That’s the long and short of this latest ‘crisis’ in the peace talks.
This couldn’t be more black-and white, more writ in bold, if Israel set off fireworks in the night sky that spelled out: “WE LIED.” Netanyahu and his government – including, very forthrightly, house “peacenik” Tzipi Livni – are reneging on their promise to free 26 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners on Friday.
The numbers, the names, the date of release were all agreed on between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and overseen by Secretary of State Kerry when the current peace talks, such as they are, began last July. The Israeli cabinet approved the prisoner agreement on July 28 by a vote of 13 to 7 with two abstentions. But now Netanyahu and Co. are saying they won’t free the prisoners – all in jail on murder charges since before the 1993 Oslo Accord – unless Abbas agrees to go on with the talks beyond their April 29 time limit, and to again set aside his plans to pursue statehood via international avenues such as The Hague.
“[T]he keys to the prison doors are in the hands of Abu Mazen and the decisions he will take in the coming days,” Livni warned last week. Israel’s co-negotiator at the peace talks insisted that the government never made an “automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to making progress in negotiations.”
She’s lying. There are no conditions, no caveats in the deal. Abbas did not agree to make what Israel would consider “progress” in return for the prisoners’ release; he simply agreed not to go to the UN or make any other unilateral moves for the nine-month duration of the talks, and in return Israel agreed to release the 104 prisoners in four groups at the appointed times. (Israel freed the first 78 prisoners as promised; the 26 who were slated to be released Friday are the last on the list.)
It’s comic how ministers in the government are trying to weasel their way out of...Read More