Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

February 15, 2009--Deal Near With Hamas- Coalition Negotiations Going Nowhere Quickly

The Israeli government made clear today that it will neither enter a ceasefire agreement with Hamas nor open the border crossings unless a deal is reached to release Gilad Shalit. An agreement seems to be close on that, or more correctly, Israel is ready to agree to almost Hamas’ entire original list of 1,000 terrorists. The easy part of the list is Maroun Barghouti, the leader of the military wing of Fatah who has been in jail for six years. His release will strengthen Fatah and that is a good thing. The only unfortunate part is that I always thought a deal could be reached to release him in return for the American release of Jonathan Pollard, but I guess no one seems to care about Pollard, who has now been in jail for 8487 days.

The decision to tie the agreement on opening the crossings with a deal on Shalit, is a bad idea. If Hamas would significantly modify their demands that would one thing, but Hamas has not changed its demands in any way, thus Israel is about to agree to Hamas' original terms. The result will be an infinite strengthening of Hamas. He is not my son, so I have no right to say what should be done, but this is a very bad thing for Israel. Coalition discussions continue with the situation seemingly ever more confusing. Each of the major participants has climbed a tree. MK Netanyahu did this by saying he will easily form a right wing coalition and MK Lieberman by publishing his demands for civil marriage and an expedited conversion process, something the religious parties will never accept. Today, Minister of Foreign Relations Tzpi Livni, with the backing of the Kadima, stated that Kadima would not enter into a right-wing coalition headed by Netanyahu. It would choose to go into the opposition. Of course Netanyahu has been saying that Kadima can join his coalition once he has the rest of it in place.

Expectations are that Peres is going to try to strong arm Netanyahu and Livni to enter into a smaller centrist coalition. Some are talking about a rotation between Livni and Netanyahu. Either way this will take some time.