As long as its internal cohesion remained in place, the previous government avoided leaks of secrets regarding its conduct on the Iranian nuclear issue. There was a small trickle of information that came out, but there was nothing that provided a complete picture, at least until the statements by Meir Dagan, Yuval Diskin and Gabi Ashkenazi. This was convenient for everyone.
This is also partially true about the renewed peace talks with the Palestinians, which are entering their fourth month. Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni, Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon and Isaac Molcho know exactly what is taking place, but others are stumbling around in the dark searching for any piece of information. When one does hear something, one does not know whether it is real or if it is spin, a trial balloon put out by one of the sides.
This helps explain the embarrassment the government has experienced in recent days. The inappropriate conduct of Habayit Hayehudi and some Likud ministers, deputy ministers and MKs regarding the prisoner release was an expression of their uncertainty about the peace negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They have heard only what Netanyahu and Ya'alon have been interested in telling them, as well as capricious propaganda from the Palestinian side.
On Wednesday, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu held a regular faction meeting at the Knesset. In what appeared to be a timed duet, both Netanyahu and Ya'alon gave the impression that the talks with Abbas would not bear fruit. The Palestinians will not accept even the most basic conditions demanded by Israel. As the common Hebrew phrase goes, "This goat won't produce milk."
If coalition members accepted the words of Netanyahu and Ya'alon at face value, calm would have prevailed within the government and perhaps the prisoner release would have passed without all the noise, which included Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel standing outside Ofer Prison to demonstrate against the government, of which he is a part. But rightists fear that Netanyahu and Ya'alon are lulling them to sleep. They have been hearing indirectly from official sources that the negotiations with the Palestinians are more substantive and have a greater chance of success than has been portrayed by Israel.
While Abbas normally issues extremely pessimistic forecasts, last week he rushed to say in his own voice that progress has been made and that all has not been lost. The meeting in Rome between Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would have led to a verbal and diplomatic clash if the Americans did not think they had rope from Israel to continue bridging gaps in the negotiations. Also, the leak that Abbas is considering accepting, with certain conditions, an interim agreement -- as part of which a Palestinian state would be established with temporary borders and a date would be set for a final deal -- creates the impression that the negotiations are not just all talk, that there is actually something to discuss.
This uncertainty comes amidst the blood boiling over the release of Palestinian prisoners. But that was the result, not the cause. As Arthur Koestler wrote about a completely different matter, "Darkness at Noon."