Barnyard Diplomacy

A Lesson From a Wagon Driver

By Israel Zwick, CN Publications, November 12, 2007

See Also: Webster Peace Plan

See Also: Show Me Now! 

On a recent trip to Israel, I stepped into a taxi for a relatively lengthy trip. The middle-aged driver told me that he didn’t speak English well and wanted to know if I spoke any Hebrew. I responded that I knew a little Hebrew but I was much better with English or Yiddish. Elated, the driver exclaimed, “I speak Yiddish, too. Would you like to hear a joke in Yiddish?”

The joke went something like this: A distinguished elderly gentleman steps into a taxi in Jerusalem and tells the driver, “Bal agola (driver, wagon driver), I have an important meeting on Rechov Yaffo, please get me there quickly.” As the taxi driver proceeds through the heavy Jerusalem traffic, the impatient passenger repeatedly complains to the driver, “Bal agola, can’t you go any faster? Bal agola, why are you standing behind this bus, can’t you go around him? Bal agola, why did you stop for this light, it wasn’t red yet?” Finally, the taxi driver had enough. He stopped the taxi, turned around and said to the passenger, “Sir, I would appreciate it if you stopped calling me bal agola.” Surprised, the passenger retorted, “Why, isn’t that what you are, a bal agola?”

“No, sir,” replied the driver, “I am a chauffeur.”

“What’s the difference,” the passenger chided angrily, “bal agola or chauffeur, it’s the same thing.”

“No, it’s not the same,” explained the driver, “a bal agola drives with the ferd (horse) in the front, and a chauffeur drives with the ferd in the back.”

This story brings to mind the common idiom, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” Similarly, a common expression in the workplace is, “You’re doing this ass backwards.” As a child, one of my father’s frequent lesson to me was, “Mir darfn unheben mit Braishis (We need to begin from Genesis).”

These phrases are essentially saying the same thing. A project is best completed when it is done in an orderly, sequential, and systematic manner. This lesson seems to have been lost to the political commentators discussing the proposed Middle East peace conference to be held in Annapolis.

According to “moderate” Arab commentators, as well as the secular, liberal, progressive, Israeli commentators, the root cause of the Israeli-Arab conflict is the “suffering of the Palestinian people.” Why are the Palestinians suffering? They are suffering because of the “oppressive, humiliating, and brutal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.” This lengthy occupation has caused the Palestinians to become frustrated, angry, and rebellious. In addition, it has destroyed the “moral compass” of the Jewish people. Israeli youth no longer want to serve in the army and are going astray with crime and drugs. American Jewish youth are becoming increasing alienated from a connection to the Jewish State. This is all because of “The Occupation” that has been going on since 1967.

So what is the solution to all this? Simple; just “End the Occupation.” As soon as the Palestinian Arabs can achieve self-determination in their own state, they will no longer be suffering, angry, and rebellious. Peace and tranquility will follow shortly. Just end the occupation and all the Middle East nations will enjoy harmonious, peaceful coexistence.

This is a quintessential example of putting the cart before the horse. The true Palestinian Arabs, that is those who can actually trace their ancestry to Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Jericho, Gaza, and other towns in the area, have always been occupied. Prior to 1967, they were occupied by Jordan and Egypt. Before that, they were occupied by the British for 30 years, and before that they were occupied by the Ottoman Turks for hundreds of years.

Of all these occupations, the Israeli occupation has been the most benevolent. After the war in 1967, Israel gave the “occupied” Arabs liberties, benefits, and opportunities that they never had and never knew existed. Jobs, medical care, and self-governance were offered to them. Yet, they still refused to accept the concept of peaceful coexistence and mutual cooperation with a Jewish State.

That is the crux of the problem, not the “suffering of the Palestinian people.” To date, the Palestinians have evinced nothing in their words or deeds to suggest that they are ready to accept a Jewish State with any boundaries. There is no evidence at all to support the hypothesis that if Israel withdraws to the 1949 Armistice Lines, divides Jerusalem, expels all Jews from Judea and Samaria, and allows millions of Arab “refugees” to enter Israel, that the Arabs would then be willing to end the conflict and live in peace with Israel. On the contrary, the available evidence from Lebanon and Gaza suggests that there would only be more strife, conflict, violence, and instability. There is no evidence at all the the Arabs are ready to stop their incitement to violence and promote mutual cooperation.

The way to resolve this crisis is for the diplomats to stop working “ass backwards” and instead to “begin from Genesis.” The Arabs must first provide some concrete signs that they are capable of stopping violence and beginning reconciliation. Any small step would be a welcome sign. Some examples could be the following:

  1. Develop a joint tourist itinerary that would allow Jewish and non-Jewish tourists to safely visit Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho, and Petra.
  2. Establish a joint world-class soccer team of Israeli and Palestinian athletes that could compete in Europe and South America.
  3. Hold a joint Israeli-Palestinian academic or medical conference on a topic totally unrelated to the Middle East conflict.
  4. Stage a joint musical or theatrical performance with Israeli and Palestinian performers. The troupe should be able to perform in both Israeli and Arab towns.
  5. Build a joint manufacturing facility that would be economically competitive with China.

There has to be at least some minimal indication that the Palestinians are ready to accept the mutual cooperation that would be needed for a Palestinian micro-state to survive alongside Israel. Otherwise, any “peace agreement’ would be putting the “cart before the horse” and would only be a prelude to more violence. Israeli leaders should not be asked to endanger their country by taking orders from the ferd in the back seat. It is the Palestinian Arabs who should be making the concessions.

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