“Amid the gathering storm,
always reach out to firmly
grasp a defensible solution.”
“OK, fella,” said Detective Treywater, coming off his call to Bryant Street headquarters, looking over my card.“Change of plan, so let’s get ready to head downtown and sort this all out. C’mon, your limo awaits, we’re going for a little ride.”
“Yeah, well, I guess it’s sorta being victim of mistaken involvementry,” I groused, following toward their flat black prowl car, Detective Lisle filing over to open the right rear door.
Thwapping helicopters, foghorns, and emergency sirens: overall, this gusty little trapezium was tensing up in kind. Iranian exchange students north from Westwood scampered to snap souvenir digipix against a bridge they could barely see. Young women in black fleece vests and core pants stopped chattering about their love lives, focusing instead on the stronger, ever lapping surf assaulting heaped boulder road buttressing along a narrow beach line below the rusty chain-link retainer. Even a naturally licksy, slobbery Bernese barely a leash length away was growing balky, stressing and stretching his gentle leader bridle, particularly after another St. Francis yacht race starter pistol popped and echoed our way from the Marina through a bouquet of popping parasails, their boarders leaning heavily against the wind.
Minute by minute, the bay itself became increasingly hyperactive, waves splashing up against the seawall like North Shore Weimea. Two 25-foot Coast Guard speedboats skimmed waves toward Fort Point, machine guns cocked and aimed. That hi-tech flagship cutter stormed in behind them, under swirling cover of the turbo whirlybirds, armed to the tail blades with high-caliber firepower. DHS seemed to be coming at this threat alert with every weapon in its arsenal, save for remote drones and firefighting DC-10s. This sudden, improbable show of force had disoriented Euro tourists gone agog, hanging by the anchor chains on each security escalation, every plot twist and turn. They seemingly sensed being about to witness history their grandchildren would savor around zeltenplatz campfires well down the Autobahn. Others just cursed their rotten three-day luck with local weather.
“Now, where were we,” Paulen asked, back on peacemeal topic, having little to say otherwise—better this than what brewed outside—particularly now that we had been ushered into the Chevy’s rear seat. Not exactly the ol’ cuff ’n’ stuff, yet the detectives did proceed to press us head-first into the back seat of their unmarked Impala like cabbage into a grocery bag, with fortunately no further physical restraints. “Ah, yes, Palestinians kvetch that their history and homeland are being destroyed by a purportedly illegal, if not brutal military occupation and settlement expansion. With more and more of the world buying in to their plea for statehood. Leaving Israel and its policies increasingly torn and isolated, Am Levadad Yishkon, however unfair and misguided those sympathies may be.”
“It’s not much good for diplomacy and tourism, that’s for sure,” I squirmed in the board stiff bench seat, avoiding the stares of surrounding stand arounds, amazed at how this Mideast and A-S busy talk kept storming round and around.
“That, I’ll grant you. But what’s most disturbing is the organized effort to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish State altogether through this BDS nonsense. Namely boycotting Israel’s goods and services, until the occupation ends and Palestinians can return to their homes and properties in full equality. Misusing U.N. Resolution 194 to aim toward a single state between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Which essentially means erasing Israel, no matter how their activists may absurdly couch it.”
“It’s gone global, all right,” I said, side eyeing Lisle, who was fixing rearward from the shotgun seat like an eight-power scope. “Even here and in kindly Canada…”
“EU’s the worst, that whole Zionistfrei boycotting movement,” Paulen fretted, outwardly oblivious to that. “
Good intel, bad intel. At the present, it was so hard to tell. For certain, however, the authorities were closing in—to the extent that I barely noticed those MeccaJava types, slipping past us on our blind side, toward the instant parking lot that Marine Drive had become. Far beyond them, the speedy Coast Guard gunboats raced to Fort Point, bound more specifically for the bridge’s south anchorage, as though perhaps in hot pursuit of some dim black dinghy loaded with terrorizing Stingers and rocket-propelled grenades. The high seas frigate-sized cutter brushed starving salmon boaters aside on the trail of radar, sonar and Doppler vector screen blips. Red flags, red clout, plume slurry bombers sweeping—was a wonder its close-quarter drill hadn’t yet yielded more material impact.
