Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government--A Memoir

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9781416556169: Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government--A Memoir

When twenty-five-year-old law student Gregory Levey applied for an internship at the Israeli Consulate, he got more than he’d bargained for. The speechwriter for the Israeli delegation to the United Nations quit, and Levey was asked to fill the vacancy. The situation got even stranger when he was transferred to Jerusalem to write speeches for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Shut Up, I’m Talking is the startling account of Levey’s journey into the nerve center of Middle Eastern politics. During his three years in the Israeli government, Levey was repeatedly thrust into highly improbable situations.

With sharp insight and great appreciation for the absurd, Levey offers the first-ever look inside Israeli politics from the perspective of a complete outsider, ultimately concluding that the Israeli Government is no place for a nice Jewish boy.

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About the Author:

Gregory Levey is the author of Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government and has written for Newsweek, The New Republic, New York Post, Salon, and other publications. He served as a speechwriter and delegate for the Israeli government at the United Nations and as Senior Foreign Communications Coordinator for prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, and is now on the faculty of Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Foreword

I was twenty-five years old and not even an Israeli citizen, but as a result of a bizarre series of events, I was sitting alone at the State of Israel's seat at the United Nations General Assembly, minutes before a vote on a U.N. resolution.

Worse still: I had no idea how Israel wanted to vote, and very little concept of what the vote was even about.

How on earth had I ended up in this situation?

I looked at the Irish representative on my left and the Italian one on my right. Each of them was much older than me and had several assistants sitting with him. More importantly, they both clearly knew how their governments wanted them to vote. At very least, unlike me, they were citizens of the countries that they were representing.

For something like the tenth time, I called the office of the Israeli ambassador on my cell phone and asked to speak to someone who could give me instructions, but the terrible phone reception at the United Nations meant that I got cut off before I could get any help. Again. I looked across the room at the diplomat representing the United States and thought that maybe I should just vote however he did, since Israel often followed the lead of its closest ally.

Then I looked at the door leading out of the large hall, and thought that maybe a wiser option would be to run and not look back. I thought of that famous story from the middle of the Cold War when Nikita Khrushchev took off his shoe and angrily banged it on the table at the United Nations. I considered doing the same, for no reason other than delaying the vote.

I could see that the voting was about to begin, and I quickly tried my cell phone again. This time, miraculously, I got through to someone with authority at the Israeli Mission.

"They're going to vote," I whispered urgently, trying to keep my voice down so that the Irish and Italian representatives wouldn't recognize the fact that I was an idiot.

"Who is this?" the voice on the other end of the phone said.

At this point, I came perilously close to throwing my cell phone across the room. Or maybe, I thought, I should slam my phone down on the table instead of my shoe.

"It's Greg," I answered. "I'm at the General Assembly, and there's going to be a vote."

"A vote? A vote on what?"

"On resolution number" -- and I told him the specific resolution at hand.

"What is that?" he asked.

"I don't really know," I answered. "I was hoping that maybe someone there had some idea of what it was, and could tell me how I should vote."

"I'll look into it, and call you back," he said, and immediately hung up.

The chairman presiding over the meeting called it to order, and began the prevoting procedure. I waited anxiously for the cell phone gripped tightly in my right hand to ring, the fingers of my left hand hovering uncertainly over the voting buttons before me.

Copyright © 2008 by Gregory Levey

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