& This had to happen. Among the current crop of made-for-Facebook people-for-peace posters circulating these days is this:
Yr’s Truly has been thinking about this idea – something like it, at least — for about 25 years. The idea wasn’t mine. It came from an adventuresome old Polish Jew who’d lived a life that Hemingway would have envied. His name was Sam Kaplan. I called him Sammy. By the time I’d met him, he’d been embroiled in two or three wars – he was even a partisan in those early-guerilla days of the Spanish Civil War. On other occasions, he spent a few days as a guest of Russian and Swiss jailers — problems at the borders, apparently. If you had to spend time locked up, he would say, do it in Switzerland. The cells are clean and the food is to die for. He’d lived a number of lives on a number of continents in the company of a number of lovely ladies, siring, with the help of a Mexican beauty, a couple of sons. He ended up in the Baja, down south of Tijuana in Rosarito Beach, running a little general store and an ice plant.
His idea was even better than the one in this poster. When he told me his idea, with a fanciful twinkle in his eye, I took it mostly as a joke. Now, I wonder, if it’s about the only good idea left.
“It’s simple,” Sammy would say after a sip of wine. “The United States moves Israel to the Baja.”
Yr’s Truly, also having had a few sips of wine, wasn’t taking notes, of course. And over the quarter-century of mulling Sammy’s idea, it has become infused with my own wanderings through the world of what-ifs. Sammy’s dead now – he faced the world for 89 years – and he’s not here to defend himself. He might not say it quite in the words that follow, but he’d probably sign his name to the thoughts, con mucho gusto.
& Here’s what we’d say:
“The United States once claimed Baja California. Gave it up. They ought to go back and get it. Maybe they could trade for something with Mexico for the land, and maybe they could just take it. The Mexican government probably wouldn’t mind one bit. They’d look at it not so much as giving up Baja, more like getting rid of Tijuana.
“Then the U.S. diplomats could go over there to Israel and say they’re no longer going to keep spending billions of dollars to prop up a Jewish state in the middle of a bunch of warring Arabs. Instead, they’re going to spend a few billion and move Israel — all of it — to the Baja. Take it or leave it.
“Bottom line? They’d take it. A newly minted Leon Uris could begin writing Exodus Dos.
“After the Israelis are gone, the Swiss could take over Jerusalem, run it as a sort of neutral-nation Disneyland for Religions of the World, connected to the Mediterranean by something like the Berlin Corridor. The corridor could be protected by the U.N. from the eternal warfare of the Middle East, and might even feature some viewing areas along the way, like wildlife viewing areas at the edge of the wilderness. Travelers could stop, drop a quarter in a telescope and watch the Arabs fighting each other. That show would go on forever, because that’s what Arabs do: fight each other.
“Back in Baja, it would be almost Biblical. Baja is the in the same latitudes as Israel. It sits on the eastern and western edges of big protective bodies of water. It is desert, sitting there like Israel was, waiting to be reclaimed. The Israelis know how to do that. Within a few years, they’d figure out a way to reclaim their water from the ocean. Turn the Baja into a garden of Eban, named after Abba.
“They’d probably be running all of Mexico in ten years, and pay the U.S. back ten years after that, with interest. Well, maybe not with interest. But who cares? For the first time in history, the U.S. would finally be getting repaid for all the money it poured down the black hole of Israel, and have trillions of dollars to spend on other crazy ideas hatched by the militaristic-industrialists.
“The biggest problem would be moving the Knesset to Ensenada. But they’d figure it out – they moved the London Bridge to Arizona, didn’t they?”
And here’s where Sammy’s grin would widen, when he’d say: “The Jews would love it in Baja. It’s close to Vegas.”
& That was the idea back when there was still a little humor to be had. Today, the Middle East is a black hole of horror, primed to suck in Israel, and its friend the United States. Nothing has worked and we’re out of ideas. Somebody had better start thinking, soon, outside the box. Somebody like Sammy. It might be crazy. But we’re getting used to crazy, aren’t we?
& Thinking about the possibility of clean jails in Tijuana, I’m outta here.