The government's decision to push off a vote on the release of imprisoned Israeli Arab terrorists has no significance. If negotiations with the Palestinians stall out, the fourth stage of the prisoner release won't happen and the Israeli Arab terrorists in question will remain in jail. But if the negotiations progress properly, the government won't bring them to a halt just to keep another 22 terrorists behind bars.
There was no real possibility of the government rejecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed prisoner release. If the proposal had been voted down, the government would have broken apart. Everyone is disgusted by the release of killers. Everyone felt the injustice of it. But as Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar said, if everyone always voted with their hearts, there would be no government.
The release of terrorists is blood-chilling, particularly in a situation in which a foreign entity in Ramallah has taken guardianship of Israeli Arab prisoners. But Gilad Erdan, Yisrael Katz, Ze'ev Elkin, Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely, who are members of the ruling Likud party and opponents of the prisoner release, should be presented with the following fundamental question:
Assuming they are willing to pay lip service to the importance of Israel's ties with the U.S., which has been pushing for the renewal of negotiations, what of the following four options would they have preferred as a condition for talks -- negotiations based on the 1967 borders; restarting talks at the point where Ehud Olmert left off in 2008; a complete halt of settlement construction; or the release of all prisoners jailed since before the Oslo Accords were signed 20 years ago? Which option is the least awful?
Israel benefited from Ehud Barak's willingness in 2000 to discuss the division of Jerusalem. The world supported this. Even Israeli leftists admitted the Palestinians' responsibility for the lack of peace. It took some time for Yossi Sarid and Yossi Ginosar to return to their evil ways and blame Barak (on the issue of blame, Israel is right to be cautious about the old-new U.S. mediator Martin Indyk).
Israel also emerged with the upper hand when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ran away from the far-reaching concessions offered by Olmert at the speed of an arrow. At first, Olmert faulted the Palestinians for the lack of peace, but he has since changed directions and placed the burden of blame on Israel.
In both cases (2000 and 2008), Israel improved its international standing. If Israel's negotiating team, led by Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho, enters the new negotiations with concrete peace proposals, one of two things will happen -- a full, or at least partial, peace deal will be reached, which is the desired option; or the world will again recognize for some time that the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, is thwarting peace, which is preferable over the current anti-Israel incitement campaign being conducted in supermarkets across Europe.