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Good Cop, Bad Cop: Israel Diplomacy Edition

Imagining this month’s meeting among Netanyahu, Kerry, and Obama

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Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits with U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House March 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

“With the deadline nearing for the Israelis and Palestinians to sign on to an American framework accord, Mr. OBAMA and Mr. KERRY have fallen into a good-cop, bad-cop routine with Israel — a strategy that may push through a deal but will bruise feelings along the way.” — The New York Times, March 6, 2014

Oval office. Kerry leads Netanyahu to a chair, waits for him to sit down. Obama paces silently on other side of room.



KERRY: You look a little tired. You wanna bite to eat or something? 



NETANYAHU: (shakes head) I’m fine. Thank you. I’m looking forward to discussing …



KERRY: You sure? Big guy like you must get pretty hungry. (turns to secret service agent by door) Hey, Frankie, do me a favor and run out and grab us a couple a falafels. (agent nods) And don’t be stingy with the hummus.



KERRY: (turns back to Netanyahu, winks) You’re a hummus man—am I right?



NETANYAHU: (nods sheepishly) Thank you. Now, as far as the last draft of …



KERRY: I’m a hummus man myself. Ya know what? Me and you, we ain’t so different. Sure, I hear what they say about you in the hallways at the U.N.—that your intransigence is ultimately founded in an almost delusional commitment to a greater Israel, that you lack to the political backbone to break with the hardliners in your party the way that Begin and Sharon did. But ya know what? I don’t think it’s true. I think your backbone’s just fine.



Kerry steps behind Netanyahu, rubs his back. Netanyahu looks up, surprised.



NETANYAHU: Perhaps we should start going over the framework …



Obama races across Oval Office, lunges at Netanyahu. Kerry intercepts him, puts Obama in bear hug.



OBAMA: (flailing in Kerry’s grip, to Netanyahu): I’ll tell you when we’re ready to go over the framework for peace, you no good … 



KERRY: (struggling as he drags Obama away) Easy, POTUS. Easy. Come on. Deep breath. You don’t wanna go making a mess of your office again. (to Netanyahu) Our friend here don’t want no trouble. Do ya? 



NETANYAHU: Um, I don’t think so.



Kerry releases Obama, who resumes pacing at back of room. 



KERRY: (to Netanyahu) The thing with POTUS is, he’s got, shall we say, a bit of a temper. Ya see, POTUS don’t like it so much when someone won’t sign a multilateral framework accord that speaks both to the pragmatic realities on the ground as well as to the deeper grievances that underlie the long-standing historical conflict. Do ya, POTUS?



Obama shakes head, continues pacing.



KERRY: Nah, POTUS don’t like it all when world leaders allow ideology to triumph over pragmatism, don’t like it even one little bit. So that’s why we’re gonna have to ask you to sign this new framework I put together last night. (hands Netanyahu document and pen) All you gots to do is put your name on that little line right there, and you won’t have to worry about POTUS no more. Will he, POTUS?

Obama shakes head.

NETANYAHU: But I haven’t even read this draft of …



KERRY (laughing): Hey POTUS. You hear that?  He hasn’t read this draft yet? You got time to sit around while our friend here takes a reading break?



Obama shakes head.



KERRY: (to Netanyahu) Look, I know what you’re going through. Like I said, we ain’t so different. We like to go over all the details, read the fine print. Me and you, we wanna know exactly where the borders of the new Palestinian state are gonna be. We prefer a little confirmation as to whether Israel will continue to receive the billions of dollars that have accounted for a not insignificant portion of American foreign spending since the Camp David Accords. But POTUS here … Well, he’s kind of a busy guy. There’s a little bit of a situation going on in Ukraine now. Maybe you’ve seen it on the news?



NETANYAHU: (rolls eyes) Yes, I’m, of course, very aware of the situation in Ukraine.



Obama races across office, lunges at Netanyahu again. Kerry catches him just in time.

OBAMA: I’ll teach you to …


KERRY: Easy. Easy there.

Secret service agent returns with two falafel sandwiches in pitas. Kerry releases Obama.



KERRY: Oh, look who’s here. Frankie with the falafels. (pauses) Hey, how about that? That’s a … What do you call it when two words start with the same sound? 



OBAMA: (pacing, still fuming) Alliteration.



Kerry: Yeah, yeah. Alliteration. I just did some alliteratin’ there. Kinda like peace with Palestinians, huh? Whadya know? I guess I’m a poet? (laughs, turns to Netanyahu) Now how’s about you sign my little poem there so we can have ourselves some lunch?

NETANYAHU: I’m sorry, but I can’t possibly sign this right now.



KERRY: Oh, you’re right. How rude of me. You’re our guest. We should eat before we do business.



Kerry hands Netanyahu his falafel sandwich. Netanyahu shrugs, lifts falafel to open mouth. Obama appears behind him, snatches falafel sandwich away. Netanyahu looks up, stunned. Obama stares into Netanyahu’s eyes as he slowly takes enormous bite of the falafel.

KERRY: Hey look at that. POTUS likes falafel. Who knew? That good, POTUS?



Obama nods as he takes another enormous bite. Hummus pours down his chin.

KERRY: (to Netanyahu) Now about your signature …



NETANYAHU: But the documents are covered in hummus now?



KERRY: Hey POTUS? You got a problem signing a piece a paper with a little hummus on it? 



Obama shakes head.

NETANYAHU: Perhaps I should come back when …


KERRY: No, no. You sit. I’m the one who should be going. I think everything would go more, uh, smoothly, if you and POTUS had a little alone time. That sound good to you, POTUS?



Obama, whole face now covered in hummus, nods slowly and smiles for first time.



KERRY: (leaving Oval Office) Come on, Frankie. Let’s give these two global leaders a little chance to discuss the future political status of East Jerusalem’s Israeli Arab population one on one. (pausing) Hey. Look at that. I just did another one of those alliterations.



AGENT: Actually, I think you just said the same word twice.



KERRY: (stepping out and closing door to Oval Office) Hey Frankie …

AGENT: Yeah?

KERRY: How’s about doing the Secretary of State a little favor and shutting up for once?

Sounds of banging and breaking glass from Oval Office.

AGENT: Should we be going back in there?

KERRY: (continuing to walk down hall away from Oval Office) Probably.

Sam Apple teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Schlepping Through the Alps and American Parent.

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Good Cop, Bad Cop: Israel Diplomacy Edition

Imagining this month’s meeting among Netanyahu, Kerry, and Obama

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