Above, armored helicopter gunships strafed the bridgetops, Hellfire missiles at the ready—shrouded approach viaduct to deco concrete pylons, over mid-span stiffening trusses, tower to tower. The orange choppers zipped in and out of the fog cover, hovering and circling, in search of suspicious figures or contraband bent on bombing the bridge back to the days when it was but two disjointed towers and dangling cables that Pan Am M-130 China Clippers flew over in ascent. Back when Okie wing-walkers danced atop sputtering cropduster bi-buckets doing loop-the-loops over the bridge rigging to entertain the hot handed riveters. Days when few believed that this salt-blasted boondoggle would ever so gracefully span the Golden Gate.
“Then again, how about those pro-Palestinian student groups taking it to the Jewish/pro-Israel camp, down at UC-Irvine,” I asked, feigning indifference to the pandemonium around us. “Calling them Zizis and Israel-firsters.”
“But the key question stubbornly remains,” Paulen shook his head. “When does anti-Zionist, anti-Israel sentiment cross the line into demonizing and eliminating the Jewish People and State—that is, into unfettered anti-Semitism?”
“Let’s pipe down back there,” Treywater fiddled with his dials from the driver’s seat, straining that four-pack of tiny, wiry antennae atop the Chevy’s roof, while Lisle data inputed to their onboard computer. “Can’t hear my damn radio…”
“You tell me, doc,” I hushed some. “All I know is whatever it is, it appears to be spreading with each bitter, unsettled day, let alone the oversettled ones.”
“No denying there does appear to be a dramatic spike in anti-Semitic incidents such as synagogue torching and swastika graffiti, especially since the Gaza incursions. So, what to do, what to do…”
Absent any passalong news on developments, I couldn’t help reflecting on my first impression of the bridge itself, that Porsche-pylon collision so long ago, a pre-dawn suicide run that broke the 911 coupe into three mangled pieces and vaporized the drunken hipster even more. How frightfully symmetrical would it have been: this holy grail of varied self-destruction being taken down by suicide bombers. No barrier netting or empty shoe memorials could keep these latest sick-minded males from their self-detonating rounds. Just like nobody could deter doomed jumpers, from feeble Richard to type-A doctors and financiers variously driven to wit’s end—some thirty a year. What will be might very well be, all right. This I knew, first, shaky hand—albeit over at Ocean Beach, barometric reading sinking fast.
Such a painful preoccupation nearly blinded me to that young Muslim bunch, snapping camera phones, grins plastered on their bearded barista-terrorista faces. They vanished behind a getaway vehicle, mayhap to make their escape to an idling, black-tint windowed…tour bus: some fumy diesel Grayliner stuck amid the emergency squadrols and rescue vans. What the hell kind of great militant/extremist escape plan might it be? Where were the local ICElander agents on this? Who tracked that, for chrissake, who the fuck code-cracked whom?
“Yeah, a tempestuous Muddle Eastern river, alright…” I felt the neurochemical chatter of nerves and cells, a mild case of Vertigo carrying me away, as I put all my dialectical ducks in a row.
“So what’s your answer, Herbert, what have you got for me?”
“All right then, what say we set aside all the history and baggage we’ve gone over, look long and hard at where we are right now?”
“Easier said than done, but that’s pretty clear, and it sure isn’t as pretty as where we are at the moment,” doc said, looking out over the cumulatively, calendar foggy Golden Gate. “But let’s pitch and catch, with a Jehoshaphat Valley in between. So wind up and fire away, just lay off the curve balls, if you please…”
“Okay, I’ll give it one last try. Ehud Olmert’s plan aside, and after considering the ground we’ve covered, the angles explored, here’s what I’m thinking,” I danced. “Israel’s got this stereophonic problem, right? All these restive Palestinians mainly concentrated in two crowded areas, separate and unequal, like acute opposing earaches, with Jerusalem throbbing smack between the ears.”
“I presume you are referring to Gaza and Judea-Samaria,” Paulen said pedantically. “That separation is not simply geographic, however, but political, due mainly to divisions between the Palestinians themselves, Fatah to Hamas.”
“Fine, so I have only one word for you—crescent…”
“Crescent—as in Moon?”
“Hey, cut me some slack,” I groaned, conjuring up Greater Land of Israel, river to sea. “In any case, wouldn’t it help if that gulf between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were not just bridged, but eliminated? So here’s my idea, entirely P.C.—I’m calling it the Palestinia Crescent. Why not cool it with the walls and better arrange the age-old puzzle, by clearly and more logistically arranging and delineating between Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements—say, into eastern and western sectors? Uppermost of the crescent could begin near Jenin, or Tiberias even.
