CMEP Bulletin: A Prisoner Exchange, Settlement News, and Hope for Negotiations
In a piece of rare good news from the Holy Land, the Israeli government and Hamas announced this week that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is expected to return home to Israel next week after five years as a captive in the Gaza Strip. As a part of the deal for Shalit’s release, Israel will release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Shalit’s five-year saga as a hostage of militant Islamic factions in Gaza began on June 25, 2006, when Palestinian militants tunneled under the security barrier separating Gaza and Israel and attacked the army post where Shalit was stationed. Two IDF soldiers were killed during the raid and Shalit suffered shrapnel wounds. The Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), an umbrella group including Hamas’ military wing, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Army of Islam claimed responsibility for the raid. In the five years since his capture, no international organizations were given access to Shalit to report on his condition or provide medical care.
In secret meetings in Cairo, mediated by German and Egyptian officials, Israel and Hamas showed significant flexibility when negotiating specifics, like which Palestinian prisoners would be released. The Israeli cabinet meeting to approve the deal was highly contentious and three ministers voted against the agreement. Some ministers expressed fears that the prisoners will engage in attacks against Israel once released.
Recent news reports have revealed some of the logistics of the deal. Shalit will be released into Egyptian care across the Rafah border with Egypt. Palestinian prisoners will be released in two waves, the first 450 prisoners within 10 to 14 days and the second 550 will be freed within two months. More than 200 Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank will not be allowed to return home. Dozens will be exiled to other countries and the remainder will be sent to Gaza.
There are approximately 7,000 Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli jails, including about 180 children and 27 women. In the negotiated agreement all of the women currently held will be released, though some face likely deportation. The prisoners scheduled for release include Palestinians accused of violent acts, as well as those who were arrested for throwing rocks or membership in banned organizations. Several high profile prisoners like Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat weren’t a part of the deal though and will remain behind bars. Despite celebrations in the streets of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the prisoner swap likely has few implications for the broader conflict, or chances for peace.
Click here to continue reading this CMEP Bulletin, including the following items:
- Dancing in the dark
- Legalizing outposts
- A new “neighborhood” in East Jerusalem
- Congressional update
- More “price tag” actions in Israel
- A success for Palestinian children
- Speaking out: Violence against Christians in Egypt
- Filming Shaikh Jarrah