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Prisoner Swap

Ronen Bergman Photo: Dor Malka
Ronen Bergman Photo: Dor Malka

Little chance for breakthrough

Prospects for dramatic change slim as Hamas, Israel talk tough on Shalit deal

Ronen Bergman
Published: 02.03.10, 18:45 / Israel Opinion

What’s going on between Israel and Hamas in recent weeks, ever since Israel’s latest offer was submitted on the Friday almost a month ago, is an “injury time” game that mostly takes place in the public theater, as opposed to the rest of the negotiations which were mostly held in secret.


Yet as is the case in injury time in a sports match, here too the chances for a breakthrough and a dramatic change are slim.

Prisoner Swap
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About two weeks ago, Yedioth Ahronoth published an estimation that Hamas is about to embark on a campaign aimed at blaming Prime Minister Netanyahu for the failure of the German mediation effort. This was followed by speeches delivered by Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud al-Zahar, who confirmed Israel’s assessment.


Hamas is still debating on the proper response. Some elements within it believe that given the organization’s terrible state of affairs and the period of distress and pressure it is facing, it must accept the prisoner swap even on Israel’s terms. However, a majority among Hamas’ leadership believe that the deal must be resisted and that the group must demand that all of its conditions be met.


The objectors to the deal are led by Khaled Mashaal, who has a score to settle with Netanyahu – the man who ordered his assassination attempt. Mashaal does not wish to see Netanyahu win should the latest deal offered by the Israeli PM be accepted.


Exaggerated concession

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who passed in the cabinet his outline for a deal that includes his red lines by a 6 to 1 majority, informed the mediator that he must not continue discussing the details of the swap. After two rounds and cosmetic logistical modifications, Netanyahu also informed his close aides that he will not be willing to compromise any more that he already did.


Netanyahu’s declaration Tuesday that Hamas can accept only the currently proposed deal is not a negotiation tactic, but rather, stems from deep conviction on the prime minister’s part. It is noteworthy that some of his close associates believe that as it is, he views the proposed deal as an exaggerated concession.


The German mediator is staying in the region for the time being and has not announced that he is terminating his work. He is very frustrated, but we should keep in mind that previous swaps involving the German intelligence service also seemingly hit a dead-end in early stages. Eventually they were implemented nonetheless, at times based on the very same terms rejected earlier.


The last link in the chain, Noam Shalit, has not yet ordered an end to the ceasefire between him and the Israeli government. However, we can assume that a negative response on Hamas’ part coupled with Netanyahu’s insistence will prompt Shalit to again bring up the deal for his son to the public arena and media theater.


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