Scene: A quiet, dark basement bar on E. 49th St., New York City near United Nations Headquarters. The bartender, Louie, is wiping the bar with a fresh white towel. It is an early autumn day in the city; through the closed door, street sounds may be heard: ambulance sirens, buses, people’s heel marks tapping. It is a lovely, breezy day.
One man sits at the bar: we cannot see his face. He is short, white-haired, hunched over, nursing his drink. He leans back, finishes his drink—we can see it is a scotch-and-water—and taps the glass, signaling for more. Louie obliges, pouring until the customer signals him to stop.
The door opens, and Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu enters, alone. As he goes down the stairs, he turns and talks to unseen persons, his Bodyguards:
Netanyahu: Yossi, Shmuel—just guard the door. Chaim—take the submachine gun and go around back; I know that you sent the first car on ahead. I’ll be safe here; there’s no one except that fellow over there, and Louie the barkeep knows me from before. Tell my wife I’ll be back at the consulate in about an hour. I just need to de-compress a little—oh, never mind. You know.
Voices: “Good speech, Mr. Prime Minister. Good job! You told them,” etc.
N: Yeah, yeah. When I was done, they all stood up and applauded (sarcastically). (To himself:) Why did I have to put in that dumbass line about Derek Jeter? God….(He goes down the remaining stairs and takes a seat at the bar, signaling to Louie) Hey, Louie.
L: Hey, Mr. Prime Minister—I mean, Ben.
N: Right, Ben.
L: The usual?
N: Right. (L pours him a double Seven-and-Seven. N takes it, salutes the unseen face of the man sitting down bar)—to you, my friend, and fellow New Yorker—L’Chaim!
Unseen Man (heavy foreign accent): L’chaim to you, my friend.
(N drinks deeply, puts the glass down, inhales, signals for another, loosens his belt, leans back, turns to the Unseen One)
N: Do I know you?
Unseen: Perhaps yes, perhaps not.
N (suspiciously, reaching to speak into his wristwatch): Then I—
U: That will not be necessary (He gets off his stool, walks over into the light, where he reveals himself as Mahmud Abbas, Abu Mazen, the President of the Palestine Authority.)
M: Ahlan Wah’sah’lan. Come; let’s sit down, and chat (they sit in a booth).
N: This is a surprise. I didn’t know you were still in New York.
M: I decided to stay on a bit. One of my boys has family on Atlantic Avenue, and there is a wonderful Beirut-style restaurant down there. Excellent duck a l’orange, to die for.
N: I must try it.
M: So, outside the Holy Land, you don’t keep kosher? (N gives him a sharp look, and turns morosely to his drink.) So, how did your speech go?
N: What, you didn’t hear it?
M: Of course, I did.
N: Then, you know. Those who love me, continue to love me; those who don’t, also continue….
M: Same with me.
N (sighing, sitting back): I really thought I could kill them, there (quoting from himself): “ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control.” Tell me, Mahmud, what do you think of that? I wrote it myself.
M: Well—(N gives him a sharp look) Can I be honest?
M: It rings a little hollow. You know that it isn’t true.
N: But I had to say it. Dammit, you know that I had to say it!
M: I know: we both are playing to our extremist wings.
N: And there’s someone else….
M: You mean God?
N: No: my Papa, God rest his soul (he gazes raptly heavenward).
M: Oh. Sorry. Well, what did you think, when I said, “No one will wonder anymore why extremism is rising and why the culture of peace is losing ground and why the efforts to achieve it are collapsing.”
N: Do you really believe that?
M: Well, I’m not altogether sure.
N: So why say it?
M: Well, it’s—you know—
M: I suppose so. (Silence; they both sip at their drinks, and cogitate)
N: (looking at his watch) I’ve gotta go. Wife’s waiting; we’re supposed to go see that new—I mean, old—Kaufman & Hart show. I’ll never understand these American plays—two American Jews trying to explain American gentiles. But she does love Broadway, my wife.
M: I understand. So: do you think we’ll be getting together for peace talks anytime soon?
N: I don’t know—you know, Mahmud, if it were up to me, we could settle the whole deal, but I have all of these other people to deal with—you know? I’m really not in total control of things. I’ve got those two guys—Richie-Rich Bennett, and that crazy Russian—and there’re guys in my own Party who keep screaming for my head, if I make a move in the wrong direction.
M: Well, what am I supposed to do? I’m not getting any younger, here.
N: Well, I wish I could give you some encouragement, but my hands are tied. Hey, nice seeing you.
M: Tell your wife I said Hi. And hey, I’ll pay for the drinks.
N: Are you sure?
M: Hey, it’s not my money. The European Union is picking up this one. I hope you got quality booze, and not Louie’s house dreck.
N: Dreck? That’s cute. You really are picking up the lingo, Mahmud. Well, take care of yourself. Watch your back—we can’t always be protecting you everywhere, you know.
M: You too, Ben. Peace. (N leaves. M watches, and goes back to the bar.) Louie, howzabout one more for the road?