Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gilad Shalit deal, Hamas won big but did concessions

 In the meantime a hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners, now in its third week, continues. The picture shows a solidarity demonstration in front of the Israeli Ofer prison, a few days ago. The portrait on the poster left is of PFLP-leader Ahmed Sa'adat. He is one of the top-leaders who remains in prison under the Shalit-deal.

 So the Gilad Shalit deal is finally there. At first sight a huge victory for Hamas, 1027 prisoners for one soldier is not a bad price. Hamas-leader Khaled Meshaal hailed the deal as a 'national achievement' and put it in the famework of working towards national unity. In Gaza the news was celebrated in the streets.
But if we look a second time we see that some key demands Hamas originally had, have not been fulfilled. According to the chief of the Israeli security service Shin Bet, Yoram Cohen, Ahmed Saadat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, will remain in prison, as well as Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Bad news for those who had pinned hope on Marwan Barghouti as the man who might revive the ailing Fatah movement. (And good news for Mahmoud Abbas, who otherwise would have had to fear for his position). Bad news also for Sa'adat, who is the Palestinian equivalent of Gilad Shalit. He was kidnapped from a Palestinian jail in Jericho in 2006 and is being kept in solitary confinement since 2007. In a briefing with reporters, the Shin Bet chief indicated that also some senior West Bank operatives of Hamas will not be set free – among them Abdullah Barghouti, Ibrahim Hamed, Abbas Sayed, and others
 Still, 1027 is quite an achievement. Shalit will be transported to Egypt, which facilitated the deal together with a German envoy,  in the next few days. In the same time 450 Palestinian prisoners, including 280 with life sentences, will leave their prisons. Among them 110 prisoners will be able to return to their homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; 55 of them belong to Hamas, the rest is Fatah of belong to other Palestinian groups.
According to the deal, 131 Gaza residents will be released back to their homes,  many of whom are reportedly Hamas operatives. Another 203 prisoners will be expelled from the West Bank, 40 of whom will be deported overseas and the rest to Gaza. In addition, 6 Israeli Arab prisoners who have been serving for many years will also be released to their homes. The deal also specifies the release of 27 female inmates: among them Ahlam Tamimi and Amna Muna who are considered to be top-terrorists by Israel  and will be deported. 
After this first wave of 450 a second wave of releases will take place in two months time, at which point Israel will release 550 prisoners of its choosing.
So still, Hamas must have won back a lot of the popularity it lost over the past year or two. I'm curious to see how this will be reflected in the polls. 

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