How To Make Peace In The Mid­dle East In Six Months Or Less With­out Leav­ing Your Apartment

Gre­gorey Levey
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
If Gre­go­ry Lev­ey knows how to solve the Mid­dle East cri­sis, he’s not telling. Giv­en the flip title, it may be unfair to expect any­thing oth­er than a satir­i­cal look at the sit­u­a­tion there, but Levey’s tone through­out the book is hard to inter­pret, as he man­ages to seem earnest with­out ever seem­ing vest­ed in find­ing an answer, and he nev­er takes the steps an earnest per­son, or a tru­ly fun­ny per­son would take if they want­ed to make man­i­fest the title’s pre­pos­ter­ous propo­si­tion. What humor that aris­es is slight and with­out bite.

Lev­ey, a sec­u­lar Amer­i­can Jew who was a speech­writer for the Israeli Mis­sion to the UN, and sub­se­quent­ly for Ariel Sharon, despite feel­ing him­self to be sig­nif­i­cant­ly more dovish than the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter, por­trays him­self as some­thing of a bewil­dered naif about the Mid­dle East. Between his high­pro­file Israeli jobs and his lat­er rev­e­la­tion of hav­ing gone to a seri­ous­ly Zion­ist day school, how­ev­er, one sus­pects he has more knowl­edge and more of an opin­ion about the Mid­dle East than he lets on. Or maybe he doesn’t.

After doing a book tour for his first book, Shut Up, I’m Talk­ing: And Oth­er Diplo­ma­cy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Gov­ern­ment— A Mem­oir, and being per­plexed by the ardent con­vic­tion that Amer­i­cans along the polit­i­cal spec­trum feel about the Israel-Pales­tine con­flict, he tells us dead­pan that he decid­ed right then to bring peace to the Mid­dle East in six months.

He has no bold plans though. No out­ra­geous gim­micks. No pro­found or nov­el insights. And few laughs. He most­ly just inter­views peo­ple. He inter­views a mild-man­nered Stephen Walt (one half of The Jew­ish Lob­by” writ­ing team), Abe Fox­man of the Anti Defama­tion League, and also Israeli politi­cian Yos­si Beilin, best known for open­ing secret peace talks with the Pales­tini­ans pri­or to the Oslo Accords in 1993. He speaks with spokes­men for AIPAC and J Street, Amer­i­can Jew­ish lob­by­ing groups from the right and the left, and with Amer­i­can Jews and Pales­tini­ans mar­ried to each oth­er. He speaks with peo­ple from the Jew­ish Defense League and from the Inter­na­tion­al Sol­i­dar­i­ty Move­ment, a left-wing Pro- Pales­tin­ian orga­ni­za­tion (spon­sors of Rachel Cor­rie). He goes to a Chris­tians Unit­ed for Israel con­fer­ence, and spends time with Arab teenagers from Queens who have assumed Israel’s role at the Mod­el UN. It all amounts to a rather breezy if super­fi­cial sur­vey of Amer­i­can opin­ion on Israel, which had it not been sad­dled with a provoca­tive title promis­ing (at least) some irrev­er­ent humor and/​or some nov­el insight into the sit­u­a­tion, might not have been such a let-down. One sens­es through­out that Lev­ey lacks con­vic­tion, that he means to accom­plish noth­ing more than to ful­fill his con­trac­tu­al oblig­a­tion to his pub­lish­er, or that he lacked courage, being unwill­ing to say any­thing that peo­ple less mod­er­ate and more vest­ed than he is may get deeply offend­ed by, which giv­en the depth of feel­ing on this issue, may well have been a very wise thing to do.

Read Gre­go­ry Lev­ey’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

The Mid­dle East in the Mid­dle of the Night

Bax­ter and Me

The Ques­tion

Discussion Questions