"[The prisoner release], which in a rare occurrence in the history of the Israeli government's moves is likely not expected to yield any benefit in the future, is the big mistake made by Netanyahu, Livni, Ya'alon and their friends. They had a choice between a temporary settlement construction freeze and the prisoner release, and they picked the second option. They basically had to choose who and what they are more afraid of: the fury of rightists and settlers in Judea and Samaria, or the bereaved families' cry of despair. The prime minister is experienced, and he knows that the uproar over a prisoner release is very short, and disappears after a day or two," writes Eitan Haber for Ynet.
"'Don't delude yourselves. We don't have a partner on the Palestinian side for a two-state solution.' That was how Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon summarized his take on the peace negotiations. … Rejection of the Palestinian partner is a deception aimed to delude the public into thinking the Israeli government's hands are clean. It is amazing how Israeli politicians who are steadfast in their mantra of 'no partner' fail to comprehend a basic fact about negotiations between adversaries: Partners do not grow on trees, they are created through hard work; that building process is their job," Haaretz writes in an editoral.
"In politics and in life, there's often a fine line between self-delusion, commitment to any enterprise with long odds, and actual success. But Kerry has put himself in the middle of this mix and just doesn't seem willing to give up. This kind of commitment in a strange way creates an infectious reality that can help risk-averse parties to a negotiation actually believe in its viability," writes Aaron David Miller for Foreign Policy.
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Chinese Local Debt Surges to $3 Trillion, Government Reports
ANTARCTICA: An attempted helicopter rescue of passengers and crew on a Russian scientific expedition ship that became trapped in ice has been put on hold until rains stop (Sydney Morning Herald). A Chinese icebreaker is standing by for the mission, expected Wednesday.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Kabul Dismisses U.S. Forecast as BSA Deadline Passes
A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai disputed the findings of a U.S. intelligence estimate that, barring a post-2014 international military contingent, the Taliban and al-Qaeda could be resurgent in Afghanistan. The spokesman said the report was a bid to get Kabul to agree to a bilateral security agreement by today, Washington's original deadline (Reuters).
Russian authorities arrested eighty-seven people amid a security lockdown in Volgograd following two successive attacks Sunday and Monday, the interior ministry announced, but none appear to be linked to the bombings or suspected of planning further attacks (Reuters).