The trumpets and applause have fallen silent, the slaps on the back have ceased, and yet the speech continues to resonate. Its echoes traveled this week here and mainly there, in America, from coast to coast.
One newspaper reported from the Knesset that there were 14 standing ovations; another documented 18, no less. Elected officials and guests on the balcony were all aflutter; and all this, why?
Because the Palestinians vanished into thin air; the ground opened up and swallowed them whole. Finally, the dream is coming true: "Bush's vision," the "road map," a Palestinian state by December - all disappeared without a trace, along with the settlements and roadblocks. Never has Jerusalem been farther from Annapolis; never has the Knesset been farther from reality.
The Knesset is a blue-and-white submarine, where oxygen is running low and the view of reality is blurring. In another 60 years, the speaker promises, life here will be good; why not stand up and applaud.
One can easily imagine the president of the Palestinian Authority sitting in his office, watching the speech on television in disbelief and pondering whether to slit his wrists; what can he possibly do with his shame when he and his moderate positions are mocked. And from this moment on, would Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) be so kind as to wait patiently for the next fruitless round of talks with Syria to be done.
Still a crescendo, the excitement in the plenary hall rises: "Masada shall never fall again," which sounds even more impressive in English than in Hebrew. A gifted ghostwriter put words in the speaker's mouth, words whose meaning he does not remotely understand. Yes, Masada will fall again, it is sure to, if we once again back ourselves into a corner of history, into the Masadist stance: a thousand zealots and their families, besieged and desperate, choosing death. On the right-wing side of the moon, the dark side, it will always be possible to locate some moonstruck figure, personally and nationally suicidal, a kind of modern-day incarnation of Masada leader Elazar Ben Yair.
And now comes the climax of the festive gathering: Hitler is produced from the machine, what could be more stirring.
"Some seem to believe," thus spoke George W. Bush, "that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Bush is conjuring up a senator who is dead and long forgotten, but he means another senator, one who is alive and well and may inherit his seat in five months. Perhaps the Knesset members have been too busy to keep track: These words caused an uproar in America because Bush's slander is without foundation. Barack Obama did not really propose unconditional negotiations with terrorists, and we have already seen where Bush himself has led the world without negotiations, only with rash, arrogant force.
Not one Knesset member could be spotted staying seated in respectful disagreement with the general hurrah.
One can only imagine what people in America think of this behavior: dirty American laundry being washed abroad, and a foreign house of representatives sticking its nose into the soiled linens to sniff them with open delight. That which we hate, we have now done to our friends.
Knesset members and cabinet ministers might be interested to learn what happened in America on the very same day as the speech: In a special election in Mississippi, in a distinctly Republican district, a democratic candidate was elected to congress.
This is the third defeat in a row suffered by Republican candidates, and some consider it a sign of what will happen in November. Senior Republicans are now warning other candidates from their party to steer clear of the president. Even John McCain, who is running for president, prefers not to be caught in Bush's company.
For seven years Bush has stayed away, leaving us and the Palestinians to bleed. Now, suddenly, he pays us two visits in four months. At the end of his reign, limping along, Bush has nowhere to go. No one will hug and kiss him like Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Dalia Itzik. Such a spectacle of fawning can only be held in Israel; even the trumpets should have been ashamed.
Soon a new president will be elected; Obama's chances are improving. It will not take him seven years to come. At least we can hope so.
When he comes, he will be invited to address the Knesset, and he too will speak compelling words of friendship. Will he correct those he loveth? One can only hope.
And do not worry: the Knesset will rise up and cheer - the king is dead, long live the king - and grovel at his feet; for that is the custom in a proud protectorate.
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