Obama and Bibi in a 'Who's on First' word box
The US-Israeli agreement clinched, all that now remains for the parties to do is to agree on what it is that they agreed to.
Why do they need to do that? Netanyahu's cabinet, agreeing that President Obama agrees with the Palestinians a whole lot more than he agrees with the Israelis, agreed to consider agreeing with Obama/Clinton/Netanyahu agreement only if the agreement is clearly spelled out on paper, and is agreeable to the ministers. Which necessitated for the Obama administration the task of spelling out the details of that agreement -- and the above-mentioned situation resulted.
Because putting such agreement on paper is tricky. To be successful, an in-between needs to speak out of both corners of his mouth, depending on who he speaks to, so each party hears what it wants to hear. A written document makes that extremely hard, for what is aimed at one party gets read by the other one, too.
What is agreeable to the Israelis (i.e. continuation of building in Jerusalem and end to further freezes) is disagreeable to Obama and the Palestinians. And so, those tasked with spelling out the terms of the agreement are now rummaging through one dictionary after another in search of words that mean nothing -- for the written agreement must be couched in language that promises to the Israelis what the Israelis want to hear, and at the very same time assuring the Palestinians of what the Palestinians demand -- and, most importantly, it must leave a way for the Obama administration to deny that it promised anything to anyone, so as to be able to keep pressing the Israelis into further freezes and concessions after agreeing not to.
No wonder it takes that long to put what was agreed to into writing, for it is a highly disagreeable task. Words without meaning are hard to come by; words that contradict themselves are even harder to find. It is not easy to blow both hot and cold in writing.
And even if such words are found and the agreement is spelled out on paper, will the parties for whom the agreement is ultimately intended -- the Israelis and the Palestinians -- agree to go along?
One finds it hard to agree. To judge by the time it takes the administration to spell out what it pushed Netanyahu to agree to, Obama himself finds it hard to agree to what was agreed. And if Obama cannot bring himself to agree to an agreement he agrees with, how can the parties that do not agree, agree?