Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Deal to release Shalit is reportedly imminent

Three things now strike me as permanently over the horizon in the Middle East. Things that parties involved claim to want, claim to be working to implement, but that somehow are indefinitely postponed.

One is any side or party presenting a detailed proposal for the Palestinian dispute. Even less than an agreement which is even further away from view, even the proposals presented always contain substantial portions that will be negotiated in the abstract. The refugees, the borders, military status, natural resource and many other details are to be dealt with specifically in the near future. Then the future never comes.

The second is the deliveries of Iran's S-300 air defense system and the launch of the Bushehr power plant. My belief now is that the US has convinced Iran to hold them both as incentives to reach an agreement with its nuclear talks, but Russia does not say this, it says the plant will be opened in the near future and then does not open it.

The last, a new one, is the release of Marwan Barghouti from Israel's jails, among others in exchange for Gilad Shalit. There have been discussions that a deal is imminent, but the release is continuously being delayed. I don't see Israel's incentive to release him. The status quo, with his release imminent is more comfortable than actually setting him free. Setting him free ends the reign of Abbas, the most pliable puppet leader Israel has ever controlled and it strengthens Hamas, which would have accomplished his release.

We are hearing so constantly that this deal is in progress that it is difficult for me to predict that there will be no deal in 2009 or 2010. To predict that goes against what seems like the unanimous opinion of knowledgable people in the region. I'm not going to predict that there will be no release but I'm really tempted to. I hope the deal happens, but I am not very optimistic that it will.

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