There they were - all over TV - two men sitting, looking at each other. One sternly intense. The other looking defensive, almost scrunched into his chair.
The stern one is a big guy, bulky and retro. Bear-like. He could crush any opponent easily. The other guy is slender and tall. Lean and agile. Tiger-like. Someone who could move quickly, be one step ahead and then strike effortlessly.
If these guys were wrestlers, this would be a smackdown!
The first guy is animated, doing most of the talking: almost wagging his finger. He is Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, 62 years-old and Prime Minister of Israel, the most powerful country in the Middle-East. He is trying to hold on during the tsunami of the Spring of Arab Awakening. He’s hoping that he and his beloved country are not engulfed by indigenous Arabs. The other guy is Barack Hussein Obama. He’s almost 50 years-old and is President of the United States, the most powerful nation the world has ever seen. He’s riding his own wave of international acclaim after dispatching Osama bin Laden, the world’s worst terrorist.
While Bibi is holding forth, Barack is politically polite. He knows it’s better just to let Bibi grandstand. Let him have his photo-op for the folks back home. “See, I told the President of the United States how the mountain gazelle ate the knish,” Bibi will gush. Barack also knew that they had a secret agreement!
When the two leaders had spoken in private. Aides were to be called, but weren’t. Barack had gotten Bibi back to the negotiating table and embracing pre-1967 borders.
How did our President do it?
The two leaders began discussing peace talks with the now solidified Palestinian leadership. Bibi was uncharacteristically nervous. He seemed to be laboring, wanting to spill some inner concern regarding support for the President’s position.
Gaining a religious calm, Bibi said he would support the President’s plan if the President supported something very close to him. “ Bibi began slightly sweating, telegraphing discomfort. “My goodness,” thought Barack, “this must be something very personal. I hope he’s not going to ask me to co-sign a loan!”
Bibi continued, “Thousands of years of Jewish tradition are in jeopardy, Mr. President. I’m concerned about something that affects not only Jews in Israel, but every Jewish family worldwide.”
“Oh, oh,” thought Barrack, “this can’t be good! Surely, he knows I’m sympathetic to the traditions of Judaism.“
”Well, Bibi, I want to help. What is it you want from me for you to support the pre-1967 borders?”
“It’s very personal, Mr. President, and it’s something you may have also personally experienced.”
Bibi, avoiding eye contact, continued, “Barack, I know foreign governments may not involve themselves in American elections. But I need your promise that you will personally intervene in San Francisco and stop what's going on.”
”Stop what’s going on in San Francisco, Mr. Prime Minister? What’s going on?”
“I want you to stop the assault on Brit Milah?”
“Yes, Mr. President, Brit Milah, the ancient Jewish covenant of circumcision.” Barack was taken aback. What did he hear? We all know, that when it comes to diplomacy, Bibi is no Barack. For Barack, diplomatic style “trips off the tongue.” For Bibi, diplomatic style mostly trips. Barack was stumped. Had Bibi lost his marbles?
Bibi took a quick breath and continued, ”I want you to agree to stop any law preventing the practice of male circumcision. If the measure passes, circumcision would be prohibited among males under the age of 18. The practice would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. There would be no religious exemptions. I want you to support a U.S. Constitutional amendment if necessary!”
Almost wide-eyed with amazement, Barack held his composure. He reminded Bibi that Muslims also practice male circumcision. The only difference between Jewish and Muslim circumcision is that Jews do it within a few days of the baby’s birth while Muslims wait until the child is 12 or 13 years old.
The President quietly drew a diplomatic breath, looked Bibi understandingly in the eyes and said, “OK, Bibi, you got it. I will personally work to make sure that the statute is defeated if you agree to the pre-1967 Israeli/Palestinian borders.” “That’s perfect, Mr. President, I agree.”
Bibi gave a sigh of relief. “I’m good,” he thought, “This President was a pushover!” Thought Barack, the Constitutional law professor who is now our President, “That was easy. That statute is unconstitutional anyway.”
And that’s how it happened!