Friday, April 13, 2007

Olmert's big dilemma

In any prisoner swap deal with Israel, the cards are stacked in favour of the Palestinians

By Khaled Amayreh
Al-Ahram Weekly

"......Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Olmert is likely to attempt to circumvent his dilemma by acting as a tough negotiator in the hope of extracting a more "palatable" deal from Hamas. This is unlikely to succeed, however, since Hamas, too, can't be seen as compromising when it is answerable to thousands of Palestinian families who are impatient to see their sons and loved ones come home, many of whom have spent the prime of their lives in Israeli jails and detention camps.

Israel has been desperately trying to pin down the whereabouts of its captured soldier, Gilad Shalit. The Israeli army waged several brutal incursions throughout the Gaza Strip during which hundreds of Palestinians, mostly civilian, were killed and maimed. The savagery of the assaults failed to free Shalit.

Meanwhile, the Israeli domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet, instructed hundreds of its informers throughout the Gaza Strip to "leave no stone unturned" in order to ascertain the whereabouts of Shalit and the identity of his captors. This, too, failed to achieve any result. Eventually, the Shin Bet recommended against "liberating Shalit by force", arguing that the chances of retrieving him alive were less than one per cent.

Furthermore, the abduction of nearly 100 Hamas cabinet ministers, officials and lawmakers, including such high-ranking leaders as parliament speaker Abdul-Aziz Duweik, in order to pressure Hamas to free Shalit, also failed to yield results, leaving the Israeli government with very few choices left.

In this context, it is not unlikely that the Olmert government, reputed for its duplicity, will resort to publicly agreeing to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners while planning in secret to re- arrest many of them after Shalit's release on fresh concocted charges. Israeli military courts, before which no Palestinian can be proven innocent, could pass hefty suspended prison sentences on prominent prisoners in order to facilitate their re-arrest......"

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