Kevin BermeisterThe writer is a real estate entrepreneur, investor, technologist, and philanthropist. He is a major benefactor of numerous charitable organizations and was recently awarded the Yeshiva Center Leadership in Philanthropy Award, among others. He is Chairman and CEO of Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Inc. and previously developed substantial businesses in the computing, multimedia and Internet industriesm established Ozisoft, one of the first interactive multimedia companies and Australia’s largest video games distributor. Later he established the $70 million interactive Sega World Sydney theme park which was operated through a joint venture that included Sega Enterprises Japan, Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui Corp. Kevin also developed various Internet interests including with Joltid Limited to focus on peer to peer network solutions, is board member and has been a founding investor in several successful startups including Skype. More recently he founded Jerusalem 5800 a long term planning think tank and the Jerusalem Development Fund.
Did "land-for-peace" just give way to "land-for-prisoners" in the sordid negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority? Since the Oslo Accords, foreign efforts to tempt, cajole and persuade Israel from outside and within the nation state focused on relinquishing land for peace, but the present imposition could sideswipe previous efforts.
Land remains an important tool in the negotiations, but its effect has gone beyond the reach of negotiators on both sides. Netanyahu cannot control expansion of settlements while retaining a coalition and Abbas doesn’t care, but demands a ‘cheap shot’ in response. It seems the predetermined outcome was successfully offset in the latest carefully choreographed tit-for-tat ballet.
Using prisoners as the new political weapon of choice to win public support in local constituencies also defuses the hopelessness of this latest effort. As their charade plays out on the world stage, it will appear farcical, because the motivation for these negotiations was flawed by past Presidents and continuing under Obama and Kerry’s stewardship. Wielding America’s financial muscle to parade Netanyahu and Abbas to the American public is an Obama one-two-diplomacy-shuffle to win foreign policy and domestic support on other issues before Congress and the Senate.
In the process of Abbas and Netanyahu camps believing damage to their respective reputations would be manageable, Abbas declared his end game. As a business negotiator who has been associated with some of the world's best, it appears to me that prisoners satisfy Abbas’s desire and land satisfies Netanyahu’s desire. We can infer from this that Abbas believes his Palestinian Authority must uphold the glory of Islamic terror against the State of Israel and Netanyahu believes he must uphold the glory of Jews settling their land. Neither of these appear to be a basis for peace settlement, let alone successful negotiations that can or will lead to any practical outcome.
The public watching TV, listening to radio and interacting on the web will have lots to discuss over coffee while the Arab revolution simmers on and people are slaughtered in the streets. So long as Obama gets the window he needs to manoeuvre through the difficult foreign relations landscape and to forge his domestic policies in his second term, all will be business as usual.
On the local front, illegal construction provides a constant source of cheap land for residents under a Palestinian Authority who struggle to retain a balance between secular and Sharia law and Jews demand Israel release more land for lower cost housing. With Jewish immigration and rate of birth per Jewish family growing year on year, the pressure on Israel’s government will not abate.
Abbas may have backed himself into a corner, but Netanyahu shot his political future in the head by bowing to the American will at a time when he could have changed the course of history forever. The next Jewish leader of Israel will think twice and very hard before falling victim to the same foreign ploy, which in the ensuing months will march Netanyahu in front of the public as the fool's errand.
The 26 terrorists released are beginning to stir up significant Israeli emotion and fervor. Therefore, Abbas’s next demand will checkmate the entire peace effort, which will make Netanyahu and Israel look like the pariah, because Israel and Netanyahu won’t be able to stomach the release of more violent criminals with Jewish blood on their hands and if he does, the public outcry will associate that blood with Netanyahu’s name forever.
Abbas may have backed himself into a corner, but Netanyahu shot his political future in the head...
Robert Aumann, the winner of the Nobel Prize in economics for his work on predictive game theory, called not to release terrorists because it predictably leads to additional murders. Unfortunately, he is probably one of the world's foremost experts in predicting such an outcome. The stakes are high, but Netanyahu took the bait and now his nation will demand that he extricate himself and the State of Israel from any further obligation to release convicted terrorists.
In response, Abbas will gleefully rub his hands as he awaits Netanyahu’s political guillotine, but he won’t have the privilege of smiling for very long, as the final foreign American ‘peace’ effort bites the dust on Israeli soil.
The only peace in Israel will come from a prosperous cross section, a diverse demographic who are able to live freely as citizens of a Jewish sovereign state that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.
I know many who may not want to hear these words, but the only government capable of ethical governance is one made up of those with a will to ensure land, economics and justice prevail in an environment where prosperity is the ultimate product - and that means terror in all forms must disappear as a motivator forever.