The last time I allowed myself to feel any sense of optimism about a peaceful resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict was during the Camp David talks in 2000. Being pessimistic isn’t the same thing as having no hope, however, and I’ve been hopeful that something might come from the current negotiations. With Netanyahu reneging on the fourth and final prisoner release, my hopefulness is receding.

With the talks teetering on the brink of collapse, Washington has been fighting an uphill battle to coax the two sides into accepting a framework proposal which would extend the negotiations beyond April to the end of the year.

But the matter has become tied up with the fate of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners whom Israel was to have freed this weekend under terms of an agreement which brought about a resumption of talks.

Israel on Friday informed the Palestinians via a US mediator that it would not release the fourth and final batch of prisoners, with the US State Department confirming it was working “intensively” to resolve the dispute.

The Palestinians say they will not even consider extending the talks without the prisoners being freed, but Israel has refused to release them without a Palestinian commitment to continue the talks, prompting a fresh crisis of confidence between the parties.

I am having some trouble figuring out if this indicates that Netanyahu is prepared to let the talks collapse or if it is being driven by his inability to hold his coalition together.

In other words, is this a concerted strategy or the absence of any strategy at all?

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at