So it appears that Hamas and Israel have agreed to a prisoner swap (Predictably western MSM headlines feature the sole Israeli captive in their headlines ). Questions now abound…First up, the ridiculous facade that Netanyahu puts forward declaring his refusal to negotiate with Hamas, how can he in all honesty try and maintain such a stance, even with third parties passing the notes, as it appears the Egyptians have with this prisoner deal. Second, exactly what is Hamas’ gameplan, as it appears they have secured the release of Marwin Barghouti, a man routinely called the ‘Palestinian Mandela‘, and a stalwart of their rivals, Fatah. Although he is viewed with favour across a wide spectrum of Palestinian factions and could be a unifying force.
Barghouti is seen by many as a likely successor to incumbent Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas and his release (even if he is exiled to Egypt as some are reporting) would likely expedite the retirement of Abbas. With that in mind, Hamas’ thinking becomes slightly clearer. Remember also that Abbas is currently on a world tour of sorts to try and secure votes for his UN gambit, this landmark prisoner swap agreed between the Israeli government and Hamas without his input, demonstrates how ancillary he is fast becoming to both sides. I believe the sidelining of Abbas and his cohorts in the PA is undoubtedly an ambition for Hamas, and I also believe that it is a desire of Netanyahu’s as well. Why?
With Abbas potentially out of the picture, Netanyahu could very well revert to the old ‘no partner for peace‘ routine beloved of Israeli govts and continue with ever more land theft and settlement building. If he has no-one to negotiate the division of the pizza with, he may as well just keep eating it. Remember that Israeli governments of the past have actively sought to employ the old divide and conquer tactic. This could however be a bold move for peace by Netanyahu, but his past record points my reality dial toward cynicism.
This prisoner swap will be a protracted process, with first exchanges to happen within a week. But a week is a long time in the Levant, never-mind the months it will take to complete. It would be very easy for one side to ratchet up the tension and scupper the deal once they feel they got what they want out of it. Watch this space….
Update* – It appears that Marwin Barghouti is not part of the deal. Netanyahu it seems, can’t risk freeing a potential unifying force for the Palestinians.