Forked tongues

 In the westerns that I saw as a kid, at a cost of $0.25 on Saturday afternoons, the meaning of "speaking with forked tongues" was clear. White man lied to the Indian.

The Hebrew equivalent is כפל לשון (keffel lashon), double tongue.

The Palestinian leadership is speaking in כפל לשון. They are inciting their people to demonstrate/riot, and claiming that it is not they who are arousing the population.

According to Mahmoud Abbas, it is Israel that wants chaos in the West. Bank, and the Palestinians will not allow it.

The Palestinian physician who attended the autopsy of the prisoner who died suddenly announced that he had been tortured to death, even though a formal report is still waiting laboratory tests. Mahmoud Abbas, in his message of sympathy to the family, said that the prisoner died from abuse and a lack of appropriate medical attention.

It is not the Palestinian leadership who is promoting demonstrations, according to what we hear from Ramallah, but the population''s frustration at continued Israeli occupation, a lack of Israeli responses to Palestinian needs, and the failure to improve the lot of security prisoners and to release them wholesale.

Such claims come along with denials that the demonstrations have anything to do with Barack Obama''s visit to the region.

One of the Fatah factions seeking the freedom of Palestine from Gaza joined the party by sending a missile toward Ashkelon. It was the first to reach Israel since the dust up of  November.  It damaged a roadway and brought a warning of retaliation from no less than Israel''s Peace Advocate in Chief, President Shimon Peres.

Israel is not innocent of כפל לשון. Tsipi Livni has joined Benyamin Netanyahu''s new government, she with a certainty that she can produce a breakthrough with the Palestinians, and he with an insistence that negotiations cannot succeed without the Palestinians agreeing to things that they have already rejected.

With reference to what is happening just to the northeast of here, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said, “We are determined that the Syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind wondering where the support is or if it’s coming.”

The Syrian rebels should take account of what John Foster Dulles said at his confirmation hearings about the "liberation of captive peoples" living under communist rule, and what the US actually did when the Soviet tanks entered Budapest.

כפל לשון is the language of politics.

A lot has been written about dissimulation in politics. That''s a polite word for כפל לשון. Individuals who aspire to lead nations, political parties, or even smaller entities have to win support from contentious constituencies.

Palestinians may be an extreme example, with religious and nationalist fanatics, some of them willing to commit suicide for their cause, alongside those who aspire to live in peace and with as much prosperity as they can attain, and are willing to do so alongside Israel. 

Israeli politicians contend with a smaller proportion of fanatics inclined to violence. Suicide for the sake of Israel is not part of the vocabulary. Yet there is a wide range of views nationally and within the larger parties about what is appropriate in regard to Palestine, as well as disagreements about domestic economic and social issues. 

Americans are familiar with their own conflicts, some of which derive from responsibilities acquired since World War II for extensive international involvement, along with no end of disputes about domestic matters that bubble up to frequent crises involving White House and Congress.

All should act at their peril on the basis of what is said. 

Those who wish to interpret proclamations like those now heard from Palestinians that fan protest and claim to be not fanning protest should take account of a population that has shown itself to be inclined to mass excitement and violence.

Actions are more important than words, but should also be viewed with care.  Are the latest actions the most reliable?  What if they run counter to what has been done over the long haul?

Israelis and Palestinians each have reasons to distrust the other. Moreover, both should view with suspicion all outsiders who offer help. A great deal of the money promised to Palestine from Muslim governments has not come. For those believing American pledges that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, it is time to pass the salt.

Currently the assessment of Palestinian unrest is that it is moderate and manageable. Israeli commentators tend to agree that it is the product of incitement, that various sectors in the Palestinian community are more or less prominent in the incitement, and that some are trying to manage a delicate balance between demonstrating Palestinian needs prior to Obama''s visit, but keeping a lid on violence so as not to discourage the American President from helping Palestine. 

Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have reason to expect the other to act differently than its established pattern in any negotiations, assuming they can get over the hurdles on the way to them.

There are no changes in the air I am breathing, which is often tainted by a burning tire across the valley.

If the intention of those burning the tires is to threaten Israelis with air pollution, they should have learned that God is on our side. The wind is almost always from the west, so it is Palestinians who get the stink and sore eyes. Israelis see the ugliness of thick black smoke rising from one of the nearby Palestinian neighborhoods, and drifting over other Palestinian neighborhoods.

The bottom line is that we are stuck with one another, reinforced by distrust anchored in the comments from this morning and several decades of action. Palestinians may hope for salvation from the UN, the European Community, the White House, or Human Rights Watch. However, all the good words from those sources harm Palestine, by encouraging the Palestinians that they do not have to make any concessions for the sake of peace, or begin convincing the people that they will not get all that has been promised over the course of 60 years.

Israelis should not expect salvation from any source. We should continue to cope, currently with a perception that Arab chaos (including that among the Palestinians)  is on our side, along with European and American preoccupations with their own economic and political issues.

We can''t solve this. There is no sign that Palestinians are willing to accept decent offers Israelis are willing to make. Our own politics and morality, and our dependence on European and American good will keep us from acting so firmly against the Palestinians that the vast majority of them will leave the West Bank, Gaza, or areas within Israel.

We can expect Obama to come, unless there is a significant escalation in Palestinian violence, but maybe without an Israeli government in place.

No doubt he will speak well. There isn''t much by way of tangible expectations.