“From there, Palestinia would descend on a sliver along Jordan Valley, sliding today’s river boundary west a tad, since many Israelis say Palestinians belong in Jordan anyway. Kind of a Jordan-Palestinian confederation, much like Shimon Peres considered way back in ’84. Israel would just hand over a thin length of their Area C, which they haven’t settled on yet, getting an equal proportion of Areas A and B, Nablus down to Hebron. Settlers gain more of their Judea-Samaria westward where the bulk of their blocs already are. Then secure a north-south boundary between Palestinia and Israel, agreed to and maintained by both sides, patrolled air to ground by the IDF and PA/PAF forces. Blank slate, forget about past claims and conflicts, just start fresh in stable coexisting communities, mutual border movement factoring in issues of statehood and citizenship as ongoing processes.”
“All well and good, a regular Daniel Barenboim, you are. Except that cedes much of the higher, more fertile land to Palestinians, which the settler movement would never move for—let alone any of Area C—particularly the younger set. Nor would Israel brook any such impairment to its overall security. Besides, those Orthodox Israelis believe in their biblical right to that territory in its entirety—for the original Jews of Palestine lived in four holy cities, Tiberas, Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and you can include coastal Jaffa. Chosen People, fully chosen land—not a wurst bun contrivance like yours, the sort of Balfourian rigging that beset the Middle East in the first place.”
“Hey, nobody is happy in a compromise, right? It’s called making tough decisions, look at your Ben-Gurion in ’48. Anyway, from there, the Palestinia Crescent sweeps southward on a gentle arc, banking off the Jordan border, past the Dead Sea to the east, only as far as, say, Bethlehem to the west. But I’m looking to ease that crowding some, leave home for a larger home, in two different ways,” I continued, warily eyeing the front seat through a mesh retainer screen, gauging prospects of any squelching feedback. “For sake of argument, let’s say the West Bank sector is provisional, in agreed upon stages, with an IDF force maintaining overall security, and the PA armed just strongly enough to not threaten a redefined Israel. Also that the more substantive re-markation and orderly relocation involves and includes the whole of Gaza…”
“Hah! Greater Israel notwithstanding, do you honestly think it wants to revisit that quicksand nightmare, much less letting Hamas rain down rockets from up on the east?!”
“But what if those bombings and tunnels were negotiated out? If Israel absorbed the Strip entirely,” I asked tetchily. “That is, move Palestinians out of Gaza altogether, most of them have come there from other Arab countries anyway—it’s not like they’re indigenous Gazans. So have Israelis rebuild that hellhole into a Tel Aviv-quality resort and residential coastline—prime southern beachfront property, as you call it—with even more direct access to the Mediterranean and off-shore gas development.”
“Preposterous, why would Hamas and other Gazans ever agree to such an annexation, by their arch rival, no less? And peaceably relinquish their shoreline in the process?”
“Because that would facilitate reconciliation and reintegration of a unity government with their fellow Palestinians in a West Bank sector so near their Jordanian brethren,” I offered in haste. “But more importantly, they would also be relocating to a new independent state forged southward down through Israel’s Negev Desert, basically gerrymandered in below Israel’s defense and nuclear facilities like Be’er Sheva and Dimona. There’s plenty of space to accommodate the poor unrecognized Bedouin villagers too, even attract West Bank Palestinians. Then they can let their Naqab desert bloom, while migrating Palestinia’s working capital from Ramallah to Jericho. As for shoreline access, the narrow crescent would sweep clear southward towards the Gulf of Aqaba, down there in the thick of Arab ‘terrortory’. Why would Israel want to remain a fenced-in wedge between Jordan and Egypts Sinai, anyhow, when they would gain another Mediterranean port and resort?”
“And give up Dead Sea resorts and resplendent Eilat? I’m sure your banana republic redrawing would go over well in Jerusalem,” Paulen scoffed. “I must say in all candor that carving up Judea-Samaria to that extreme is not appetizing one little bit. Let the Palestinians try Chile, for all I care, as thousands of them already have.”
“R-r-right, but realistically, better a Mediterranean gain than a Red Sea loss, huh? Regarding Jerusalem, since there is no way either side will relinquish claims to their capital, east and west sectors could remain in place, as well as the Christian presence in and around Bethlehem, with the city coming under an international trusteeship and protectorate, like Olmert suggests. Its respective holy sites—Temple Mount and Western Wall, Noble Sanctuary and Al Aqsa Mosque—also under autonomous administration and respectful security. Before you know it, you’ll have a durable two-state solution, plenty of rearranged room for all. Israel gets its peace and protection, Palestinians get a national home and some land back…”
“A two-state illusion to be sure, my friend, chimerical as a desert mirage. What in fact you will have is ever more chaos, rival Palestinian entities competing for dominance, from Jordan itself to your Palestinia to Hamastan, Israel caught in the middle.”
