He steps into the damp November air and descends to the tarmac of Ben-Gurion Airport. The Tel Aviv rainy season has begun. God has sketched a featureless sky of phosphorescent pencil. The earth receives its languid tears. But Charles-Edward Crusher, son of the President-elect, has arrived. The sun will soon emerge in Israel.
A serpentine convoy bears him westward along Highway 1 toward the sea. The US Embassy is thirty-five minutes away. Charles-Edward has never been to Israel and does not know what he expected. He knows only that he is surprised by the broad and unremarkable horizon, punctuated only by the cordon of hydro towers that traces this multi-lane thruway. The generic flourishes of a suburban landscape drift into and out of his vision: the roadside sound barrier, a cluster of houses, a box-store with Hebrew signage.
The distant towers of Tel Aviv appear. The landscape is flat and crowded, both strange and familiar. Now and again he sees the reassuring outline of a palm, summoning the comforts of his father’s tropical resort. The orange menace has taught him everything he needs to know on this journey. Charles-Edward Crusher is ready. The people of this region have fought for millennia, but there will be peace. At last, there will be peace in this land.
The convoy turns left at the Hagana Interchange and passes under Highway 20 into the pulsing arteries of the city. White Bauhaus flats line the bristling streets. He sees uniformed soldiers and men on scooters. The traffic signals are familiar enough, and in most cases the shop signs can be deciphered. Coca-Cola needs no translation.
Charles-Edward arrives at the US Embassy. The guards raise the barriers and he passes into the fortified underground. He is 5,870 miles from Washington, on American soil.
Over the next few days he meets with Israeli and Palestinian diplomats. He carefully follows the script taught to him by his father. His mission is to win over the people and to gather information which he will then carry back to America. This information will help President Crusher negotiate peace. The orange menace is confident this can be done within a couple weeks—perhaps as long as a month, if things get complicated.
– “You have a terrific country,” says Charles-Edward Crusher.
– “Thank-you,” says the diplomat.
– “I love Israel,” says Charles-Edward. “Tremendous people, the Israelis. The best people. So true.”
– “I know we can count on you,” says the diplomat.
– “I love the Middle East. The Far East is great—I love the Far East people. We do tremendous business there, in the Far East. And the Near, you know the Near East, the Near East is great. I love the Near East. Our businesses do great there,” says Charles-Edward.
– “Yes, yes,” says the diplomat. “There is no doubt.”
– “But the Middle East! The best. Tremendous people,” says Charles-Edward.
– “Thank-you,” says the diplomat.
– “Every time I come here, tremendous people. The Middle East. So true.”
– “Very good,” says the diplomat.
– “You have tremendous trees here. And that food, with the—what is it? Chick peas? Chick peas.”
– “Hummus,” says the diplomat.
– “Right,” says Charles-Edward. “Great stuff, I’m told. I’m told.”
The various diplomats rehearse their fabled histories. They speak of their people’s aspirations and fears. Everyone who Charles-Edward meets carries with him a version of the world that is like an iridescent marble in a vessel of filtered water—clear, solid, irrefutable. They shrug at the apocalypse, putting incongruous smiles on their world-wearied faces. They look to America as if to say: You know that what I am telling you is just so, yes?
Every time, Charles-Edward Crusher does see that it is just so. He agrees with everything, and he says so. That’s how a deal begins: by ingratiating oneself, winning them over. And if that doesn’t work, and it usually does, there is bluster. Show them you are tough, that you mean business. You’re prepared to walk away, if that’s what it takes. They’ll come round. They always do in business.
– “I love Palestine,” he says. “Tremendous people, the Palestinians. The best people. So true.”
– “Thank-you, Mr. Crusher,” says the diplomat. “I knew we could count on you.”