Had the deal included high-profile Palestinian prisoners such as Marwan Barghouti, a former Fatah leader with a national reputation, or Ahmad Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, it would have had much more significance. Letting Barghouti out would have been a direct challenge (and threat) to Abbas's leadership — a clear effort by Israel to divide the PLO that he heads. No, this deal takes care of business, period — business that Hamas and Israel needed to get done. And though it does make clear that these two parties can do deals together and may well presage a period of stability (neither side wants a war), it has no bearing on peace.
Really? A deal with Hamas just as the PA is trying to get recognized at the UN? Just move along … nothing to see here. An Israeli reader has, as so often, a less rose-colored pair of spectacles on:
Having staunchly opposed the Shalit deal for two years, even saying publicly that there are prices a country ought not to pay, I have to wonder why Netanyahu finally negotiated. Is it because his popularity is dwindling following the J14 protests and a brutal doctors' strike (Netanyahu is also an absentee Health Minister, leaving most of the work to a hated deputy minister)? Or, as Ami Kaufman suggests, the prime minister does so in order to galvanize the country for a war with Iran, providing the public with Shalit, whose face is possibly more famous than even his own?
A prominent Israeli pundit with excellent sources in the military, Amnon Avramovich, wrote an oblique piece last week, hinting that the senior brass are under pressure from Netanyahu and Barak to confirm an attack on Iran. His piece was published on the eve of Yom Kippur, which for a generation of Israelis means the Yom Kippur War, and he called the officers to stand firm so as not to end like the officer corps of that war. Which, again, raises the specter of former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, whom Ariel Sharon described as an "expert in separating Arabs' heads from their bodies". Why did he publicly warn against an attack, and risk his entire reputation?
(Photo: Supporters show their emotion as Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, leave a protest tent set up outside the Prime Minister's residence on October 12, 2011 in Jerusalem, Israel. An agreement has been made between Israel and Hamas for a prisoner exchange where IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is returned for the release of over 1000 Palestinian prisoners. By Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)