Opinion

Hi Ivanka, Let's Talk About Nothing

Was Anat Rivlin really wondering what she can talk about with the daughter of the president of the United States? I can think of at least 100 questions

Anat Rivlina and Ivanka Trump at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017.
Mark Neiman / GPO

Last Friday, Anat Rivlin, the president’s daughter, frankly described her hesitation before the meeting with Melania and Ivanka Trump, the wife and daughter of the American president, and the course of the meeting itself. Despite the fact that Rivlin gives the impression of being a pleasant, modest and frank person, the text itself is depressing.

“What will I talk about with her?” is the question that begins the article. (“Israel’s first daughter explains why she emerged from anonymity to meet the Trumps,” Haaretz, May 26) Seriously? Is Rivlin really wondering what she can talk about with the daughter of the president of the United States? I can think of at least 100 questions that I would really like to ask Ivanka Trump, starting with “insignificant” questions and curiosities about her lifestyle, to critical questions, such as her opinion on the war in Syria. There’s no lack of subjects for discussion.

“You’re both mothers of small children and hold full-time jobs,” advises one of the women on the president’s staff, and Rivlin says to herself: Come on! There’s no way I’ll talk to her about that; with all due respect, we’re in 2017.

Ostensibly this is a feminist statement. It’s clear that in 2017, many women are both mothers of small children and work full time; that’s already taken for granted, and therefore there’s nothing to talk about.

It’s great that we have progressed, but it’s very minor progress, because according to Rivlin, mothers of young children who work full time cannot – or aren’t interested in – talking about security, foreign relations, history, or simply engaging in interesting small talk.

At a certain point Rivlin says that “The bureau emptied of the men,” who went to the lobby to meet the delegations. The entire course of the Trumps’ visit to Israel seems to have been marked by gender separation. The men sit on one side of the ceremony, the women on the other. The men go to one place, and the women to another – a direct continuation of the Trump family’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

“I’ll go and sit next to them [Nehama Rivlin and Melania Trump] on the sofa. I’ll just sit down there. I hope it’s allowed,” continues Rivlin with her embarrassing descriptions. Can you imagine a man writing such a text? Did Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, wonder if he was allowed to sit at the table where the prime minister and his wife were dining with the first couple? After all, Anat Rivlin was in her parents' home. Why should she be allowed to sit on the sofa?

“Politics is a tough game,” remarks Ivanka. “Do you have a garden?” asks Melania, and then talks about Ivanka’s garden. Later they talk about the sense of “otherness” that develops between people from different backgrounds. Ivanka says that is something that’s happening now in America, too. But she “forgets” to mention that one of those responsible for intensifying this trend is her father. This text indicates that while the men in the next room are talking about matters of the utmost importance, the women are talking about well, nothing.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If the women are already obligated to take part in this embarrassing occasion (at least it embarrassed Rivlin), why shouldn’t they make the most of it and talk about interesting things, or try to motivate one another to take action? (For instance, Anat Rivlin to Ivanka Trump: “Are you really not worried about global warming?” Or Ivanka to Anat: “What’s your opinion on the Jewish nation-state bill that's advancing now? Doesn’t it sound dangerous to you?”) What a missed opportunity!

"I hear my father’s voice from the other side of the wall. Like an hourglass that’s running out toward the end of our meeting," writes Rivlin. "Here, we’ll have tea. Try the chocolate," she says, describing the end of the intimate meeting of four women. In other words, the men decide when the women’s meeting will begin and end, and it’s only purpose, it seems, is to pass the time. During this period of passing the time, as the text implies, it’s permitted to drink tea and to eat chocolate, but not to talk – that is, to really talk. With all due respect, it’s 2017.