That seven hour meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Clinton produced a lot of talk, but less by way of clear documents.

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There are questions about the promise of 20 advanced military planes, whether the Americans are clear about excluding Jerusalem from the 90 day settlement freeze, and if the American pledge for support in the United Nations is limited to the one year during which the Americans want a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are seeking their own quid pro quo. They want financial aid, and an assurance that the Americans will intervene in negotiations to produce an agreement within one year.

What happened between that long meeting and the grimy job of settling on the language that the Prime Minister can bring to his colleagues for their consideration?

Perhaps Bibi rounded up his recollection to make it more appealing at home. Perhaps Hillary rounded down her version to make it more appealing to her boss and colleagues, and more defensible to their Arab and Palestinian constituencies. They are politicians with interests that overlap and converge, and familiar with tactics of muddling through and the value of ambiguity.

Among the prospects: the Americans will not explicitly exempt Jerusalem from the 90 day freeze, but neither will they produce a document that is explicit in extending the freeze to Jerusalem.

While some military and political figures are arguing that those 20 planes will provide Israel with what it needs to defend itself, others are saying that the deal includes a provision that Israel must clear with the United States its intentions about the planes. In other words, an American veto as to when or how they can be used.

The best case analysis is that the Prime Minister can win endorsement by his Cabinet of the American offer by a majority of one, with one of his partners (SHAS) agreeing to abstain.

Jerusalem is important for SHAS, both as a principle and because its voters live in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, and more of them want apartments there. It was Ramat Shlomo where construction plans embarrassed Vice President Biden some months ago.

Other votes will depend on the language that Israeli and American negotiators produce from what they pick out of those seven hours of discussion.

The Prime Minister himself may think again about the strength of his endorsement. Even if he wins a narrow vote in his Cabinet, there is a rebellion brewing among Likud Knesset members that can endanger his leadership of the party.

The Americans want progress toward defining boundaries within the 90 days of this construction freeze. Israeli critics are worrying about the absence of concern for refugees in the American plan. They do not want to agree on borders of a Palestinian state, and leave the issue of refugees dangling as an inducement for Palestinians to assert that they have not gotten one of their most important demands. Why should Israel compromise on its major card of  territorial exchanges without demanding an equivalent concession from the Palestinians?

There is justice and historical truth on the Palestinian side when they claim a presence in Jerusalem. But not when they claim that the Jews never had a significant presence in the city. The Hashemites of Jordan have a better claim than Palestinians as guardian of the Muslim holy places in the city.

A number of my correspondents are searching for truth, balance, equity, and justice in these disputes of at least a century''s duration. All of those are nice, but fuzzy concepts. They are what you want them to be. 

Power is also important.

We are some distance from knowing the balance between truth, balance, equity, justice and power in this case. So far, power is in the lead. So far may last a very long time.

Now let us hear from those who wish to compare the powers of Israel, the international community, and the United States. That arithmetic may appear to be simple, until you include the dimensions of intensity, and willingness to use one''s power.

Clarity may be the most elusive of all the relevant concepts. But who more than the Jews has an acquired capacity to live with uncertainty?
 


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