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November 19, 2017

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How many more chances will we get for peace?

At some point, the missed opportunities will be seriously missed.

I am referring to the decades-long effort of Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a peace agreement — likely brokered by the United States — and the multiple last-minute decisions by Palestinian leaders to bypass the chance for peace in favor of continued heartache for Palestinian people.

Former Israeli diplomat-extraordinaire Abba Eban once described the Arabs as people who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. That singular inability to accept yes for an answer seems to have infected Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

It’s not easy for either side to make the necessary concessions to reach an agreement, given multiple decades of entrenched positions. But, in truth, those concessions have been made, over and over again.

There is little dispute over what the final agreement will look like. The parties have come so close in the past 20 years to saying yes that the specifics have already been hashed out — thanks to incredible patience by the U.S., which has pushed and prodded the parties back to the negotiating table.

The difference this time is that fear of a hegemonic Iran has created an opportunity for many “moderate” Arab countries to push harder for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All the reasons they once had for feeding the deadly anti-Israel fervor now are meaningless compared with the danger they believe they are in from a nuclear Iran.

The news last week suggests that Abbas’ decision to pursue his goals for statehood through a biased United Nations will result in Israel walking away from what has been a major U.S. push for peace by Secretary of State John Kerry.

That issue is further complicated by a pending Israeli decision whether to release hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners — many of them murderers of innocent people — as a show of good faith. This move is encouraged by the U.S.

It is reported that Israel wants, in return, the release of Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst who was sentenced to life in prison nearly 30 years ago for selling classified military documents to the Israeli government. He is up for parole next year.

Once again, Israel wants to trade hundreds of terrorists and murderers for one person. That should say all that needs saying about the value of human life in Israel. And there is pushback from the U.S.

However we feel about spying — my view is pretty straightforward: no mercy — it is hard to reconcile our lack of aggression toward Edward Snowden (who shared our national secrets with the world) with Pollard, who shared them with just one country, Israel.

If Abbas wants to miss yet another opportunity for peace — perhaps the last one — he can play his silly games at the U.N. If the U.S. wants Israel to release hundreds of really bad guys, in the name of concessions for peace, it should be willing, finally, to release one, very much older man who no longer has the capacity for being bad.

I know so much of this is just postulating but, at some point, signing an agreement to make peace should be the opportunity of a lifetime. And not something to be missed. Yet again.

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