Any cynicism or disbelief that Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu was seriously interested in trying to reach a two-state solution with the PLO was dispelled this weekwith the revelation that Netanyahu last year offered to free 50 long term Palestinian security prisoners sentenced before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 - in a vain bid to entice Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table.
Abbas's three year refusal to resume negotiations without a prior commitment from Netanyahu to freeze all building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank continues to cause US Secretary of State John Kerry growing frustration - after investing considerable time and putting the prestige of his office on the line attempting to get Abbas to backdown.
Netanyahu has always made it clear that he will not commit to any such building freeze - for good reason.
A unilateral decison by Netanyahu to do exactly that for 10 months in November 2009 proved to be a farce. Abbas turned up shortly before the expiry date of the freeze and then had the temerity to request an extension.
Once bitten - twice shy.
In the bizarre bazaar that comprises these negotiations - refusing to agree to a building freeze as a condition for resuming talks apparently does not preclude Netanyahu offering an inducement to get Abbas back to the table by offering to release 50 long term prisoners with blood on their hands.
The Times of Israel report on the proposed prisoner release and the bargaining that surrounded the offer was particularly informative:
Prior to the offer of 50 releases, Israel had offered to release smaller numbers of the pre-Oslo veterans. Israel's initial proposal was to free only five or six prisoners, but that number went up over time. A later proposal was to free 25 prisoners in several phases, again conditioned on direct Netanyahu-Abbas meetings, with five more prisoners to go free after each such meeting
Abbas, for his part, did agree to meet with Netanyahu - but only if all pre-Oslo prisoners were released, and not as part of resumed peace talks. Rather, Abbas was willing to meet Netanyahu, after all the prisoners were freed, in order to make clear to Netanyahu, face-to-face, his terms for restarting the negotiations.
Once again Abbas apparently overreached and ended up a loser yet again - as has occurred on so many occasions with the Palestinian Arab leadership since the Mandate for Palestine was established by the League of Nations in 1922.
After this latest rebuff one can be excused for being slightly bemused when learning that Netanyahu told his cabinet last Sunday that he and Secretary of State Kerry would:
...try to make progress to find the opening for negotiations with the Palestinians, with the goal of reaching an agreement
However Netanyahu also made it clear that he would not deviate from the position he has consistently adopted since 2009:
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