Mention the tiny island nation of Cyprus, and the first thing that comes to my mind is Paul Newman and "Exodus."
In the 1960 film of Leon Uris's novel, Newman stars as Zionist leader Ari Ben Canaan, who goes to Cyprus in 1947 to rescue Jewish refugees being held in British internment camps.
All it takes is a borrowed ship, a few forged signatures, a hunger strike, and a threat to blow up the vessel and everyone on it to persuade the British to allow the renamed "Exodus" to set sail for Palestine.
Today's plot involving Cyprus is more complicated. Any resolution will be less uplifting. And the heroes, if there are any, have yet to emerge.
The Story So Far: As a precondition for a 10 billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout of its financial system, Cyprus was told by euro-zone finance ministers, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank that it had to contribute 5.8 billion euros by levying a tax on bank deposits: insured and uninsured, at sick and well-capitalized banks.
The Cypriot parliament on Tuesday rejected the "solidarity levy" - the only solidarity was the opposition to it - sending the parties back to the drawing board and newly elected Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades looking for alternative financing, perhaps from Russia
Without a capital infusion, Cyprus's two largest banks will collapse, destabilizing the financial system and presaging an early exit from the 17-member euro area.
And that guarantee of deposit insurance on accounts up to 100,000 euros? Sorry.
Why the authorities decided that when it comes to Cyprus, the last (depositors) will be first, and the first not at all, is anybody's guess.
Although it's true that Cyprus's banks are largely deposit-funded, why not give the bailout a patina of respectability by making the senior bondholders take a hit? That's standard when it comes to resolving insolvent financial institutions.
Instead, Europe's leaders chose an arbitrary policy that sets a bad precedent and carries a scary message: Your deposits aren't safe. The state can confiscate them anytime it wants.
Even the Russians, who excel at seizing entire fortunes and portfolios of companies, are up in arms.
Facing parliamentary elections in September and pressure from both sides, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in no position to offer up bailout-weary taxpayers as sacrificial lambs.
Because Cyprus is reputed to be a haven for Russian money laundering, supporting a deposit tax enabled Frau Merkel to strut her populist credentials by sticking it to Russian oligarchs.
Anastasiades didn't want to jeopardize Russia's 2.5 billion-euro line of credit by forcing large depositors to absorb the entire hit.
The initial plan had the government imposing a tax of 6.75 percent on all bank deposits of less than 100,000 euros - the deposit-insurance limit - and 9.9 percent on larger accounts.
What's more, Russian banks have loans to Cypriot companies, which may be fronts for Russian companies.