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 The current spate of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the watchful eye and undue pressure of the United States, though shrouded in silence and mystery, apparently is not really going anywhere soon. As is usual in the negotiation pattern of the past twenty years, Israel gives tangible assets away to the Palestinians – land, weapons, financial aid and the release of murderers – and obtains allegedly important benefits, which are intangible and easily reversible.

Every red line that Israel ever established regarding its negotiating stance with the Palestinians has been crossed and violated by Israel itself. Israel was not going to release Palestinian prisoners who had blood on their hands. And it now releases the worst murderers in the history of the contest, freely and without much compunction. It always feels sorry for itself because of its “painful concessions” but it is the main author and perpetrator of those painful concessions.
We are supposed to be assuaged by assurances that further building will occur in the “settlements” of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. But this further building, subject to the byzantine and bureaucratic labyrinth of Israeli permits, world diplomatic pressures and unforeseen events that always arise, is years off. And by then, who knows what the situation on the ground will be.
But the murderers are being released now and many of them will undoubtedly return to practicing their chosen profession of terrorism. New heroes are being created for the Palestinian street to exalt and in so doing any meaningful settlement, let alone a lasting peace, is undermined and made even more unlikely.
There are rumors afloat that in return for this Israeli generosity in the release of these approximately one thousand prisoners, Jonathan Pollard, an American citizen who engaged in spying on behalf of Israel will finally be released from prison after almost three decades of incarceration. This is somehow tied in with the revelations that America has itself consistently spied on Israel and the rest of the world over the past half-century.
Pollard's release is also somehow to be connected to the prisoner release that Israel is now engaged in vis-à-vis the Palestinian terrorists that it holds in its jails. I fail to see the connection between the two. Pollard's punishment has been unduly harsh and certainly far too long in its enforcement. Pollard should be freed for the sake of America – its system of justice and commitment to equal fairness to all.
His sentence of life imprisonment is a stain on that system. Yet somehow Pollard is being held hostage to extract further concessions from Israel. This is unfairness and unequal treatment compounded. And we only hear rumors that Pollard may somehow be released. Netanyahu thought that he had obtained Pollard's release from President Clinton decades ago but as we all know words and deeds are two different matters completely.
So believing rumors and even seemingly solemn commitments by diplomats and governments is a very risky business. Only the naïve can still have trust in their words and promises. The Psalmist stated it correctly: “Do not trust in the generous words and goodness of princes, in human beings that cannot bring salvation!" All of our life experience confirms the wisdom and truth of that statement.
I have no idea as to how the current series of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority will turn out. I am an incurable optimist and maybe there will be the necessary change of Palestinian mindset that will enable a breakthrough towards peace. But I am not too hopeful of that.
Again the experience of the past twenty years, of Israeli concessions and Palestinian intransigence does not auger well for a positive result of the current series of negotiations. It has been written in the Israeli press that Israel does not want to be seen as the reason for a breakdown in the talks. And therefore, it continually agrees to unfavorable terms proposed by America, hoping, so far justifiably so, that the Palestinians will turn down any agreement no matter how favorable it is to them.
Whether or not this is a wise negotiating tactic is certainly a matter of debate. It is difficult to appreciate why America is so concerned about this matter when it ignores much more bloody and dangerous conflicts – read Syria for example – in the Middle East, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Nevertheless we cannot change the situation as it exists and we can only hope that somehow the security, and indeed the vital survival of Israel itself, will never be compromised. That used to be a red line. I hope it still is.
Shabat shalom
Berel Wein

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