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A message Palestinians see in Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange: Hamas - 1, Abbas - 0

Some Palestinians see the recent Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange as a win for Hamas’s militant approach, while nonviolent, diplomatic efforts for Palestinian rights have failed. To counter this, the world must support the Palestinian statehood bid through diplomacy at the UN.

By Dawoud Abu Lebdeh / November 3, 2011

East Jerusalem

The Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange a couple weeks ago was a very emotional moment for thousands of Palestinians who were reunited with family members they had not seen for years. But it came at a diplomatic price.

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Some of the Palestinian public perceive the prisoner exchange deal (in which Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas releasing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit) as an achievement for Hamas’s militant approach. They see it as a success story that Palestinian diplomatic efforts and negotiations with Israel have not yet been able to deliver.

The prisoners swap came only a few weeks after all eyes were on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as he stood before the United Nations General Assembly and submitted a request to recognize Palestine as a full and permanent member of the international organization.

One of the reasons that Mr. Abbas had decided to go to the UN was his belief that appealing to the international community through diplomatic channels would bring better results to the Palestinian people than armed resistance. Abbas and other leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are convinced that renewed violence would bring disastrous results for the Palestinian cause. Whether or not their peaceful political approach will trump Hamas’s militant route now depends to a large extent on the international community’s response to the Palestinian bid at the UN.

For now, it looks pretty certain that the bid at the Security Council will be met with a veto by the United States. Despite this, the Palestinian leadership continues to pursue efforts to enter Palestine as a nonmember state in the United Nations through the UN General Assembly.

It is also working to enter Palestine into other international organizations – with some success. On Monday, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) admitted Palestine as a member, prompting the US and Israel to cut vital funding to the organization. The PA is now aiming to obtain membership in 16 other UN agencies, the World Trade Organization, and to gain recognition by the European Parliament.

These latter efforts are aimed at arriving at the UN General Assembly vote with the largest number of recognitions by international organizations possible, which will in turn put pressure on the countries that do not presently recognize Palestine.

Many political leaders around the world criticize the new Palestinian policy, calling it unilateral. Yet they have not suggested any alternatives to the Palestinians to secure their rights apart from a return to negotiations, which, in over 18 years, have achieved nothing for the Palestinian people.


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