Ynet news reports that, according to Marwan Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, her husband might be released from jail as part of a deal that would include the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
If true, this is interesting as it was reported that Shalit was captured by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of the Palestinian governing party Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas), and a previously unknown group calling itself the Army of Islam.
Considering that Shalit is held somewhere in Gaza and that Hamas was a key player in his capture, his release cannot be obtained without Hamas approval.
It thus appears that Fatah and the Olmert administration are quietly negotiating with Hamas. More importantly, Barghouti himself, who is the top Tanzim commander and, therefore, a senior Fatah member, is also negotiating with Hamas through his Israeli captors (such as Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh secretly met Monday with Marwan Barghouti at the Hadarim Prison).
Such a deal would be in everybody’s interest and if Barghouti was freed there could at least be a hope for further negotiations between all the parties. Without such a development, the violence will only continue.
Given that many are suspicious of Barghouti’s intentions, I would be surprised if Hamas agreed to ‘swap’ the French tank gunner for him. Their original request was for large numbers of Palestinian prisoners to be freed, and I doubt that will change. Plus, if Israel agrees to free Barghouti, there must be a reason…
Hamas could gain a go-between to negotiate with Israel and a more credible negotiating partner in Fatah.
Israel could gain a *real* negotiating partner to begin with. the latter, of course, assumes that they want this, of which I am not at all sure of
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