Barack n’ Ben: Notes from a Final Frenemies’ Shmooze
By David Hartley Mark
Scene: The Presidential Grande Suite at the Lotte New York Grande Hotel, which has been completely soundproofed and made bug-free for this historic occasion: the final meeting between Barack Obama as a sitting president of the US, and Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel. This meeting was, however, secretly taped by a tiny drone disguised as a juke, an Israeli cockroach, which reposed beneath the PM’s couch and was programmed to lie perfectly still during the meeting of the leaders of the two great democracies.
(For the purposes of brevity, PMI—Prime Minister of Israel—is referred to by the acronym BB, and POTUS is BO. –Ed.)
BO: Hi, Ben.
BB: Shalom, Barack. First off, thanks for the Memo of Understanding.
BO: Yeah, thanks. And you’re welcome for the money. And please note that, while the media is having a field day hollering about how you and I are not all that touchy-feely-huggy-bear about each other, this $38 billion is the single largest gift made by the US in history, to a foreign power. You’re welcome, again.
BB: Which we will promptly turn around, and use to purchase American weapons. For decades, Israel has been the prime testing ground for American ordnance. And we improve upon it, you know.
BO: Yeah, I know. The five-star air force generals at the Pentagon weren’t too happy that you were going to rip out the dashboards of their star baby, the F-35, and change the avionics, but I told them it was just to replace the directions in Hebrew.
BB: Well, you know, the F-35 is a dog, but it has potential.
BO: Tell me about it. What’s wrong with drones?
BB: No argument from me.
BO: OK, so let’s talk. Thanks for the moratorium on East Jerusalem building. Any chance of a startup on Peace Talks with Abbas?
BB: Um, no. Sorry. Not gonna happen on my watch.
BO: Just thought I’d ask.
BB: Well, asked and answered. And with all due respect, Mr. President, you and I both know that you’re a lame duck. If Hillary gets in, she won’t ever dare push me like you did.
BO: I guess. So we move on….
BB: Well, just to clear the air—you’ve got Trump, I’ve got Lieberman and Bennett.
BO: So maybe, I’m better off. After all, Trump isn’t in power yet. By the way, thanks for not taking his side.
BB: Hey, you don’t poop where you eat.
BO: Tell me about it.
BB: What’re his chances, anyway? Be honest. You’ve never been less with me, Barack, and I appreciate it.
BO: Well, as you know, I’ve been stumping for Hillary….
BB: Like I said, what’re the odds?
BO: (sighing) To tell you the truth, no one knows. Crazy year. Craziest I’ve ever seen. Craziest John Lewis has ever seen, and he goes back a while.
BB: Hey, you should move to Israel. Every election year here is a crazy year.
BO: But you’re always coming up smiling. How d’you do it, Ben?
BB: It’s all how you play the system. Pretend to be everyone’s friend, move the government to a crisis, and then, come up and say you’re the only one who can solve the crisis that you—I mean, the other people—created. It always works. Jews lap it up every time. We are a people living from crisis to crisis. It’s in our genes.
BO: Well, Americans are different.
BB: Tell that to Trump. It’s working for him.
BO: Hmm—you may have something there. Oh, and thanks for the shared intelligence about that Chelsea thing.
(He high-fives BB.)
BB: Least we can do.
BO: And for not responding when Trump asked for Israeli support in fighting ISIS.
BB: I’m nodding my head. But I’m nodding my head to show you that I heard what you said, not that I agree with you, or with him. I’m just nodding my head.
BO: Duly noted.
(Crowd noises outside.)
BO: I think the Press is here. I hear them outside. I don’t know how long my Security boys can hold them back. They’ll be wanting a joint statement. Should we practice our smiles?
BB: Sure—do I have any cabbage between my teeth? That was a hell of a lot of hummus they served for lunch. It’s not a favorite of mine, and Sarah serves it all the time.
BO: Go look in the mirror. There’s something red on your back right molar. What about me?
BB: Straighten your tie, Mr. President.
BO: I hate the damn things. The girls are always buying me new ones from Disney. Ready to wave-and-smile?
BB: And talk in vague and pontificating generalities?
BO: Yup. The name of the game.
BB: Hey, listen, when you’re not president any more, we should get together. I’ll buy you a Turkish coffee. I know this place on Allenby with a quiet room in the back. And, some other time, the head of the Political Science Department at Hebrew U. will want you to speak there. He’s Labour, but he’s a friend of mine. We talk. He tells me just enough dirt about the Labour leadership to help me keep them off balance.
BO: Just make sure to make the check out to the Barack Obama Foundation, if and when it happens.
BO: You know, Ben, you know. Don’t bullsh*t me. What, you think you’re ever gonna want to see me again, when I’m just a former president? You’ll see me, you’ll cross the street.
BB: Oh, shoot! Gimme a hug, Leader of the Free World.
BO: You too, Head of State of the Only Democracy in the Middle East.
(The two world leaders embrace, awkwardly, but with a smidgen of sincerity, and separate.)
BO: Did you just cry a little bit?
BB: No, dammit! I did not. What, cry for you, you stuffed-shirt Harvard preppie?
BO: Yes, you did—I saw you! You MIT nerd.
BB: Barack, promise me—if that carrot-headed maniac becomes president—can I call you for advice?
BO: Any time, Ben, any time. Just dial New Zealand. (chuckles)
BB: Thanks, Man. Oh, and good luck.
BO: Good luck to YOU. You’re the one who needs it, now. I’ll be sitting pretty…..
BB: Tell me about it. Never mind: time to smile….
(The Two exit to Meet the Press.)