News / Middle East

Israel, Hamas Both Benefit from Prisoner Swap

Noam and Aviv Schalit, right, Yoel Schalit and Yaara Winkler, parents and brother of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit are welcomed by family and friends to their home in Mitzpe Hila, northern Israel, October 12, 2011.
Noam and Aviv Schalit, right, Yoel Schalit and Yaara Winkler, parents and brother of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit are welcomed by family and friends to their home in Mitzpe Hila, northern Israel, October 12, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Scott Bobb

Palestinians and some Israelis are celebrating an agreement to free more than 1,000 Palestinians and a young Israeli soldier in the coming days.  The deal comes after five years of hard negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.  Sealing the deal was in the interests of the various parties.

The announcement of the prisoner exchange deal Tuesday night brought celebrations in Israel and the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls.

Negotiations for the exchange had stalled repeatedly and as a result, the announcement came as a surprise to many.

The head of Israel's Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Boaz Ganor, says the agreement was finally reached, because it serves the current interests of Israel and Hamas as well as Egypt, which brokered the deal.

"This exchange was signed as an outcome of a unique window of opportunity in which the interests of all the relevant actors have more benefit in concluding this crisis than sustaining it," said Ganor.

He says the accord helps Hamas' goals of gaining international legitimacy. Hamas, which took control of Gaza four years ago, has been isolated diplomatically because it refuses to recognize Israel and backs an armed struggle against it.

Some analysts say a factor in the prisoner release deal could be a bid by Hamas to counter the rising popularity of rival Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas after he requested United Nations' recognition of a Palestinian state last month.

The head of Jerusalem's Palestinian Academic Society, Mahdi Abdul Hadi, says Hamas also is trying to improve relations with Egypt, which has imposed travel and trade restrictions along its border with Gaza.

Abdul Hadi says Hamas may be looking for a new location for its Syria-based leaders as the Syrian government comes under increasing Arab criticism for its violent crackdown on a seven-month-old popular uprising.

"Hamas is looking for a way out of Damascus," said Hadi.  "And Egypt might be, could be the address for a future Hamas, hosting their leadership."

Analysts say the deal also serves the interests of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been under pressure to obtain the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit since he was captured, at the age of 19 years, by Hamas five years ago.

They say freedom for Shalit would likely boost the prime minister's popularity, which has been sagging in recent months. And they say it would serve to undermine Abbas after his U.N. recognition bid, which is strongly opposed by Israel.

Israel also is worried that upcoming elections in Egypt might bring into power a government that would be less favorable to mediating a prisoner exchange.

The Israeli government is keen to improve ties with Egypt.  Those ties have been strained since August when five Egyptian soldiers were killed in crossfire at the border as Israeli troops pursued Palestinian militants who mounted an attack in Israel from Egypt's Sinai.

Following the border incident, a mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, leading to the evacuation of its staff.  The Israeli government announced Tuesday it would apologize for the border shooting and compensate the victims' families.

Abdul Hadi says the Egyptian government also stands to benefit from its diplomacy. It is under increasing public pressure to enact democratic reforms from leaders of the popular uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

"The new Egypt is interested in achieving a success on the Palestinian front for many reasons inside Egypt and in the region as well; in terms of security, in terms of movement of people, in terms of Gaza, in terms of Sinai," added Hadi.

Ganor says the popular uprisings across the Arab world have brought tension and uncertainty to many veteran leaders in the region.

"We are now in a fragile time in the region," Ganor noted.  "There is an ongoing threat of another uprising that might happen as an outcome of the Arab spring and it is an outcome of youngsters, Palestinian youngsters."  

Analysts say given the turmoil in the region, the times seemed to provide a window of opportunity for agreement on the prisoner exchange, a window that many feared might soon be closed.

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs