question?"

"By all means, Mr. President."

"Mr. President, who exactly won the elections in Israel?"

"Well, it depends on whom you're asking."

"As a matter of fact, Mr. President, I'm asking you."

"Well, let's see. Technically speaking, it is Tzipi Livni. She got more votes than Benjamin Netanyahu."

"Then it's settled, isn't it? She will be the next prime minister."

"Not so fast, Mr. President. It might as easily be Benjamin Netanyahu."

"How come?"

"Well, you see, although he got fewer votes than Tzipi Livni, he has more members of Knesset supporting him than she does."

"But how on Earth can someone who got fewer votes become the leader of his country?"

(Frantic whispering in Hebrew on the line, then:)

"Well, I believe you people set the precedent yourself, in 2000, with Al Gore and all that."

"Ah, yes. So, it's up to you now to decide who will be the next prime minister?"

"Officially yes, but practically, it's in the hands of someone called Lieberman."

"Joe Lieberman? What is he doing there?"

"No, Avigdor Lieberman. It's a bit complicated, Mr. President. You see, this fellow, who originally came from Russia, lives in a settlement in the West Bank, and wants to strip the Israeli Arabs of their citizenship if they don't swear allegiance to the Jewish state. The other Arabs he wants to - excuse the language - kick in the ass."

"Sounds like Putin to me. And what makes him a kingmaker?"

"He just won 15 seats in the Knesset, which gives him the decisive bloc."

"Amazing."

"However, Mr. President, our police are after him because of bribery charges."

"That's disgusting. How can people at the highest leadership level take a bribe?"

(More whispering in Hebrew, with the word "Illinois" clearly audible.)

"Anyway, Mr. President, got to go. It was good talking to you. Again, you guys in Israel should be very happy about the democratic example you have set for the world."

"Thank you, Mr. President. When will we see you in our region?"

"Well, I would rather have George Mitchell and Hillary go there first and knock heads together" - (hushed giggling on the line) - "er, I mean, help create the necessary basis conducive to fruitful continuation of the peace talks."

"Thank you, Mr. President. Can't wait to see them here."

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem. His e-mail is dromi@

mishkenot.org.il.

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