Lets start with the bad news. For the good news, you''ll have to look elsewhere.

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A week ago things were looking pretty good. The prime minister reported that the Americans were offering, as an inducement for a 90 day construction freeze in the West Bank, 20 F-35 advanced military planes, free of charge, along with a commitment that they would not ask for a further freeze, and that the freeze would not apply to Jerusalem.

During the week we heard that the Americans cannot bring themselves to specify that the freeze does not apply to Jerusalem, and that they cannot promise not to ask for an extension of the freeze. More recently we have heard that the planes will not be completely free of charge, or perhaps not free of charge at all. Maybe a discount? Still not clear.

What happened? Here we must speculate.

One suspicion is that the slippery nature of the prime minister had once again come to the surface. To his defense, however, was his early comment in seeking support for the deal in his cabinet that the package had not yet been fully defined. Somewhat troubling was a report in mid-week that an aide to the prime minister had misinterpreted what had been said in the seven hours of discussion between the prime minister and the secretary of state. Was this a thin effort of a slippery prime minister to absolve himself of responsibility? That''s an unanswerable question.

It is also possible that the Israeli prime minister was not the only slippery politician in the pile. The American secretary of state is no more of an angel, speaking metaphorically. Her profound lack skill in producing a health reform at the beginning of Bill Clinton''s presidency may again be showing itself. The slipperiness in Bibi''s background has a match in Hillary''s clumsiness. In this case, a capacity to promise too much may have come up against political realities. The package threatened American credibility with Palestinians and Arab governments. Great powers cannot be one-sided. The secretary of state should have been aware of such things, but maybe not Hillary.

Currently things are on hold. Americans claim to be working on a draft agreement. Opponents of a freeze are recruiting support, and they have the unreliability of their own prime minister and the American secretary of state on their side. Looks like a pretty good hand.

Israelis are trying to add to the deal. Not exactly sweeten it, but what they want will complicate things.

The Americans say that those 90 days should be devoted to defining the borders of Palestine. Israelis want to negotiate about all the important issues. Read that refugees. If Israelis agree to borders, Palestinians should agree on a resolution of the refugee issue. Most likely that is beyond the reach of the Palestinians. For that reason, it is not on the American agenda. For Israelis in the cabinet, however, it may be a deal breaker.

That''s not all the news of this week.

The chief of the national police is one of the country''s most distinguished positions. The schedule calls for the appointment of a new chief. But sex has intervened. 

It started a couple of weeks ago with the news that a woman is charging a ranking civilian in the Ministry of Internal Security with sexual harassment. That is the ministry that includes the police. Then she expanded her charge to include a senior police officer, who is one of the candidates being considered for the chief''s job. The lady in question, identified only as "A," is said to be a forties-something divorcee with several children, brilliant and attractive, and employed by the police as an outside consultant. There was a media report that she has been involved romantically with other senior police officers. Most recently, we have heard that she was reluctant to charge sexual harassment against the officer who is one of the candidates for the chief''s job, but was urged to do so by another senior officer who is also a candidate for that job.

Today''s media speculation is comparing these stories to those concerned with the commotion surrounding the recent selection of the next commanding general of the IDF. That position is even more prestigious than the head of the national police. The selection was done under the shadow of documents circulated among senior officers, and leaked to the media, that appeared to be a campaign against one of the candidates.

There is a new commanding general of the IDF, who has all the government approvals and is serving alongside the current commanding general until the formal transfer of command. However, there are persistent rumbles about the new man''s improper actions in a real estate transaction concerned with his personal residence. Some want to re-open the selection process.

All told, not the neatest ways to select important members of the public service, whose actions and morals will affect us all over the next few years. Perhaps British gentlemen would do it differently, assuming they operate according to the norms we associate with them. French, Italian, and American gentlemen (and gentlewomen) can provide models for lesser folk.

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