By Scott Roth
The prisoner exchange between Hamas and the Likud-led government of Israel is one of the more curious developments in the recent history of the conflict. It shows the two extremes working together in a surprisingly normal and constructive sense. Netanyahu and Likud will be boosted politically by the release of Gilad Shalit; Hamas will be empowered by the release of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners.
This apparent win-win result was brought about very differently than in the past. Previously, the unholy symbiotic relationship between the Palestinian and Israeli right wings has been characterized by sessions of escalating violence. Now both sides are behaving as rational and responsible agents. Go Figure.
Nonetheless, it’s hard not to overstate and understate the significance of this. Yes, this is evidence that Hamas and a right-wing Israeli government can negotiate and reach an agreement. And Hamas and Israel have agreed before about various cease-fires in Gaza and other prisoner releases.
But an agreement between these two parties about an issue that looms so large in the Israeli narrative is a refreshing novelty.
Which is not to say that I expect further cooperation between these parties. In fact I expect the opposite. But it is proof of what political actors can accomplish when there is a political will.
Perhaps if President Obama and his foreign policy team were capable of some creative diplomacy that would result in both sides seeing a continuing political advantage to further negotiations then maybe things can change. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.