If you want to be Jewish, you need a high tolerance for uncertainty. It''s an essential part of coping with ourselves and the goyim.
There are periods of relative stability, and others of intense uncertainty.
In recent days, the Israeli cousins have been at the intense end of the spectrum.
We had several days beginning last week of media babble about Shula Zaken and Ehud Olmert. What did she provide the prosecutors that would assure herself a good deal, and was Ehud Olmert looking at another trial for witness tampering and perhaps other crimes?
Monday morning the judge ignored all of that and proceeded to read his summary of a 700 page verdict that seems likely to send both Olmert and Zaken to the slammer, along with another former mayor of Jerusalem and businessmen who provided the dough that bought friendly decisions about a property development.
After a day of post-trial blather from proud prosecutors, defense attorneys convinced they can overturn the verdict in appeal, and commentators guessing how much jail time each of the guilty will serve, we''ve turned again to John Kerry.
He''s been here again, interrupting other pressing business in Europe dealing with Russia.
He is intent in keeping his peace process alive, at least till the end of the year. If he succeeds in this short run objective, we can guess that he''ll be back to keep the same thing going for another year, at which time both he and his boss can turn the expected lack of accomplishment to someone else.
In the air is the proposal that Israel will free more prisoners to keep the Palestinians at the table, and freeze settlement in at least some areas of the West Bank. Kerry is offering a sweetener that Netanyahu might be able to use to entice his right wing to go along: the release of Jonathan Pollard.
The Palestinians want more, including their choice of the prisoners Israel will release, and a number of other things that change in detail with the person claiming to be a spokesman.
None of this, if it works to keep things going, seems likely to bring Israelis and Palestinians to an agreement.
No one I''ve heard here thinks that John Kerry--with or without the help of Barack Obama--can do what others have failed to do who have worked on it sporadically since the 1930s.
The current interlocutor appears to be deluded by a sense of American grandeur and political weight, and a naive view of Islam as a religion just like others in the western communities.
It is not, unless you qualify that as like Christianity during its wars of the late Middle Ages, or the Judaism described by Josephus in Jewish War. Judaism and Christianity have changed in the most recent two millennia or half a millennia, while Islam is still stuck in the Middle Ages or earlier.
The essential problem is the lack of Palestinian or Muslim unity.
The Palestinians are hampered by the lack of a state, and are not in a position to create one that works.
If the UN and various governments recognize a Palestinian state, it seems likely to fail from the get go.
The Jews dealt with their disunity dramatically in 1948 around the incident of the Altelena, when Irgun head Menachem Begin accepted the superiority of the emerging government and its military.
The Palestinians have not taken an equivalent step toward unity, and show no signs of getting there.
They are bothered by the strong tugs of Islam, along with its rivalries and hatreds, the Gaza-West Bank split, other divisions between activists of the Palestinian diasporas and homeland, various political, religious, family and personal rivalries in the West Bank and Gaza, all of them backed up by militias.
With respect to Kerry''s illusion, Islam also gets in the way of a Palestinian leadership--weakened by a lack of unity always on the verge of civil war--recognizing a non-Muslim entity (i.e., Israel) in what the preachers and faithful insist must be a region ruled by Muslims.
Kerry not only seems destined to fail. His naive obsession has already unleashed an upsurge in violence, helped along by what Obama unleashed in Cairo, and which has reached its crescendo across the border in Syria.
Jews are not entirely innocent, but are a small part of the problem.
Settlers are not the essence of the problem, but they add to it. The problem would exist if settlement activity was frozen, as it has been on several occasions in compliance with American pressure.
Israel is the problem, with neighborhoods of Jerusalem and other "settlements" serving as part of the Palestinian mantra, with the Jewish crazies of the small settlements doing their part to provoke Palestinians, and the politicians currently concentrated in Jewish Home along with messianic rabbis keeping up the drum beat for the Land of Israel.
The Pollard fillip has its own mysteries.
On the one hand, if Barack Obama overcomes the opposition and uses his pardon authority to set him free, Netanyahu will have a card that may tip the scale in convincing his right wing colleagues to give something to the Palestinians for the sake of continuing discussions.
Pollard is a darling of the Israeli right, some of whom see him as a suffering Jew at the hands of the anti-Semites.
Recently there has been a spread of support for his release to the Israeli center and left, among Israelis who may not view him in heroic terms, but feel that he has been punished enough.
There remain reservations among Israelis who seem him as an American who decided to break the law of his country, offered to sell secrets not only to Israel but to other countries as well, might have been more than a bit unbalanced, violated a plea bargain involving a commitment not to speak with media personalities, and has been punished severely, but fairly.
Still unclear is the willingness of American officials to do what they can to persuade this President not to release Pollard, as they have persuaded predecessors at least as far back as Bill Clinton.
Pollard has said that he would not accept a pardon if it involved a deal to free Palestinian murderers.
Chabad rabbis have already been warming the air for celebrations that would welcome Pollard to Israel in time for a Passover seder.
The latest news is that Palestinians have rejected what Kerry and Netanyahu have to offer, and have decided to apply to international organizations.
John Kerry has canceled his scheduled trip to Ramallah, and Barack Obama has not decided about Jonathan Pollard.
Looking beyond this particular spurt in uncertainty, Israelis should consider the implications of what seems more or less inevitable, i.e., that Palestinians will gain recognition as a state from the UN and a number of governments, but not from Israel.
Israel will still surround Palestine, with considerable leverage over its economy and who can come and go. Still important, however, will be Israeli reluctance to use its power, given international politics and economics.
All of which may depend more than anything on the level of violence that comes from Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza.
Stay tuned. At the present time, none of us know what''s going to happen.