Gilad Shalit deal boosts Hamas in West Bank as Fatah clings to support
Palestinian prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal were welcomed home in Ramallah amid an unusual display of support for Hamas.
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“Of course we want a state and a homeland,” says Fatin Bassam Al-Sa’di’s uncle, Marwan al-Sa’di. “But when someone makes a deal like that we have to welcome it.” He declined to disclose which party he supports.Skip to next paragraph
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Outside the Muqata and on the streets of Ramallah, green Hamas flags flapped in the wind, an uncommon site in the Fatah support base. Many people sported Hamas headbands and hoisted flags and freed prisoners above the crowds, chanting, “God is Great.”
One man's flag was snatched out of his hands by a plainclothes security officer, who shook his head as he rolled up the green fabric, but many continued to make their support for Hamas, at least for today, clear.
Jawad Awash, wearing a Hamas cap and a Hamas banner tied around his neck, held up a poster of his cousin Taha Shahshir, who was in prison for 20 years.
“Thanks to god. I am happy. Hamas is on my head from above,” Mr. Awash says, using a common Arabic expression indicating respect. He traveled from the West Bank city of Nablus to welcome Mr. Shahshir, who was swarmed by family and friends when he entered the crowd.
The potential for more kidnappings in order to secure the release of more prisoners has been floated, not only by Palestinians, but by Israelis worried about a repeat.
“We hope for another Shalit, or 10 more Shalits,” Mr. Awash says, voicing a sentiment echoed by others hoping another kidnapped soldier will bring home more Palestinian prisoners.
The common refrain is that the deal will embolden Hamas, but the deal may be a signal that the group is more likely to take the opposite tack: moderation. Naji Shurrab, a professor of political science at Gaza’s Al Azhar University says this deal could be an indication that Hamas’s approach is changing.
“Hamas is seeking international and regional support,” says Dr. Shurrab, adding that Fatah and Hamas will need to reconcile to achieve their goals. Hamas's willingness to negotiate with Israel, even indirectly, shows that it is becoming more moderate. “It is showing Europe, the US, and even Israel that it’s ready to open the door.”