The Middle East Channel

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released in historic prisoner swap

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released in historic prisoner swap Israeli soldier Sergeant First Class Gilad Shalit was returned to Israel after being held captive by Hamas for over 5 years. His release was part of an exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners who are to be released in two phases in what is seen as ...

Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released in historic prisoner swap

Israeli soldier Sergeant First Class Gilad Shalit was returned to Israel after being held captive by Hamas for over 5 years. His release was part of an exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners who are to be released in two phases in what is seen as the “most lopsided prisoner swap in Israeli history.” Shalit said he was happy for the prisoners’ release if there was no return to violence stating, “I very much hope that this deal will advance peace.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas greeted the first wave of 477 returned Palestinian prisoners saying, “You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland.” The deal will have political impacts in the dynamic between the competing Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas, putting Hamas back in the “limelight” after the rise in popularity of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority who presented a bid to the United Nations for statehood last month. U.N. Secretary-General ban Ki-moon praised the deal noting, “With this release, it will have a far-reaching impact to the stalled Middle East peace process.”

Headlines  

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unannounced trip to Libya offering $11 million in new aid as NTC forces take control of Bani Walid.
  • Fighting between the Yemeni regime and opposition forces escalates in the capital of Sana’a as the U.N. Security Council discusses a resolution calling for President Saleh to step down.
  • Britain froze the assets of five Iranian men connected in the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
  • Kuwait’s foreign minister resigned in protest over a graft case involving several members of parliament.
  • Syrian regime forces killed at least 24 people in Homs a day after the Arab League announced it would call for dialogue within 15 days. 

Daily Snapshot

A Palestinian man speaks with an Israeli border policeman through a fence in an area next to a checkpoint as people wait for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons next to Bitunian checkpoint on October 18, 2011 in Ramallah, West bank. A high-profile prisoner swap, which will see the release of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, began before dawn today. Shalit is to be freed after more than 5 years of captivity in Gaza in an exchange deal which will see the release of 477 Palestinian prisoners in an initial deal with another 550 to be freed after the return of Shalit (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images). 

Arguments & Analysis

Economist debates: Middle East peace (David Makovsky & Daniel Levy, The Economist)

The Economist is hosting a debate to consider the motion: “This house believes that bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are not currently a viable way to reach a two-state solution.” From the opening statements of each debater:

Daniel Levy:

The parties do not share a common set of core assumptions (settlement expansion in particular raises red flags as to the sincerity of Israel’s commitment to a viable two-state outcome). Unsurprisingly, negotiations have ended up being about power-who has it and who does not. There is a basic and undeniable asymmetry between an occupying power and an occupied people. The American role serves to exacerbate that asymmetry rather than defuse it. Given the Palestinians’ lack of leverage and Israel’s impunity, only two rational outcomes can be anticipated: Palestinian capitulation, or deadlock based on Palestinian refusal to capitulate-which is indeed a rather accurate potted history of the negotiations.

David Makovsky:

Can negotiations succeed today? There are reasons to try them, even if they ultimately fail. Israel has agreed to resume talks, but Mr Abbas has not. He continues to argue that they are futile. However, if Mr Abbas truly doubts the commitment by Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to peace, why not challenge him? If Mr Netanyahu cannot provide a proposal within three months on territory and security, as per the explicit timetable in the Quartet statement, Mr Abbas’s argument will be vindicated in the eyes of the international community, and perhaps even among many Israelis. If Mr Abbas is right that Israel is not serious about peace, what are the odds that Mr Netanyahu will propose a map for the partition of the West Bank? He will either put forward a serious proposal, or his coalition government will break apart over the differences of its members and a different coalition will converge. Why not force his hand? 

‘Tunisia: wasn’t this what we hoped for?’ (Fabrizio Tassinari & Rasmus Alenius Boserup, Open Democracy)

“With a somewhat more daring leap of faith, the pragmatism characterizing the Tunisian transition can be taken a step further. Tunisians are surprisingly indulgent about the realpolitk behind the decades-long engagement of European governments with corrupted autocracies in the region; “we blame them,” a top operator told us, “but we understand them.” On the other hand, the transition so far is remarkably aligned with the objectives of longer-term, and lower-profile, policies that institutions such as the European Union have been carrying out for the past twenty years. In this sense, if there is such a thing as a Tunisian ‘model’, it lies in its evolutionary as much as its revolutionary character: the state administration has continued to run, the middle class has taken charge, and a cross-party consensus has emerged around basic social and economic policies — at the same time as a long repressed Islamist contender has entered the fray of democratic politics.”

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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