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: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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 Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid