I've been meaning to write about this because I haven't really seen it written about or even as part of the discussions from the same old talking heads on TV (though the past several days I wasn't paying as close attention to TV news as I usually do so I may have missed it).
That Israeli governments, at least since Rabin was assassinated back in the '90s, but before that as well on many levels, have always refused to negotiate with whoever represented the Palestinian-statehood-cause supposedly because they were too militant or unwilling to get their own house in order especially in terms of security, for Israel.
What this pattern of resistance to recognizing legitimate Palestinian demands as anything more than hubris did was feed into the recruiting strategy and growth of more radical entities, thus Hammas replaces the PLO as the more radical alternative after the Israeli government refuses to negotiate with PLO leaders who haven't gotten their security down so that their members aren't physically attacking Israelis.
I know the argument that it was the PLO leader Arafat who refused to bend in the negotiations that took place under Clinton's watch that blew what was the closest that conflict has come to a real resolution. But it was Israeli resistance to dealing with Arafat until then that backed him into a corner of competing with even more militant factions of Palestinian resistance (as well as Israel's refusal to give up their claim to all of Jerusalem or to stop all settlements).
At any rate, no matter how disappointing the failure of that almost resolution to the problem, it's only gotten worse since. Now the rightwing influence in the Israeli government is stronger than ever, people who not only don't want to concede on Jerusalem and settlements on Palestinian land, but who believe all of Israel should be only for Jews, have an outsized say in the Israeli coalition government.
So the prisoner exchange was the way that rightwing Israeli government chose to humiliate and weaken the Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that for the past few years it has succeeded in doing what every Israeli government has always demanded of the Palestinians, that is: create a secure West Bank. One, it turns out that is actually also the most efficient and secure and stable and successful Palestinian area in modern history, exactly what the Israeli government has been asking for for decades.
Abbas and his government in the West Bank met all the demands the Israeli government had, nonetheless the Israeli government continued and continues to not just add ever more settlements to the West Bank but also in East Jerusalem, the part of the city the Palestinians claim and has been occupied by Arabs for generations but now are losing ancient homes and buildings to bulldozers and new developments or takeovers of their homes and buildings by rightwing Jewish groups.
So out of frustration at the Israeli government's refusal to stop these incursions or negotiate a resolution to them, Abbas went to the U.N. to ask for Palestinian statehood, figuring if he got it, or even pressure to get it, the Israeli government might finally be willing to negotiate equally and not as conqueror and conquered.
It was a pretty smart move I think, except he didn't realize the depths the right will always go to, in any country or situation, to maintain its own power over events. Netanyahu's government instead of responding to the U.N. statehood plea instead negotiated with the more militant and radical—and proclaimed enemy of Israel—Hammas to secure the return of one Israeli soldier for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners, some of whom had committed atrocities against Jewish Israelis!
Hammas knew this would humiliate Abbas and his strong and successful West Bank government, and so did Nethanyahu. He was willing to humiliate Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, the only one ready to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel and the only Palestinian group that even accepts Israel's right to exist and deal with a sworn enemy of Israel, just to weaken Abbas and avoid any concessions to the Palestinians' legitimate demands.
And to add salt to the wound, Netanyahu, almost simultaneously, announced the rightwing Jewish takeover of an entire Israeli Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem. So, as often happens with the right, Nethanyahu succeeded in defeating his one possible ally as well as the possibility for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue, and strengthened the enemy that he can more easily justify crushing when the opportunity arises, as he did not that long ago in the invasion of Gaza where Hammas presides.
It's cynical, ultimately self-defeating and from my perspective evil as well. But a lesson probably not lost on the right in this country as well, where Obama and most Democrats dare not criticize Nethanyahu for fear of the "Israel lobby" in DC that wields as much power as the NRA and Wall Street there, unfortunately (and yes I know there is an alternative "Israel lobby" in DC but it's influence is almost nil).