abbas netanyahu - Amos Biderman - December 6 2011
Abbas and Netanyahu. Photo by Amos Biderman
Text size

In the coming days, as the next wave of Palestinian prisoners are released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ought to change the locks on his house and car.

Contacts between the Egyptians and Israeli mediator David Meidan, a representative of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have made clear that the vast majority of the 550 soon-to-be-released prisoners are car thieves and petty criminals.

This time, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will not be able to complain that tax revenue collected in Israel for the Palestinian Authority is being used to rehabilitate released terrorists. The Palestinian police will need every available penny to deal with the reinforcement provided to the West Bank's criminal underworld.

After being compelled to give Hamas a healthy offering of security prisoners, including "heavy" terrorists, Netanyahu is determined this time to release a low-fat fare.

This isn't the first time that Netanyahu is converting an agreement to release Palestinian prisoners into either a bonanza or boondoggle for the Palestinian leadership. Twelve years ago, during his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu sent Yasser Arafat mainly prisoners who were incarcerated for criminal - not security - offenses.

Netanyahu argued that the prisoner release clause in the 1998 Wye River Memorandum left Israel the right to choose the prisoners. He diversified the group by throwing in some security prisoners who were scheduled to complete their jail terms within a few weeks or even a few days.

Abbas now claims that then prime minister Ehud Olmert promised him he would release two Fatah prisoners for every one prisoner returned to Hamas. Netanyahu suggests that Abbas go to Olmert and ask him for these prisoners.

In an attempt to lessen the humiliation, Abbas is keeping negotiations conducted by Egypt with Jordan at arm's length. On one hand, Abbas cannot protest against the release of national comrades from Israel's jails. On the other hand, coming across as the savior of rapists doesn't help him either. It would be better for him if Hamas took some critical punches for "abandoning the heroes."

Haaretz yesterday received up-to-date data indicating that 4,772 security prisoners are currently serving terms in Israeli prisons. These reportedly include 1,019 administrative detainees, six women and 30 minors under the age of 16.

Of the security prisoners, 552 are reportedly sentenced to life terms; 446 are serving sentences of more than 20 years; 452 were sentenced to terms between 15 and 20 years; and 724, the largest group, are serving terms between 10 and 15 years.

In all likelihood, the vast majority will have to wait for the next prisoner release deal.

Boycotting the partition

This year's 64th anniversary of the UN partition decision in November 1947 received mixed media treatment.

Netanyahu deviated from tradition, choosing not to meet at Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv with top Israeli journalists. Instead, he summoned some media representatives to his office in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the mass-circulation Palestinian paper Al Quds devoted an editorial on November 29 to the historic UN decision. In the first sentence, the newspaper noted that the UN recognized a Jewish state alongside an Arab state.

A few days earlier, Abbas surprised Enrique Zimmerman, who interviewed the PA president for Channel 2, by confessing that the Arabs' refusal to accept the partition decision was a mistake that he is trying to rectify.

In this important interview, Abbas elaborated on the Arabs' 2000 peace initiative, which offers Israel normalization with all Arab states in exchange for a generous partition plan, one that nobody could have dreamed of 64 years ago: Instead of 55% of the territory of the land of Israel, it covers 78% of its area (the 1967 borders with land swaps ).

If David Ben-Gurion were to peek out of his grave this week and offer Netanyahu a similar plan, one like the proposal that Abbas submitted to the Mideast Quartet, Netanyahu would accuse Ben-Gurion of being an "anti-Zionist NGO" and ban him from receiving donations from foreign states.

In meetings with leaders from foreign countries, Netanyahu proposes that negotiations for a final status agreement be deferred until the ramifications of the Arab Spring uprisings come into focus.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this weekend on television that he is "very, very worried" about the Muslim Brotherhood's impending victory in Egypt's elections. Barak ought to ask the Egyptian desk at IDF intelligence to translate the Muslim Brotherhood's platform for him. He would discover that the party declares its intention to honor all international agreements signed by Egypt.

In an article published last week in The Atlantic Monthly, Dr. Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, warns about the impasse in negotiations with the Palestinians over the Arab peace initiative. Muasher, who served as Jordan's foreign minister and spearheaded the peace initiative, warns that ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's removal from the Middle Eastern stage, along with the advanced age of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, is hastening the end of the Arab initiative.

Muasher ends his article with an Arab joke about a computer at the entrance of a train station, which offers clever responses to questions posed by passengers.

"Who am I?" a traveler waiting at the station asks.

"You are Ahmad and you are waiting for a train that will leave in an hour," the computer responds.

Ahmad decides to give the computer another try. He puts on a hat and sunglasses, and returns to the computer. He asks again, "Who am I?"

"You are Ahmad, and your train leaves in half an hour," the computer replies.

Ahmad doesn't give up. This time he puts on a dress, rubs makeup on his face, and tries a third time. "Who am I?" he asks the computer.

"You are Ahmad," replies the computer. "And while you were playing games, your train left the station."