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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What the Pollard debate says about the 'peace process'

Jonathan Tobin questions the wisdom of injecting Jonathan Pollard into the 'settlement freeze' extension issue.
But injecting Pollard into the delicate negotiations with the Obama administration and the Palestinian Authority is a tactic of questionable utility for Netanyahu. Though the idea that Pollard appears to be destined to rot in jail forever while those who spied here for hostile nations receive light sentences or are exchanged after virtually no time in prison strikes many Israeli as unjust, buying his freedom with a costly policy concession cannot be considered wise statecraft. Nor is it clear that Pollard’s release would do much to comfort Israeli right-wingers who are upset about a settlement freeze.
Most people here don't see a three-month extension of the ten-month freeze as a policy concession, provided that Pollard is released up front. Under those terms, Pollard for a freeze extension would be a one-shot deal (as we were promised the freeze would be). Of course, we would insist that during those three months, there should be no changes in the talks' agenda (i.e. we're not going to spend the three months discussing borders instead of security as the Obama administration has apparently suggested).

What Tobin may not realize in the US is that the people here who agitate the most for Pollard's release are the same people who live in, and support the people who live in, Judea and Samaria. A deal for a short extension of the freeze that releases Pollard - for whose imprisonment just about all Israelis except for his handlers feel guilty - would be unlikely to meet any opposition here.

But most Israelis would agree with Tobin's conclusion.
If anything, the floating of Pollard’s name in connection with the peace talks illustrates the lack of seriousness of these negotiations. The reality of Palestinian politics and the strength of Hamas mean there is no chance that the Palestinian Authority will sign any peace agreement, and both Abbas and Netanyahu are merely trying to act in such a manner as to evade blame for the eventual failure of the talks. So instead of serious give and take about final-status issues, we are hearing about tangential topics such as Pollard or Palestinian threats to walk out over the failure of Israeli to concede its position in the territories even before the talks begin. Whether or not the spy-exchange proposal is genuine, the discussion of such an eventuality says a lot more about the futility of President Obama’s ill-considered push for talks at a time when progress is virtually impossible than it does about Pollard’s fate.
Yes, the word here is that with all the winks and nudges about the Americans asking for no public comments about the 'negotiations,' the two parties have agreed on nothing and the 'negotiations' are at an impasse.

What could go wrong?


At 10:08 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

There's no progress because the real issue dividing the parties is existential.

Its never been about borders, land or territory. Israel is not going to commit national suicide to please the Palestinians or help Obama justify his premature and undeserved - Nobel Peace Prize.

That is where matters stand today - and nothing is going to change in the future to end that impasse in the peace talks.


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