A highlight of my day six and a half decades ago, before television reached Fall River, late afternoons Monday through Friday, was the opening blare of the William Tell Overture and then another radio episode of the Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto.
Tonto was what politically aware Native Americans call a radish: red on the outside and white on the inside.
Among Tonto''s few lines was, "Injun speak with forked tongue."
Translation: Indians lie. The Lone Ranger and the people he protected could not count on them.
I didn''t realize it at the time, but it was a lesson aboutg inter-cultural relations, or maybe a more general lesson in politics.
The news that prompted this note was another story of Palestinian speaking with forked tongue.
And Palestinians claiming that Israelis speak with forked tongue.
One of the first items in several days of changing details were ranking Palestinians threatening to declare the end of the Palestine National Authority (PNA) on account of a failure to reach an agreement with Israel to extend negotiations, the failure of Israel to release prisoners as promised, and a number of other charges.
Israelis, for the most part, weren''t impressed. Palestinians had threatened to disband the PNA several times in the past. But the leadership had too much to lose if they did it. Pickings from corruption were too rich and easy, financed by the world''s most generous provisions of foreign aid per capita.
American officials may have taken the Palestinian threat more seriously. They responded with threats of severe consequences, including a reduction or elimination of American financial aid if the PNA were end itself.
Then Palestinians claimed that it was nothing but Israeli disinformation, meant to cause trouble for the Palestinians with the Americans. The Palestinians, according to their revised version, never discussed the ending of the PNA.
One must be careful of concluding what the Palestinians said, or are saying. The cultural divide between us and them is profound. It is not only a matter of language. Translations of what they say in Arabic often differ markedly from what they say in English or Hebrew. It is also a matter of understanding the politics of a regime that is not transparent, whose institutional rules and membership in its higher circles are fluid, the man claiming supreme leadership finished his formal term of office more than five years ago, was not recognized by the Gaza half of Palestine, and who knows about the sentiments said to be important in the various Palestinian diasporas?
The later news is that Fatah of the West Bank and Hamas of Gaza reached an accord and will have an election for a national leadership.
They have done this before. Among the things we are hearing is that the Hamas leadership hopes that Fatah will honor its agreement this time.
Israelis do not come to this game with entirely clean hands.
The rules of the Israeli game are as fixed and clear as in any western democracy. The regime cannot claim to be pure, with a former president in prison for rape and a former prime minister found guilty of corruption, awaiting his sentence, and perhaps looking at another trial for additional offenses. However, it is the Israeli police and judiciary that went after the country''s highest ranking officials. Such work helps to justify the country''s place among the enlightened.
Nonetheless, the Palestinians have a point when they accuse Israelis of speaking with forked tongue. Public opinion polls show a majority of the population favoring a two state solution. The prime minister continues to swear by his good intentions, but Israelis wonder if he ever was serious.
We should not expect the same levels of transparency and other elements of orderly government from the Palestinians. They are considerably short of having developed the institutions of a functioning state which can take priority over the claims of various political, religious, and local power centers, along with the cultural tendency of putting loyalty to one''s extended family (clan, hamula, or tribe) above anything else.
How to do business with such an entity, when an outsider cannot even be sure who is speaking for it, or that the same individual or another official be saying the same thing tomorrow?
We hear from Mahmoud Abbas that an agreement between Fatah and Hamas should not prevent an agreement between Palestine and Israel, while men close to the top of Hamas say they will never recognize the legitimacy of Israel.
The best guess is that Kerry''s peace process has died. We have yet to hear the Secretary''s sonorous last words around the grave, and we probably won''t. He is speaking more often now of punishing Russia if it does not honor its commitments with respect to Ukraine. On Israel and Palestine, he has said that the United States will not abandon the task of bringing peace, but Israeli and Palestinian leaders have shown a lack of will and political strength to make the difficult decisions.
Not a word that he may have erred by pressuring the parties to discussions that seemed destined to fail, with who knows what consequences that may include renewed violence.
Tsipi Livni has joined the Israeli government position damning Abbas for choosing Hamas over peace. Until now, she has been claiming progress in the talks, without specifying the details of what has been agreed, or brought close to agreement. In this, she has the protection of the commitment not to reveal details of the conversations.
According to leaks, however, the discussants never got to the basic issues. Rather, they spent most of their time in general discussions, often talking about talking, but nothing that would justify a claim of making progress.
In Livni''s background is negotiating an end to the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, and an agreement soiled by its failure to prevent the re-arming of Hezbollah with thousands of missiles.
Speeches by John Kerry and Barack Obama about Syrian chemical weapons are classics of what comes from forked tongues, especially when note is made of Obama''s flip flop in his final paragraphs. He went from the heights of threat consistent with Kerry''s speech to the wish washy stuff of negotiation.
Since the Kerry-Obama claims of success there have been several reports of attacks with chemical weapons.
Speaking with forked tongues is the language of politics.
When was the last time you believed that the candidates would implement in office what they promised in the campaign?
Politicians do lie, to the voters and to one another.
But not all lie to the same extent, or on all issues.
Trust among those active in politics and government administration is important, but it is not easy to define the parameters.
Part of the skill is knowing what to take seriously.
An tiny example appears in the Jordanian government summoning the Israeli ambassador to protest recent commotions on what Jews calls the Temple Mount, and Muslims the Noble Sanctuary, or al-Aqsa Mosque.
Who did what to whom on the holy site is less important than what appears to be the Jordanians'' need to assert its traditional role as guardian of the holy place, despite Palestinian claims of supremacy in recent years.
The Israeli-Jordanian alliance against mutual threats is likely to survive this kerfuffle. It emerged years before a formal treaty of peace. Secret meetings between the Jordanian king and the Israeli leadership began before 1948 when there wasn''t yet an Israel. They have survived several bouts of warfare between the two countries, involving three kings of Jordan and several prime ministers of Israel.
Neither international politics nor its domestic variety are tasks for simpletons.