Careful use of language over easing of Gaza blockade
The devil in the Middle East is not so much in the detail as in the delivery.
Thursday morning's headlines about Israel "lifting its blockade of Gaza" immediately set me wondering what exactly had been promised, how it would be delivered, and for how long.
Sure enough, on the first issue, eagle-eyed Israeli journalists soon spotted that the government press releases announcing the move read differently in their Hebrew and English versions.
The English version reports an Israeli cabinet decision on Thursday morning: "It was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision."
The Hebrew version did not report any specific agreement or vote among the ministers, leaving Israeli reporters to conclude that the old policy concerning banned items was still in force.
However, other Israeli government sources insist that a change is already under way to allow a much larger flow of food, household goods, toys, and educational materials into the Gaza Strip.
Middle East old hands are all too familiar this kind of imprecision. It has occurred before in relation to freezes of Jewish settlements, removal of movement restrictions or, during the Second Intifada, ceasefires.
In each case a miasma of statements from different sources left reporters wondering why is this happening? Who decided? And how long will it last?
Even on its most optimistic reading, today's announcement falls short on many areas that would help Gaza - for example allowing the free import of construction materials (which Israel says is restricted because of their use in making rocket launchers).
Many Gazans complain they cannot re-build the damage done during Israel's 2009 Operation Cast Lead offensive because of the shortage of cement and other items needed by builders.
One Hamas official has denounced the announcement as "window dressing".
Room for manoeuvre
There are many reasons why these odd or imprecise announcements appear. Of course announcing one thing in the vernacular and another in English is something many Middle Eastern governments do when they wish to soothe domestic and global constituencies at the same time.
This tendency to give mixed messages is amplified by Israel's fractious coalition politics.
Another reason to remain vague about what the Cabinet has or has not formally agreed to is that it makes it easier to reverse any concession in future.
If there is a barrage of Palestinian rockets on a southern Israeli town, the cabinet may wish to re-visit the issue of what gets imported into Gaza.
No declaration of victory
It is the Palestinian experience of the vicissitudes of daily life that leaves them so cynical about the removal of checkpoint or lifting of other restrictions.
They know that if things get bad again, so will these bugbears of daily life.
Perhaps it is because of their experience that neither Hamas nor the Turkish organisers of the aid flotilla, on which nine lost their lives, declared victory today.
If after all, the blockade had been lifted it would be a major coup for both groups.
But both sides in the Middle East conflict have learned to measure their concessions carefully, and leave themselves free to revise them when the spotlight of publicity has moved elsewhere.