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Analysis: Hamas success may push Abbas further down UN path
Published Monday 17/10/2011 (updated) 18/10/2011 16:36
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Activists hold candles in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in
Nablus, Oct. 17, 2011. (Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- The huge prisoner release won by Hamas in exchange for a lone Israeli soldier has drawn praise from those in the Middle East who believe violence is the only way to deal with Israel, unsettling President Mahmoud Abbas' camp and chipping away at what faith is left in his strategy of negotiating peace.

To shore up his domestic credibility, Abbas may now feel he has to escalate the diplomatic offensive he is waging for statehood at the United Nations, raising the prospect of more tension with the United States and Israel.

The lopsided swap will allow Hamas to rest on its laurels for a spell. That could suit the Islamist movement, whose focus at present is on rebuilding Gaza, not fighting Israel.

Hamas will send Gilad Shalit home to Israel on Tuesday after more than five years a prisoner in Gaza, in return for the release of 1,027 Palestinians.

The deal represents the most Israel has conceded to an enemy since 2008, when it swapped five Lebanese for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Critics of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas say the new swap is far more than he has extracted from Israel in years of on-off negotiations aimed at agreeing to a peace treaty and creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

Privately, even Abbas' allies are concerned that the swap boosts the "logic of resistance" -- or armed struggle against Israel -- at the expense of his non-violent strategy built on negotiations and, most recently, the diplomatic thrust for wider recognition of statehood.

"This deal has definitely improved the public position of Hamas and the perception of resistance," said one member of the Abbas administration. "The success of this deal sends the wrong message to the public."

Abbas strongly opposes any form of violence and his security forces in the West Bank cooperate with Israeli security forces.

But peace talks with Israel have, by his own admission, hit a dead end while Jewish settlements continue to expand in the West Bank, consuming territory central to the goal of a viable Palestinian state.

This has raised serious questions about the role of the Palestinian Authority and led to his quest to gain UN recognition of statehood on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Hezbollah applauds Hamas

His initiative has won widespread support among Palestinians, who have applauded Abbas for persevering in the face of US and Israeli objections. But its initial impact has been economic pain: the United States has frozen aid that has helped keep the Palestinian economy afloat in recent years.

"Abbas made the most peaceful move you can imagine: going to the United Nations. And yet he got this brutal political response by Israel and the United States," the Palestinian official said. "That's also a negative message to the public about the productivity of this peaceful approach."

Hamas, by contrast, has chalked up a major success in an emotive issue for Palestinians, securing the release of hundreds from jail through indirect negotiations brokered by Egypt.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militant group backed by Iran, was quick to applaud the prisoner swap as proof of the efficacy of the approach employed by Hamas, its ally.

It said the deal had "toppled once and for all the delusions of those who believe in the possibility of progress or the recovery of rights through negotiations or petitioning the international community".

It was a clear reference to Abbas, who has justified the application for UN membership as an attempt to strengthen the Palestinians' hand ahead of any more talks with Israel.

"The Palestinian leadership will be under pressure to think of the next move," said George Giacaman, a political scientist at Birzeit University in the West Bank. "Their back is to the wall and they might be pressed to do something to maintain internal solidarity," he said.

At the diplomatic level, Abbas' options include seeking an upgrade to the Palestinian status at the United Nations once their application for full membership is rejected. They could build on that by pursuing legal action in international courts against Israel, for example, over the 2008-09 war in Gaza.

That war had a lopsided outcome in favor of Israel. Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed while 13 Israelis lost their lives. As the dominant movement in the blockaded Gaza Strip, Hamas is currently keeping a lid on groups who would like to be firing more rockets into Israel -- the tactic which Israel says triggered its hammer blow in December 2008.

Hamas has now promised to secure the release of more prisoners, though its enthusiasm for the kind of raid that led to Shalit's capture in 2006 could be tempered by the responsibilities it now faces governing Gaza.

A delicate regional situation may also dissuade it from embarking on military adventures any time soon. Hamas is trying to forge ties with Egypt's new government and Syria, the base of its leadership in exile, faces a persistent popular uprising.

