More than five years of capture at the hands of Hamas has finally come to an end!
Apparently it is not going to be the second Ron Arad saga as many had believed it would be. Israel and Hamas have finally signed an agreement in which more than 1000 prisoners will be released from Israeli prisons in exchange for Gilad Shalit, 450 prisoners will be released first and then after his release another 577 prisoners will be freed – all 1000 were convicted and charged of committing acts of terrorism against Israel.
The prisoners who are about to be released are members of various organisations, they are not exclusively Hamas affiliates. Among them are woman and children, including Amna Muna who was involved in the kidnap and murder of the 16 year old boy Ofir Rahum, as well as Ahlam Tamimi who drove a suicide bomber to a restaurant in central Jerusalem were he blew himself up, killing 15 and injuring 132.
However, Israel denies releasing Marwan Barghouti, the former head of the Tanzim in the West Bank who has been sentenced to 5 life terms and is considered by many to be the next Palestinian leader. In addition other “heavy” prisoner, such as Abdulla Barghouti one of the military heads of Hamas as well as Ahmad Saadat one of the murderers of the Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi , are not going to be released either, according to Israeli officials, despite the Arab and international media reports.
It took more than five years, but only the latest events in the region have now allowed it to happen. Israel and Hamas both realised this window of opportunity had to be used, as there is no longer any certainty of Egypt’s further ability to mediate, how Syria will choose to influence matters or even Turkey’s willingness to contribute. Due to these outside aspects and also other internal issues related to Hamas, both sides found themselves in a more flexible position and were able to compromise on details which were previously had been very non-negotiable.
In Israel the mood is of happiness mixed with sadness and fear. What will the consequences of allowing so many advocates of violence and death to be free again? Are they going to take us back to the days of fear and insecurity in Israel? Or maybe things have changed since then?
Things have changed, everything has changed in the region and I truly hope and believe that this will only take as forward to better and different kind of exchange between both sides.