It’s not often that I’m privileged to witness a miracle, albeit a very minor one. This happened many decades ago but the scene remains vividly in my memory, mainly, I think, because of the absolute incongruity that was created by the occasion.
The place was Hyde Park Corner in London during the morning rush-hour. This was, and still is, one of the city’s biggest and busiest roundabouts and the volume of traffic there is usually quite intimidating. Even an experienced driver might feel a few qualms before entering into this constantly churning maelstrom of rubber, metal and petrol fumes.
My own vehicle was just about to do so when I noticed that everything had suddenly stopped. Not one car, taxi, truck or lorry was in motion and yet there seemed to be no good reason why this should be happening. It was only then that I observed, out of the corner of my eye, a large brown mother duck with five or six chicks trailing behind her in arrow-straight formation. Without a seeming care in the world, this tiny contingent marched directly ahead, stepped off the pavement and into the massed ranks of London traffic, now reduced to a complete standstill by this single file of duck and ducklings. After safely reaching the central island, I have no doubt that the group negotiated the remainder of their journey with equal aplomb and eventually found their way into one of the royal parks that adjoins nearby Buckingham Palace.
I mention the incident simply because it contrasts so much with progress in the present round of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Here, both sides find themselves inching along with all the painful deliberation of a sloth setting out to cross a busy road junction. The odds against successful completion of such an expedition would seem to be extremely high and, with so much else going on, the chances of survival, even if only to the halfway stage, must be viewed as extremely doubtful.
The trick therefore should be to somehow emulate those brave Hyde Park Corner fowls and force all dangerous traffic to a halt while passage towards some final and lasting settlement gets well under way.
Even the most hardened exponent of violent or spoiling tactics might stop and think very hard before making any moves that, in the eyes of the entire world and especially their own community, could easily merit what would be the most public and draconian of penalties.