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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs