Initial euphoria over Gilad Shalit prisoner swap fades (video)
As details emerge of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, in which 1,000 Palestinians will be exchanged for one Israeli soldier, Palestinians are disappointed with who won't be released while Israelis worry about renewed violence.
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The initial euphoria is fading among both Israelis and Palestinians over the trade of kidnapped Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Shalit for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, with qualms and frustration rising as the specifics of the deal trickle out. Palestinians are disappointed that the deal does not include some of the most high-profile Palestinian prisoners, while Israelis are wary of the fallout of releasing scores of people who have been linked to or charged in connection to violence against Israelis.
Ecstatic Palestinians initially fêted Hamas over the prisoner swap (as described in an account from Gaza by The New York Times). But now Hamas is facing accusations that it did not fight hard enough to secure the release of several key Palestinian leaders. Among them are senior officials of Hamas's armed wing and Marwan Barghouti of the Fatah party, Hamas's secular rival.
Fatah members have accused Hamas of doing little to get Mr. Barghouti released – a criticism that Hamas has fought, citing its inability to get some of its own leaders out as proof that it was not prioritizing Hamas prisoners over others, Haaretz reports. Making the release of Barghouti and others a requirement for the deal would have killed it, Hamas officials said.
Hamas was also criticized for not yet disclosing the full list of prisoners. According to one official in Gaza interviewed by Haaretz, the list is being withheld to stymie backlash from the families of prisoners not included in the agreement. Hamas rejected that claim, saying it was "purely out of technical reasons" and to prevent Israel from making any changes.
Egyptian negotiators made more than 20 proposals before they hit on one that both Hamas and Israel would agree to, according to a translation from The Jerusalem Post of Arabic language newspaper Al Hayat. Hamas received 60 percent of its demands, one negotiator said.
Meanwhile, some Israelis criticized the deal, saying it was a threat to Israeli security because it will put terrorists back on the streets and send the message that punishment for terrorists is not absolute. Three members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet voted against the deal, among them National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau of the right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu. "The release of terrorists is a message that is simple: abductions pay off. Terror pays," Mr. Landau said, according to Reuters.
Hamas's militant wing said Wednesday that Shalit would not be the last Israeli to be captured in order to force the release of Palestinian prisoners, Maan News Agency reports.
Shin Bet security service director Yoram Cohen said that the deal included "the best terms possible for Israel with regards to security" and that if there had been a better option, Israel would have chosen it, according to a separate Haaretz report.
Palestinian security prisoners to be released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal between Israel and Hamas include the murderers of kidnapped IDF soldiers Nachshon Wachsman, Ilan Sasportas and Ilan Saadon.
Other prisoners being released include the perpetrator of the Bus 405 Tel Aviv-Jerusalem attack in 1989, the terrorist who killed 10 Israelis in Wadi Harmiyeh north of Ramallah in 2002, the terrorist who brought the suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001, and several perpetrators of the lynch in Ramallah in October 2000.
In the next week, Shalit will be returned to Israel and 479 Palestinian security prisoners will be released. Almost half of them will not be allowed to return to their homes, instead mostly being forced to go to the Gaza Strip, although 40 will be deported abroad, according to Haaretz. Many of them will still live under heavy restrictions.
A combination of factors, many tied to the uprisings in the Arab world, came together to push the deal through now, according to the Guardian. Hamas was eager to deflect attention from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose United Nations bid for statehood recognition has put him in the limelight. And with Syria, its main backer, in turmoil and angry that Hamas has not publicly supported the Assad regime, Hamas is also looking to improve its relations with Egypt.
Meanwhile, Israel is watching Egyptian sympathies for Israel evaporate. The Egyptian goodwill necessary for the negotiations to happen may have run out several months down the line, the Guardian notes.
In a column for Haaretz, Yossi Verter writes that the prisoner deal was likely the toughest decision of Mr. Netanyahu's career, and that it could backfire if predictions of a resurgence of violence come true.
The decision he had to reach in the past few days is not one of the fun parts of his occupation. It's a stomach-churning decision that involves flexibility - or rather, complete capitulation, a definite U-turn and disavowal of his former declarations, speeches and pledges.
Assuming the deal will actually come through, in the next few days the people of Israel will be overjoyed and share the happiness of the Shalit family. But in two, three or four months, the mood might change drastically. If the dark prophecies of gloom materialize and the cities of Israel will be subjected to horrendous acts of terror, even those who support the deal today will turn against Netanyahu tomorrow.