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November 1, 2013 at 6:30 AM
As the local political season comes to a close, I might be feeling the effects of all the arm-waving distractions that come with campaigns.
One side makes all sorts of claims about the opponent’s record, and the other side responds, “Ignore that stuff, look over HERE!”
The mix of cynicism and practical political manipulation shows up everywhere, and sometimes with curious twists. Take the news out of Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the right thing when he agreed to release Palestinian prisoners as part of peace talks set in motion by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Twenty-six prisoners were released on Wednesday, the second batch out of four headed home over the next several months. The final total will be 104 prisoners.
This action is hotly controversial in Israel, but it set the right tone for the renewed peace talks. Still, Netanyahu is really taking political heat and it flared with Wednesday’s release.
Now the prime minister is not only talking about more Israeli settlements in disputed territory, but early Thursday Israeli planes blew up what was reported to be a Syrian missile storage site.
What a coincidence. Does it change the regional military equation? Hard to know, but it certainly changes the conversation. Mission accomplished.
Thirty years ago, October 1983, a suicide bomber blew up a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The blast claimed 241 Marines. Days later the U.S. invaded Grenada.
A geopolitical coincidence? Perhaps, but the conversation changed at home.
July 30, 2013 at 6:25 AM
After a working dinner Monday night at the State Department, negotiators for Palestine and Israel were scheduled to meet once more on Tuesday before returning home.
They might already be airborne, but the two opening sessions offer hope for a fresh start.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, backed by a majority of his cabinet, was a clear investment of his reputation in a process with a long ways to go. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is taking his own political risks.
The next round of talks is in the Middle East where the popular support for peace is substantial, if not for the details. A Palestinian state next to Israel with negotiated borders and security plans has been a hypothetical possibility for years, but now it is starting to bud.
The tireless work of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is an obvious influence in making these direct talks happen, but the other motivations are not yet apparent. One can predict that domestic politics in Israel play a role, along with the fatigue and expense of a constant state of diplomatic and military tension. Is Netanyahu contemplating his legacy, as some suggest? Given his past rhetoric and actions, there is a Nixon-to-China quality to this effort.
Otherwise, Netanyahu has said tensions elsewhere in the Middle East are pushing these two neighbors to settle their differences. Whatever the incentives, the practical reality of these face-to-face meetings is most encouraging.