During Yitzhak Shamir's term as prime minister, after every failed attempt to advance an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, a sigh of relief would be attributed to Shamir, accompanied by the following sentence: "Finally, the threat of peace has been removed. We can continue building in Judea and Samaria."
The Israeli Cabinet's decision to halt negotiations with the Palestinians – or to "suspend" them, to be precise – brings back the memory of Shamir with one big difference: Shamir did not pretend to leave no stone unturned in search for an agreement with the Palestinians, he did not support the two-state idea, and he did not play make-believe. He wanted to keep all territories under Israeli sovereignty and give the Palestinians autonomy, and nothing else.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, has been running on the court with the Palestinians in the past five years: He froze construction in the settlements, released murderers from Israel's prisons, almost released additional murderers, including Israeli Arabs – and in the end he got nothing from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He wanted people to believe him that we would soon reach the signing ceremony on the White House lawn, although in fact he created the impression that every evening he was making sure that the ceremony would be postponed to an unknown date.
Some will say that the four years of his second term and the first year of his third term will go down in history as lost years. Years in which nothing was done. Survival for the sake of survival. Let me just mention the demand that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the Jews' nation state, while at the same time continuing the massive construction in the territories.
But we must not belittle Abbas' responsibility for the current crisis. In the past few weeks, which were so critical for the future of the negotiations, he sabotaged the possibility of reaching any type of agreement with his own hands. It began with the appeal to the United Nations, which impeded the Jonathan Pollard deal, and on Wednesday with the hug he gave Hamas, which in the meantime has put the lid on extending the negotiations after April 29.
And despite all that, after hearing the "all clear" signal about the discontinuation of the talks with the Palestinians, it's safe to assume that we will soon hear the next signal announcing the continuation of the talks. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has already hinted at the next outline: A Palestinian government which will accept the Quartet terms, primarily recognizing Israel.
Netanyahu, like Abbas, is interested in staying on the court, and so in the future he will secure a majority in the government to release more prisoners and jumpstart the talks.
The sanctions the Cabinet imposed on the Palestinians should not be taken seriously. This is a game with no real prices. The international community will force the decision makers to transfer the tax money taken from the Palestinians, the trucks will continue transferring the huge surplus agricultural produce from Israel to Gaza's residents, and the diverse cooperation with Hamas will continue despite its worldview to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
No one is going to be erased, neither us nor them. The security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority will continue as it has before the ministers convened to discuss the situation.
An important note: We should adopt the assumption that at the end of the day, any agreement with the Palestinians will be based on a Palestinian leadership which will include the representatives from Gaza – yes, the leadership of Hamas and the other factions.