Israel and Hamas deal: 20 prisoners for a video of Shalit
Israel has agreed to release 20 female Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a video of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who is being held in Gaza.
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"Shalit has become such a major symbol and a major element in Israel's psyche. He is a symbol of the responsibility of the state to all its soldiers," says Yaron Ezrahi, a Hebrew University of Jerusaleum political science professor. "Netanyahu expects to gain a lot of emotional public support for the exchange."Skip to next paragraph
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Any deal for Shalit's freedom would also mark a major achievement for Egyptian and German mediators between Israel and Hamas, which don't recognize one another.
Still, Israel's government said in its statement today that the talks are likely to be "long and arduous."
Shalit's family, who have led a national campaign to pressure Israel's government for a deal, released a statement today calling the agreement a "meaningful achievement" and a "first step in the right direction to the release of Gilad," the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
A book recently published by the Gaza correspondent of Israel Channel 2 television news detailed allegations about the mental and physical stresses faced by Shalit while in Hamas captivity. A report by United Nations investigator Richard Goldstone on the recent Gaza war also called on Hamas to release Shalit.
In the past, Hamas has released a letter and a video of Shalit, but has not allowed any humanitarian groups to visit the soldier. Israel has cited the abduction as a justification for its ongoing sea and land trade blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Dan Scheuftan, a professor of political science at Haifa University in Israel, says the deal announced on Wednesday marks a "capitulation to emotional terrorism" and lacks strategic vision. Freeing the female prisoners will send a message to would-be Palestinian women militants that they could eventually be released from jail.
Nohi Eyal, the director of the Land of Israel Forum, told Haaretz that Netanyahu shouldn't engage in an asymmetric swap. "For a soldier of ours, they need to release one soldier," he said. "A genuine government must look beyond the eyes of the Shalit family and into the eyes of the future kidnap victims, which, to our regret, such a deal will only encourage."
However, Netanyahu would not be the first Israeli prime minister to conclude a controversial asymmetric swap with a militant Arab group without direct ties to Israel. In 2008 former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released several hundred Hezbollah fighters in return for the bodies of three soldiers. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also conducted a similar exchange with Hezbollah.