There are lessons to be learned from recent politicking about gays and lesbians, and the Kerry peace process.
It''s all about smoke and mirrors, or what you see isn''t there, and is meant to satisfy by deceiving.
First on gays and lesbians.
There is a Future, Yair Lapid''s new party with a sizable Knesset contingent, is betting part of its future on doing something for gays and lesbians. High on its agenda is providing the same tax benefits for single sex couples as for conventional married couples. It isn''t clear if the benefit is meant for the few gay and lesbian couples who actually went through a formal marriage ceremony in some country where it is legal, and succeeded in getting the Israel Interior Ministry to recognize their marriage, or if it is also meant for the many more couples who are living together without benefit of a marriage.
In any case, the Biblical law appears clear on male homosexuality, and the punishment decreed by God is severe in the extreme. The ambiguous story about David and Jonathan confuses things, and few if any Jews (unlike some a good many Muslims) aspire to impose the death penalty on gay men. God does not seem to have noticed women who act unconventionally, but Israel''s religious parties do not look kindly on legislation that would facilitate any single sex unions.
The knotty problem is There is a Future and Jewish Home (with a constituency that is mostly Orthodox) are in the governing coalition, dependent on one another for keeping things together.
So after weeks of disagreeing, they have agreed to let a law providing single sex married couples with the same tax benefits as other married couples pass a first vote in the Knesset, on condition that it will not be pushed to the crucial second and third votes required for enactment. Instead, they have agree quietly on language added to another bill that will grant the Minister of Finance the power to adjust tax benefits, which Finance Minister Yair Lapid will quietly employ to provide what he wants for single sex couples.
If it all works without a hitch (and there are lots of hitches in the politics of Israel and every other democracy), both There is a Future and Jewish Home can claim to have served their constituencies, one seeking votes among gays, lesbians, and their friends, and the other seeking votes among anti-gays and anti-lesbians.
Now for the parallel use of smoke and mirrors in the case of Kerry''s peace process.
An uptick in violence has produced a lot of discussion as well as daily IDF incursions into the West Bank and warning clusters of air strikes on Gaza. They were not designed to kill a lot of people. Palestinians claim they killed a small girl. If that is true (always a question with Palestinian claims), it would be regrettable, but nothing to deter further actions if warranted.
Nobody I''ve heard seems to think the peace process is going anywhere.
Kerry is sounding more sober. He is talking about continuing the discussions beyond the number of months agreed, and ratcheting down from a final agreement to a Framework Agreement, apparently a list of items described in general terms, with the details to be discussed in the future..
That sounds like George W. Bush''s Roadmap for Peace, and just as likely to lead nowhere.
Among the questions bothering many of us, is whether the actions of some Palestinians to talk peace cause others to spike violence in order to frustrate the prospects, little as they are.
And do some more moderate Palestinians become extreme as a result of having their aspirations about desirable accommodations frustrated, and move closer to those with Islamic or nationalist inspirations, and seeking to do something heroic against the Zionist devils?
Are there any prospects for a decent agreement, perhaps called a Framework, or are naive Americans causing Israelis and Palestinians to tread water, accuse one another of making impossible demands, and along the way making things worse?
One can see in the ambiguous comments of Israelis and Palestinians claiming to know what is happening that both are looking for a way to stop the talks without stopping them, or without saying they are stopping them, and to give every side (American, Israeli, and Palestinian) a fig leaf indicating that all are continuing the Kerry round of talks, to hide their mutual incapacity to reach anything close to agreement on the sensitive issues of borders, Jerusalem, holy places, refugees, and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
The solution may well be a fuzzy Framework, which to borrow from a writer more well known than I, seems likely to be a little sound and no fury signifying nothing.
One can imaging a lengthening period between actual conversations, with both sides hoping the Americans will focus their unproductive energies on someone else''s problems. The Palestinians can concentrate on building Rawabi and participating in joint ventures with Israelis, Israeli authorities can issue more permits for Palestinian daily workers to build in Israel and the settlements, and hopefully the current escalation in acts of Palestinian violence will wither away to the much lesser level we experienced before the Kerry peace process.
Upcoming events will be another release of Palestinian prisoners, to the sound of mourning and threats from the Israeli right, and the announcement of new housing starts beyond the 1967 lines, to the sound of American condemnation and Palestinian threats to end the peace talks.
Must we do what the US demands?
To a considerable extent, yes. When the American President or Secretary of State says jump, no matter how silly or destructive, Israelis and Palestinians beholden to American power must respond with "how high?"
Whether they actually jump, or just appear to jump, is something else, hidden by individuals well practiced with smoke and mirrors.