Mustafa Barghouti, a politician and activist, said the prisoner swap showed the need for action to extract concessions from Israel. But future "resistance" need not be violent, he said.

"I think the prisoner swap comes at a good time. It reaffirms the power of resistance at a time when all Palestinian groups are adopting non-violent resistance," he said.
1 ) southparkbear / usa
17/10/2011 22:18
as i said united they fall

2 ) Philomena mcKenna / Ireland
17/10/2011 23:30
If I were Hamas I would not swop Shalit for prisoners. I would swap Shalit for the liberation of Palestinian land, land, land which is at this moment being devoured by settlers. So that when ALL prisoners are released which they will be, its a matter of time and clever tactics, not point scoring, there will be a country called Palestine left for them tp return to. What or who will prevent another generation of Palestinians being abducted, arrested and imprisoned in the coming months. Hamas?

3 ) #2 / USA
18/10/2011 04:33
Thats actually not a bad idea....it may have been better to demand dismantling of settlements.

4 ) harhoos / palestine
18/10/2011 05:47
one has to wonder the timing this swap has occured at.... at a time when israel and hamas are becoming isolated, and Abbas's bid at the UN gives him so much world attention... this swap just destroyed that....so one has to wonder weather this was orchaastrated or legit... plus what is everyone so happy about? most of the prisoners have been exiled.....some deal....

5 ) southparkbear / usa
18/10/2011 12:53
philo doe #2 try to cut down on booz before midnight

6 ) Tobias / USA
18/10/2011 15:06

"Violence is the only way to deal with Israel", since:
[1] the PLO & Hamas goal remains to eventually completely destroy Israel, and
[2] the alternative is expecting Israel to negotiate itself into a position of national suicide !!

7 ) Tissa / Sri Lanka
19/10/2011 13:47
First of all Tom Perry appears to be dreaming.

Second. Tobias/USA is confused.Violence is never the way to deal with Israel. Isreali citizens are beginning to realise the truth. It will take some time.Palestinians both Hamas and PLO have accepted the exsistance of Israel.

8 ) It Is Reality, and NOT Hamas / That Is Pushing Abbas
20/10/2011 15:05
[1] Further Arab Terror will lead to a TOTAL LOSS of world support,

[2] Further Arab Attacks will lead to a TOTAL DISTRUCTION of Palestinian areas, through Israeli "deterrent" strikes,

[3] Further attempts at the UN will NEVER lead to Palestinian statehood, so

[4] Abbas is being pushed, but NOT "down a doomed UN path", leaving him with ONLY the option of going further down THE PATH OF NEGOTIATIONS !!!!

9 ) Phil / UK
22/10/2011 12:48
I think broader circumstances are about to overtake the land for peace issue. Soon Israel will attack Iran's nuclear weapon sites. This will result in Iran ordering it's proxy armies of Hamas and Hezbollah to attack. PLO, Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian forces will think they see opportunity and join the attack. When the dust settles Israel will have devastated it's surrounding enemies = Psalm 83. The Arab spring won't bring peace, it is merely releasing the beasts. Run from Damascus. Isaiah 17.

10 ) @ Phil #9 / USA
24/10/2011 19:59

Even IF Israel attacks Iran, both the proxy armies of Hamas and Hezbollah have already learned a lesson, that they can NOT afford to provoke another Israel deterrence strike and the results with another 1,000 dead, 1,000s injured, and total devastion of their national infrastrucure !!!!

Further, the same goes more than double for states,
like Syria, Jordan and Egypt, that have twice as much to lose !!!

11 ) Carlos / USA
25/10/2011 04:36
Israel attacking Iran is the end of the economic world as we know it. Oil will cease to flow for the duration of the war. Although Hamas is brave it has no weapons which will change anything. Hezbollah can only wage a defensive war but it can inflict alot of casualties on Israel. If Israel does bomb Iran, I wish Iran well and I hope Israel government gets destroyed. I can only hope for justice for Israeli leaders. I hope they are taken to ICC and exposed for terrorist murderers they are.
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