Powered by WebAds

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mofaz: 'So long as Gilad Shalit doesn't see the light of day, Haniyeh won't see the light of day'

Israel is threatening that so long as Gliad Shalit does not see the light of day, neither will Hamas 'Prime Minister' Ismail Haniyeh. The threat was made by Transportation Minister and former Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz in an Israel Radio interview this morning. Mofaz is number 2 on Kadima's list in the upcoming elections.

But the interview is apparently largely bluster. Haaretz reports that the outgoing Israeli government is 'softening' its stance on Shalit, and that a deal is likely to be made between the elections and the formation of a new Israeli government (i.e. between February 10 and sometime in March).
A Yedioth Aharonoth poll published this weekend bolsters the public sentiment on Shalit's release: 56 percent of those questioned said they believed the operation should not have stopped before Shalit was freed (compared to 36 percent who think otherwise); 66 percent support the release of prisoners "with blood on their hands" in exchange for Shalit, and only 25 percent are opposed. It seems that the public tolerance for concessions on the matter of Shalit has increased in light of the feeling in Israel that Hamas suffered a massive blow during the fighting.

Politicians are highly sensitive to the views of voters. It is therefore not coincidental that in recent days the press if full of reports on a possible softening of the stance of cabinet ministers, which may lead to a deal on Shalit.

Sources who spoke with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, both prior to the offensive in the Gaza Strip and after it was over, said that he is looking everywhere for a solution that would secure Shalit's release. It may be that a series of political developments may contribute to a deal: On the one hand, the return of Shalit will signal that Olmert has "cleared" his proverbial table of all pending business, and allow him to argue that not only did he change his ways since 2006, but also lifted one of the weightiest issues from his record. On the other hand, the next prime minister will be better off to start his/her tenure with a clean slate and the Shalit case behind them.

It may be that between the elections on February 10 and the time it takes to form a cabinet will be the best time for a deal. Accordingly, Olmert will bear the brunt of the concessions for Shalit's freedom. His successor to the premiership will support him tacitly.

Israel is still trying to link Shalit's release with the opening of the crossings to the Gaza Strip. This is a stance that Hamas rejects outright. From its point of view, the crossings is an urgent issue that needs to be solved immediately. Shalit is a matter for negotiation - about which the group maintains it will not compromise.
The rest of Mofaz's Kadima party would like to make a deal sooner. A Jerusalem Post article reported last week that Kadima regards Shalit's release as its only chance of winning the upcoming election. Of course, Mofaz would be just as happy to see Livni lose. It would improve his position the next time.

Here's betting that no deal is made. First, it would be very difficult politically for the government to make a deal without tying it to the crossings and Hamas seems determined to get the crossings opened without a deal on Shalit. The 'international community' is pressing Israel with a manufactured 'humanitarian crisis' to open the crossings, and that is likely to be the first item on the agenda. A deal on Shalit won't happen before the elections.

And it won't happen during the period a government is being formed either. The way negotiations work in the Hamas souk everything takes time. There's no way they'll get a deal done in the 3-4 weeks in which a government is being formed. And all of Israel's negotiators other than Olmert will likely be busy trying to get their share in the new government.

On the other hand, don't look for Haniyeh to come out of hiding anytime soon. And so long as Hamas doesn't start shooting rockets again, don't look for the IDF to go after him either.


At 9:21 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - I think its a fitting punishment. Ismail Haniyeh and his ilk should never be allowed to see the light of day again. If they do, the cockroaches should be stamped out at first opportunity. As long as Gilad Shalit doesn't have his freedom, neither should the Hamas rulers of Gaza be allowed theirs.


Post a Comment

<< Home