With the peace talks in rapid melt down and violence increasing it looks like a return to a wild unruly time in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. That is unless the United States figures out a formula that frankly gives enough away to quiet down both sides in this tragic war of attrition.
There are a number of parallel scenarios simultaneously playing out with Israel demanding recognition as a Jewish State, President Abbas saying no in lieu of the Israeli Arab population and the preservation of the enormous chit of the refugees and their right of return. There is the question of the release of the last batch of terrorists, (aging prisoners with blood on their hands from the Oslo Days), that was part of the quid pro nothing agreement that enticed the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Since Israel has all the power and is the occupying force with some 500,000 residents spread across the West Bank and East Jerusalem the world is tired of paying a ransom for an unsustainable status quo in support of UNRWA, the Palestinian economy and the Israeli military and is looking for a solution and willing to increasingly pressure Israel to get one.
But lots of conservatives in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own Likud Party let alone his governing coalition are squawking loudly about releasing any more prisoners if the Palestinians won’t agree to sign off on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Framework agreement which may buy all three sides another nine months to do more negotiating and less killing and keep a Palestinian preference to take the issue and Israel international through the UN and the courts at bay.
President Abbas counters that no return of the prisoners will equal no more peace talks. And in the middle of all the No’s, time is running out on the original nine month calendar and many pundits and other peace professionals believe the last best chance to seek and build a peace between Israelis and Palestinians within the desired two state universe. So the Prime Minister has thrown Jonathan Pollard into the mess and asked President Obama to free Pollard to insure that Israel will release this final set of prisoners and put pressure on the Palestinians to sign up for another nine month ride on the Peace Train.
Meanwhile, President Abbas, who it has been said many times is 79 years old and hasn’t named a successor let alone held elections in many years, has asked that Marwan Barghouti, the former Tanzim leader and Israeli prisoner be released due to his widespread popularity with the Palestinian public and the President’s sinking political fortunes. It all sounds like a soap opera with an inevitably sad ending that is just waiting for when the producers cancel the talks and return to a more direct form of warfare.
But America may pull a rabbit out of a hat yet and agree to release Pollard on the qt. after the Israelis release the last batch of prisoners and the Palestinians sign up for another season of peace talks. Unfortunately, little real progress has been made and neither side has the political or public support it needs to make the extraordinary concessions it must to make peace between these enemies possible. But maybe it can live for another day allowing new insights and maybe new players to create that missing ingredient that overcomes enough of the inexhaustible list of problems to finally make peace possible. Let’s hope so.