Daniel Levy writes: The brouhaha surrounding the fourth phase of an Israeli release of Palestinian prisoners demonstrates just how inconsequential the current supposed peace talks really are. When conflicts are resolved or critical negotiating moments reached, political prisoners are invariably traded or released, almost irrespective of the crimes for which they have been convicted.
But in this case the prisoner issue serves as a substitute for, not an indication of, substantive political progress. The entire four-part prisoner release was itself a product of two things: PLO Chairman Abbas’ weakness – he failed to achieve either a settlement freeze or terms of reference for an Israeli withdrawal, prisoners were his fallback; and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cynicism – the releases are an easier domestic political sell and provide the opportunity (repeatedly) for depicting Abbas as a “terrorist-hugger.”
The current prisoners dilemma will likely pass, but the deeper malaise and impasse surrounding Israeli-Palestinian affairs remains.
The logic of the current U.S.-led effort is apparently predicated on the assumption that by offering Israel unprecedented security deliverables within a two-state deal (under a package put together by U.S. General John Allen), together with front-loading recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, that Netanyahu would then be unable to dodge a serious negotiation on territory. That logic, combined with the ever-present American unwillingness to deploy any leverage viz its Israeli ally. Predictably enough, the Israeli leadership has pocketed the American concessions, demanded that the Palestinians follow suit, and asked for more. [Continue reading…]