Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Groucho Quizzes the Leaders by Israel Zwick

Groucho Quizzes the Leaders

Compiled by Israel Zwick

On March 24, 2006, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported an exclusive interview with Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The same day, the Israeli website, Ynet News, reported an exclusive interview with Kadima leader, Ehud Olmert. The next day, the two Middle East leaders were invited to participate in the TV quiz show, “You Bet Your Life.” This show, hosted by comedian Groucho Marx, was aired on television from 1950 to 1961. The popularity and longevity of the program were attributed to the humorous interactions between Groucho Marx and the contestants. Grouch Marx died in 1977.

Announcer: Welcome to “You Bet Your Life.” The secret word tonight is “RELOCATION.” If any of the contestants say this word during the show, they will receive a bonus prize. Now let’s bring up tonight’s contestants, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas. Gentlemen, meet Groucho Marx.

Groucho: Welcome to our show, Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas. The secret word for tonight is a proposed solution for resolving ethnic conflict. If any of you say the secret word during the show, a rubber duck will come down and give each of you 1000 Shekel. We can no longer use a real duck because of concerns over avian flu. At my age, there’s one thing I always wanted to do before I quit…retire! So Ehud, tell us a little about yourself. What do you do?

Ehud: You mean that you don’t know who I am?

Groucho: Well, I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.

Ehud: I am the Acting Prime Minister of the State of Israel.

Groucho: So, you’re an actor.

Ehud: No, I’m not an actor.

Groucho: I already figured that out for myself. You should seriously consider finding another profession. You could become a decoy for duck hunters. What about you, Mahmoud, are you also an actor?

Mahmoud: No, Groucho. I take my job very seriously; I am the democratically elected President of the Palestinian Authority.

Groucho: So you must be the one responsible for bringing the Palestinians up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Mahmoud: I have devoted my life to the plight of the Palestinian people. I am one of those who signed the Oslo agreement and was a patron of the negotiations that were conducted prior to it in secret for eight months. I supported, and continue to support, a clear peace plan, based on the legitimacy of international law, to which we all agreed, and on the road map. I have called ceaselessly for a hudna [cease-fire] in order to enable the continuation of negotiations, and I achieved a period of calm when I was prime minister. I have often swum against the current, but when our public hears from Israel that there is no Palestinian partner- that is something that I cannot explain.

Groucho: I can see that time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana. Ehud, what about you? Are you impressed by Mahmoud’s self-assessment?

Ehud: I know him and we were very friendly, but I cannot base my attitude toward the PA on the sympathy I may have for a certain individual. Abbas failed in the biggest challenge that he faced from the get go – the war on terror. As a result of his government’s failure, Hamas rose to a very influential position.

Groucho: It seems that time wounds all heels. Mahmoud, do you accept the blame for the rise of Hamas?

Mahmoud: That is the price of democracy. The Palestinian people elected this government, but the PLO Executive and all the organizations stated that they reject the Hamas platform. Fatah made mistakes in a few places, and the election system helped Hamas win. But 51 percent of the Palestinians support Fatah’s political plan. I prefer to moderate Hamas and not to push it to extremes.

Groucho: What is this political plan that you are referring to?

Mahmoud: Our solution is based on the Beirut declaration of 2002, which was the biggest gift Israel received since its establishment. It has a special importance because its origin is Saudi Arabia, the land of the Islamic holy places, and because all the Arab states and all the Muslim states at the conference declared their readiness for normalization with Israel after the occupation of the territories ends.

Groucho: Mahmoud, it seems that you learned that the secret of life is honesty and fair dealing, and if you can fake that you’ve got it made. Could you explain that Saudi plan?

Mahmoud: I accept the right of every Israeli citizen to live in security and within agreed borders, which are the borders of 1967. I know well the meaning of life in a situation of unstable security. On the other hand, we, too, have the right to live in an independent state in the 1967 borders, without fences, without settlements, and without military attacks. You should know that not a day passes without a funeral here, without people being wounded and without arrests.

Groucho: Now there’s a man with an open mind – you can feel the breeze from here! Ehud, what do you think about Mahmoud’s plan?

Ehud: I can promise them a state, without giving up on the settlement blocks, but only if they accept the basic conditions set by the international community as they appear in the Road Map for peace initiative, any government that recognizes this will be legitimate.
Groucho: So Mahmoud, can you make Ehud happy and accept the Road Map?

Mahmoud: The negotiations with Israel will be conducted by the PLO’s negotiations unit on the basis of international legitimacy and the Saudi initiative. I am unreservedly committed to the Road Map, to which Israel appended 14 reservations. If we reach and agreement, I will be the one to sign it. If needed, I will put it to a referendum.

Groucho: Does that satisfy you, Ehud?

Ehud: The PA Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, is an enemy according to his own definition. He does not recognize Israel or the agreements signed with us; he also does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Groucho: So Ehud, do you have an alternative plan?

Ehud: When I speak of gathering inside permanent borders, the unilateral issue is insignificant. In lieu of negotiations, first of all I want to reach via domestic dialogue a position that represents the Israeli consensus regarding the country’s permanent borders. Then I said I would negotiate with the US and the International community with the objective of convincing them of the logic behind such a move. If it will be conducted in such a manner – it is not unilateralism but a coordinated process. Then a Palestinian state could be established within the same borders we will set after we decide to evacuate, with internal agreement and international support – without relinquishing the military options we will have in all of the West Bank to protect ourselves from terror.

Groucho: A child of five would understand this. George, send someone to fetch a child of five. Mahmoud, do you understand Ehud’s plan?

Mahmoud: Olmert’s plan may bring about a 10-year hudna and a state with temporary borders, but it will not bring peace. Plans like that leave the problem open, but do not resolve it. We saw what happened when the end of the conflict is postponed. According to Oslo, we were supposed to reach a final-status agreement by 1999, and we saw what happened. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, Shimon Peres lost the elections, and Benjamin Netanyahu destroyed everything. I am proposing to sit now and discuss the end of the conflict. I proposed to Peres and the Americans to open a back channel of talks, far from the spotlight, and I am convinced that within less than a year, we will be able to sign an agreemnent.

Groucho: Ehud, do you share Mahmoud’s optimism?

Ehud: Only a Palestinian Authority that is committed to the agreements and is not involved in terror may be a partner for negotiations and an agreement. After Hamas rose to power, the hope of holding substantial negotiations was dashed.

Groucho: Ehud, I understand that allegations were made about your honesty, integrity, and worthiness to become Prime Minister.
Ehud: Have you heard any complaints against me on these issues in the past four years? No! Why? Because I was not a candidate. People are not stupid and realize that this is part of the elections campaign and the smear campaign.

Groucho: I have always said that there is one way to find out if a man is honest –ask him. If he says “yes,” then you know he’s a crook. Mahmoud, do you have anything to say to Ehud?

Mahmoud: We must come to the negotiating table in good faith and with a genuine and true desire to end the conflict. I have to put myself in your shoes and you will put yourselves in my shoes. When each side understands the rights of the other, there is a chance that we will reach a solution. It will not happen if you ambush me into a corner in order to grab a slice here and a slice there.

Groucho: Gentlemen, our time is up. I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it. I am now convinced that politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies. Since neither of the contestants said the secret word, our next contestants will get a chance to get the bonus prize. George, who are our next contestants?

Announcer: Bibi Netanyahu and Ismail Haniyeh.

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