“Alright then, I tried…what have you got, doc?” Temperatures and LDL levels rising again, I half-eye monitored the officers up front, who appeared to be comparing paperwork on overtime and vacation days, while awaiting follow-on radio directions.
“Not so fast, I’ll have to take a bit more considered approach in light of your rather…facile offering. Inner out, outer in, whatever the origin, such serious matters take time, as you surely recall…”
“Right, take your time, think long and hard, fiddle away as your neighborhood begets and its tires burn. Now, that’s insanity.”
“Please, we can’t so Rabinly squander God’s bequest, can’t just give away the proverbial store. These things have away of settling themselves, sorting themselves out to some sanctified plan for the best—one way or another.”
“Sort of a Holy Land paint by numbers, huh? And you figure this is a game Israel can win?”
“Depends on how the numbers are played, wouldn’t you say? But remember, security must always trump simplisticy, if you will.”
“Except the numbers are working against you and the bloc heads, doc, what with Palestinians breeding like rabbits, building up arms. And Israel can only keep losing leverage by dragging its feet.”
“Reality check, shall we? There’s no such certainty either way, given Olmert’s mounting travails, let alone with Abbas and Hamas remaining at odds—absent any agreement on negotiation frameworks or preconditions. Thus all we have to work with are facts on the ground…”
“Oh, the F.O.G. of detachment and apathy, huh? And that means less peace and more land for Israel? Pay lip service to the 2S/2P process and continue building a hard-line Greater Israel. Meanwhile, neighboring Arab states shrug and the world moves on to bigger fish and potatoes, as if benign neglect will make the whole occupation mess go away? That’s your plan? When pigs fly…”
“Hey, knock it off back there,” shouted Detective Lisle over his shoulder, revealing just enough of a shiny, holstered service revolver to persuade me to notch down the volume and volatility. The windowed partition itself took me back to that bullet-proof robbery shield in my Chicago taxi cab, only this time the heat came from the other side. “Pigs, huh? Who the hell you think you’re talking to, anyway?!”
“That’s a good question…”
“Indeed, spare me the adynaton, Herbert. And do you think only Israel is invested in the status quo? That the Palestinian Authority really wants to upend its cushy status quo, actually govern a nation-state and contend with Hamas?”
“So then the Oslo Accords hang by a slim thread and the West Bank and Gaza continue smoldering like a tinderbox in an oil patch,” I said, thinking Mandate Palestine, river to sea. “If you ask me, that only makes them incubators for more terror and violence…”
“Mix metaphors all you wish. Still, the Palestinian Authority didn’t even sign on to Oslo. They did back the Palestinian National Covenant in 1996, however, which of course called for the destruction of Israel. You see, Palestinians put diminishing stock in the so-called two-state solution their very selves.”
“Which means what? They unilaterally pursue statehood through international channels, or just give up the solution for the sword? Tell me, how would another Intifada explosion advance Israel’s interests?”
“In that worst case, the Jewish State could demonstrate once again it is well prepared to defend itself by any means necessary should sabers resume rattling, not least vis-a-vis Gaza.”
“Even though the Israeli public largely appears willing to make peace concessions?”
“That depends on the more right thinking Israelis, now doesn’t it.”
“And while it’s internally debating Zionism of numbers versus Zionism of borders, Palestinians continue festering and the world closes in to further isolate the Jewish State. Europe denounces beset Israel’s escalating occupation as it is, with Israelis and the Diaspora splitting over the country’s policies,” I said, increasingly exasperated. “C’mon, doc, make it land then peace…”
“No, Herbert, make it peace, then land.”
“Christ—cart-horse, chicken-egg…hope then less.”
“On the contrary: less, then more. You see, the Jews are a deeply reflective, disputatious people—we must cross those T’s and dot those I’s—nothing new there.”
“What’s new is a resulting resurgence of the Ancient Hatred…”
“Now maybe we could do something about that—even if only one ignorant bigot at a time. In any case, I must say, this is all mighty Talmudic for a so-called ‘kikaroo’ like you.”
“Well, I guess everybody’s got a little Jewish in them somewhere…”
Care for more?
Chapter Fifty-Eight. Skies clear, facts
come to light, with Saturnal divergences
spinning purposefully away…