Gilad Shalit becomes pawn in Palestinian power struggle

Monday, November 23, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Newspapers in Israel on Monday were bursting with news that a prisoner swap deal with Hamas that would see abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit finally released was just days away. But Arab media outlets revealed that the purported deal may have a lot more to do with internal Palestinian politics.

According to Israeli reports, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to release nearly all of the terrorists demanded by Hamas in exchange for Shalit. The deal was reportedly being held up by squabbling over just a few names.

Israeli organizations that represent the victims of Palestinian terror responded by preparing Supreme Court petitions and other protests against releasing dangerous terrorists who will inevitably go on to kill more Israelis.

Meanwhile, Saudi and Kuwait newspapers ran stories suggesting that the alleged deal was actually a power play by Hamas. According to the reports, Hamas had agreed to reach a swap deal with Israel if Egypt altered the terms of reconciliation efforts between the terror group and Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority.

If true, that could mean a new Palestinian unity government in which Hamas would play a very significant, and perhaps even overriding, role. Israel has vowed in the past that it would not be party to peace talks with a Palestinian Authority ruled by Hamas. But with US President Barack Obama so determined to oversee a peace deal at any cost, Hamas may be banking on the idea that Israel would have no choice but to legitimize the terror group by negotiating with it.

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