I try to get away from business on Shabbat. I don’t read newspapers. They make me feel like I’m at work. OK, if my kids are reading this, they’ll point out, gently I hope, that I don’t try very hard not to talk politics. I can’t go 25 hours without a fix.
In Washington last Shabbat, it wasn’t even worth trying. At a shul in an unrevealed location, people who work in Interesting Places drifted around the kiddush tables, handing me nibbles of rumors. It was a power Shabbas.
Even so, conversations on Shabbat are off-off-record. In fact, I never actually talked to anyone at all. Merely by the feel of the hall, I picked up these ideas. If they turn out wrong, I take no responsibility for a hint, a whisper and speculation. If they turn out to be true, I’ll take credit for my great sources.
Hint: Dennis Ross is in. He’ll be a special adviser to HRC. “Special adviser” isn’t an insult or demotion, despite what some people think. Dennis can’t be appointed special envoy to Iran, because Washington doesn’t yet talk to Iran. And no, it’s not strange that his appointment hasn’t been announced yet. First the cabinet secretaries, then the undersecretaries. Afterward, envoys and advisers.
Then again, George Mitchell has already been appointed as a special envoy, even before Obama had put his kids’ pictures on his desk. This may also be a hint, indicating how important O thinks that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is. Or that thought may be merely Shabbat optimism.
Whisper: Various press reports say that the Obama administration is putting pressure on Tzipi Livni to get together with Bibi in a unity government. I heard a whisper that this is ridiculous. The second-hand whisper said that actually, it would be better for Livni to stay out, and let Netanyahu form a narrow rightwing government that will fall quickly, so that new elections can be held. I didn’t hear any whisper as to whether the O Team would lean a little to help it fall.
Speculation, or evaluation: Congress was once the back-up for AIPAC, ready to provide pressure on any administration that pressures Israel over issues such as settlement. But Congress may finally be shifting. At long last, maybe too late, the need for a two-state solution has become conventional wisdom there as well. At a hearing of the House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee last week, strongly pro-Israel congressman Gary Ackerman criticized settlement building and settler “pogroms” as adding to a “downward spiral” in the conflict. People who work in Interesting Places noticed and talked about this.
If the O Team does lean on Israel on these topics, there may be some grumbling in Congress. The speculation says the grumbling won’t be as strong as it once was. That will give Obama a freer hand.
Kids, I promise you, I never even opened a newspaper last Shabbat. Who needed to?