Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Face that represents the stalemate in Middle East Peace talks

25 June 2010 marked the four year anniversary of the capture of Gilad Shalit by Hamas. Symbolically Shalit represents the fate of the peace process in the Middle East. His fate will almost certainly determine whether the region is plunged into a new cycle of violence, or whether the peace process can somehow be revived.

If Hamas were to kill him any prospect of a rapprochement between Israel and a Hamas-led Palestinian Government would vanish. Without doubt Israel would seek revenge against those it held responsible; not only Hamas but also against the group’s exiled leaders in Beirut and Damascus. Conversely if Israel’s military pressure, or a deal to swap Palestinian prisoners for the soldier could persuade Hamas to release Shalit, surprising possibilities could open up.

The sticking point for Hamas surrounding the release of Palestinian prisoners relates to Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat. Whilst Israel has agreed to release many of the 1,000 Palestinian prisoners they categorically will not release the two above mentioned prisoners.

Israelis, on the other hand, are incensed with their government regarding the recent agreement to ease the Israeli blockade of Gaza due to international pressure after the flotilla incident in May 2010. By not having negotiated Shalit’s release at this time the Israeli government have forsaken a point of leverage with Hamas.

Millions of people have been affected by the ongoing hostilities in Israel and Palestine, but Gilad Shalit has become the face that represents the hopelessness of the stalled peace talks