Chapter 6 - Davos, January 26-February 1, 2000 - Episode 3Listen to podcast
The breakfast meeting is in another hotel in a medium-sized conference room. The chairs have been arranged in an oval, and Simon Peres sits in the middle of one of the long sides of the oval. Larry takes an empty chair near one of the ends. Chaim is towards the other end but there is no seat open near him.
A young, black-haired functionary from the WEF speaks first. “The World Economic Forum has a proud history of being the venue for progress on otherwise intractable issues. Much of the discussion that led to the Oslo Accords began here in this neutral territory where direct communication is possible. In the midst of unparalleled global prosperity and relative peace, we must do what we can to solve the world’s most intractable problems. We may not succeed, but we have no excuse not to try. Prime Minister Peres has been kind enough to host this breakfast so we may discuss part of what we can do. Before we start, I’d like to go around the room and ask each of you to identify yourself, your country, your company, and state briefly why you are here.”
When the introductions reach Larry, he says: “I’m Larry Lazard; I’m an American. My company is hackoff.com; we do security for e-commerce. I don’t know why I’m here. Chaim asked me to come.”
Peres turns his large gray face to Larry: “We’re glad you’re here, Larry Lazard,” he says. “You’re here because you can help.”
After the introductions, Peres himself speaks: “We are here because there are problems which must be solved,” he says. “The greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the lack of hope among young Palestinians. We are doing something about that. The danger is that, in the Middle East, hope is its own worst enemy. There is a story about an asp and a camel who meet on the banks of the Suez Canal. ‘Take me across on your back,” said the asp to the camel.’
“‘I can’t do that,’ said the camel to the asp. ‘You will sting me.’
“‘I won’t sting you,’ said the asp. ‘If I sting you, you will die and I will drown.’
“‘Okay,’ the camel said and the asp got on his hump. Halfway across the canal, the asp stung the camel.
“‘Why did you do that?’ asked the dying camel.
“‘Because this is the Middle East,’ said the asp before he drowned.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be drowned — to remain trapped in this cycle of despair and violence,” continues Peres. “We must create hope where there is no hope. We must give young Palestinians an alternative to violent death. That alternative comes from jobs. We must export some of the potential of the Israeli economy and the world economy to the Palestinian territories.
“We are doing that. We are establishing businesses and factories there. We are creating jobs and we are creating hope. But there is great resistance to this when it is perceived to come from Israel. There is a brave Palestinian woman who has risen to be the plant manager of one of the enterprises we created. She has risen above the squalor and despair she was raised in. But her own father has called for her death; a local imam has declared a fatwah against her. She may not live long although this brave woman does live today.
“So we need you who are not Israelis to create jobs in Palestinian territory, in the West Bank and in Gaza. We need you to create hope. We need you to create an alternative to violence and death. We will help you; we will put you in touch with the right people; some of them are here at the conference. But we must be invisible and you must be visible. Otherwise this remains the Middle East. The asp will bite the camel. And both will die. Will you do this?”
Many say they will. Names are taken; appointments are made.
“Will you help, Larry Lazard?” asks Chaim, who is now somehow seated next to Larry.
“I would like to,” says Larry. “I mean this sounds like a very good thing, but I’m not sure how I…”
“My friend Larry Lazard and I will help,” says Chaim. The great head turns toward them. “We will work to create jobs in the territories. We will outsource there. We will create well-paying programming jobs there and we will save money for our companies doing this. It is what our friends the Americans call a win-win.”
“So,” Larry explains to Louise later, “I’m going to be put in touch with a Palestinian who’ll be our contact for contracting some of our programming to a group in Jenin. They’re supposed to be good; they can do it cheaper than we can get it done in the US. And we save them from being suicide bombers.”
“Was Barak at the meeting?” asks Louise.
“Isn’t that strange?”
“The whole thing is strange,” says Larry. “Davos is strange. Being a billionaire is strange. I don’t know.”
“We’re there any Palestinians at the meeting?” asks Louise.
“Does that tell you anything?”
“No. I told you; I’m going to meet a Palestinian. This is a good thing.”
“We’ll see,” says Louise.
“Why are you so negative?” asks Larry. “You’re the JAP. You’re the 100 percent pure Jew. You had a Bat Mitzvah, for Christ’s sake.”
“I don’t know,” says Louise. “I don’t know. We’ll see. I am glad you’re trying. I’m glad that chauvinist pig Chaim recruited you.”
“So that’s it; you’re still pissed off that you weren’t invited to the meeting.”
“No, that’s not it,” says Louise, then: “Yes, it is. I AM pissed off. But that’s not what’s bothering me. I don’t know. Try. It’s the right thing to do. Meet the Palestinian. And remember the camel.”
“Dom’s gonna have a cow,” says Larry. “He isn’t gonna wanna outsource. He wants to keep control of everything.”
“You’re not doing this just to spite Dom, are you?”
“No. Of course not. But he won’t like it. That’s the way he is.”
“Just involve him,” says Louise. “Just tell him why you’re doing it. He’s Jewish, too; he’ll understand. Send him to Israel to figure out how to make it work.”
“I need him; can’t take the chance of him getting killed by a suicide bomber,” says Larry. “Anyway, who cares if he’s pissed off?”
“Going to any good sessions?” asks Louise.
“Can’t get into anything good,” says Larry. “They’re all booked up. Wonder if there are scalpers here. But, anyway, I did get into a session on Mushrooms and Man. Probably no one cares about that except me.”
“Sounds good,” says Louise.