Best Man - President George Bush - and Matron of Honour - Condoleezza Rice - are becoming increasingly frustrated as the reluctant bride - Israel - and a very impatient groom - the Palestinian Authority - continue haggling over the substantial dowry the groom is demanding from the bride’s family before the wedding of the year can go ahead in Annapolis this month - or maybe next month.
Dr Rice says the bride and groom are going through “knotty discussions” which appear to be heading anywhere but tying the knot. Bridesmaid Tzipi Livni has publicly admitted there are “problems”.
This is certainly not a match made in heaven - rather a catch hatched in hell. The body language and forced smiles say it all. At the moment alarm bells - not wedding bells - are ringing.
President Bush and Condoleezza Rice are both suffering from work overload as potentially catastrophic events in Turkey and Pakistan rapidly unfold to put President Bush and Dr Rice under great stress. Annapolis is probably the last place they want to be thinking about at this moment.
These latest crises are an unwelcome intrusion into Dr Rice’s crowded appointment book as she ponders whether - and when - to send out the wedding invitations. Five years of fruitless diplomacy have stymied efforts by President Bush to get the bride and groom together to conceive the President’s godson - a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.
The bride is not yet quite convinced and wants the fourteen years old engagement to continue. The groom wants the wedding now and has downgraded his expectations of having the baby within six months from then to a date no later than January 2009. Conception and birth within that ambitious time frame would be miraculous - even by the Holyland’s standards - given the groom’s sterile performance up till now.
Who to invite and what to talk about at the wedding has presented President Bush and Dr Rice with real headaches. How to get people to even come is an even greater challenge.
Bickering guests are the last thing one wants at Annapolis. Who will sit next to who might be tricky - but a creative events organiser like the State Department will probably come up with suitable table placements to make sure no one feels too uncomfortable.
The pecking order will be important too. Who sits - or stands - to the left and right of the President and Dr Rice- for even a cameo appearance - must be dominating lots of time behind State Department doors.
The timed arrivals of guests and the proceedings will also be watched closely by the myriad press corps assembled behind strategically located barriers. Media placement must also be of great concern to avoid any diplomatic crisis. Will al-Jazira get a better barrier position than CNN, ABC, the BBC or the XYZ?
Should there be a head table or not? Maybe protocol will best be served by having a round table which would symbolically reflect the ever increasing circles the President and Dr Rice have been running around in trying to get this wedding off the ground.
Last minute cancellations are bound to occur causing more grey hairs at the State Department. This is not a wedding to be organised by the faint hearted.
Most weddings suffer from too many speeches usually leaving the guests thoroughly bored. At Annapolis we are told the guests will listen to a joint speech written by the bride and groom which will be either very detailed on the core issues of their future relationship or downright boring and devoid of any material content - depending on which unidentified reliable source you are prepared to believe.
Whilst the bride and groom grapple with what they are going to say, the matchmaker - President Bush - should have no such problems. Indeed he wrote his speech years ago. Hopefully he will dig it up, dust it off and remind those who come to Annapolis of the following three pledges he made to the bride’s father Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 to persuade him that this union could even be a remote possibility:
1. The groom’s family have to give up the idea of living in Israel.
"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."
2. 450000 members of the bride’s family will not be booted out of their homes in the West Bank.
"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."
3. The groom will not get every square metre of the West Bank as part of the dowry.
"As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338."
Come to think of it, Dr Rice should consider limiting her guests to those who are prepared to drink a toast in honour of these three pledges. Guests can tick three appropriately worded boxes placed next to the one requesting their dietary requirements on the return prepaid acceptance card - to ensure they don‘t get to the wedding under false pretences.
Otherwise the probability is that the bride will be left at the altar and no one will get to catch the bouquet.
Sadder still - diplomatic and security reasons will prevent the wedding customs of the bride and groom being celebrated at Annapolis. Jews break a glass at weddings to solemnly remind them - in their moment of extreme happiness - of the destruction of their two Temples in their capitol Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. Arabs choose to fire bullets indiscriminately in the air, sometimes wounding - and even killing - innocent wedding guests and bystanders.
Allowing the possibility of either to occur could turn this wedding into the disaster of the year - if it isn’t already before it has even been held.