Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

March 15, 2009--Negotiations Down to the Wire Over Shalit and Coalition

I wish I could present real insight into what is going on in Israel at the moment relating to the two main news stories: the final attempts by Prime Minister Olmert to reach an agreement regarding Gilad Shalit's release, and the attempts by Netanyahu to form a coalition government. But, unfortunately, I really cannot.

Negotiations have been going on all day in Cairo to try to reach an agreement regarding Shalit. It is generally thought that the distance between the two sides is too great to overcome. Israel is stating that of the 450 terrorists that Hamas wants to have freed 250 are not a problem, 100 would not be a problem if they are deported to a different country (not the West Bank or Gaza), and 100 under no circumstance would Israel like to free. There seems to be varied opinions whether Hamas is willing to make any modification in its demands. All of this is also tied into the continued coalition negotiations that have been going on between Hamas and Fatah. Those negotiations have been going well in committees, but it is not clear whether they will ever be implemented. Of course, thanks to Olmert's statements after the war that the border crossings would not be opened without freeing Gilad Shalit, there can be no agreement on a ceasefire either. Can an agreement be extracted from this mess- maybe? Will it be beneficial to Israel? Highly unlikely.

On Thursday MK Netanyahu hopes to swear in his government. However, as of this evening, he only has a deal with Shas. He is still negotiating with Yisrael Betienu, and in the meantime the other smaller parties are making conflicting demands and are fighting within themselves, making his task very difficult. Netanyahu has been desperately trying to reach out to Livni to convince her to agree to join the coalition, but she is not in a rush. There is now talk of a rotation government of three years for Netanyahu and one year and nine months for Livni. The numbers are slightly ironic since that is the amount of time men and women respectively are drafted to the IDF. Most observers do not believe that an agreement will be reached, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility.