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A four-state solution for Israel?

Palestinians are divided; Israelis too. Not a good basis for negotiation.

Oh, and guess what: It’s divided. There are five, sometimes six, of the 13 Labor parliamentary members who oppose the government of which their party is a part.

That might change if a new Likud and Labor joined forces — particularly as some of those “Labor rebels” would be aware that in the next election their party’s showing is likely to be even worse, leaving them out of a job.

When Netanyahu isn’t figuring out how not to be held hostage to Israel’s extremist right, he’s focused on cutting a deal to free the Israeli held hostage by people even more extreme: Hamas. Though a deal to swap hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for the Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza was said to be imminent a week ago, it remains only imminent.

Hamas officials say they’ve narrowed the gap with Israel over the prisoner swap. Of the 450 prisoners Hamas wants released, Israel is believed to have agreed so far to all but 15. Those include some prisoners that most Israelis will find it hard to stomach releasing — several were behind lethal suicide bombings, and another was the woman whose email flirtation with an Israeli youth was designed to lure him to a sexy assignation at which he was murdered. There are a number of cabinet ministers who continue to oppose the deal.

Which is one point of agreement between those rightist Israeli ministers and a man they deride — Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian president maintains that a prisoner release like this would be a gift to Hamas, making the Islamist group more popular before elections scheduled for January.

Of course, Abbas doesn’t really intend to hold those elections. Still he has to show that he’s as tough on Israel as Hamas. That’s why he’s refusing to go back to peace talks, despite urging from his paymasters in Washington.

In the absence of four corners in which to send all these recalcitrant kids to stand with their faces to the walls, four states might be the only way to keep them from fighting in the playground.