"Words matter" - White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters this week.
Regrettably Earnest was being less than earnest in failing to point out that words can also have several meanings – which can result in people failing to actually communicate with each other because each has a different understanding of the words he is using.
As a lawyer with extensive experience in drafting agreements – I have found the most critical part in any agreement is the definition of terms used in those agreements - so that the parties are in no doubt at all as to the meaning of the words they are using.
The so –called “two State solution” has gone nowhere in the last 20 years for precisely this reason.
The parties to the negotiations - including America on its own and as part of the Quartet – have been talking at cross purposes without first agreeing on the meaning of the terms they are using.
Take the following terms - and their suggested possible definitions:
1. “Palestine” – means “the territory known today as Israel, West Bank, Gaza and Jordan being the territory covered by the Mandate for Palestine dated 24 July 1922.”
2. “Palestinians” – means
(i) “those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or stayed there.
(ii) Anyone born after 1947 of a father qualifying as a Palestinian under paragraph (i) - whether inside Palestine or outside it”
3. “West Bank” – means “the term used since 1950 to refer to the territory known as “Judea and Samaria” since biblical times and comprising the territory that came under Israeli military government control in 1967”
4. Oslo Accords 1 - means Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or short Declaration of Principles(DOP) dated 13 September 1993
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