What does the deal reached by Israel and Hamas to exchange long-held Sgt. Gilad Schalit for about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners mean for the seemingly never-ending Mideast peace process and politics in the region?
-- At Time magazine's Global Spin blog, Tony Karon writes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "will gain the kudos for having done a painful deal to bring home a young man whose captivity had been a source of enduring national anguish and pain."
And Hamas, he says, "will have scored a win on one of the most powerful emotive issues for residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and it will claim to have demonstrated that it was the steadfastness of the 'resistance' rather President Mahmoud Abbas' negotiations and diplomacy that forced Israel to concede."
-- Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations agrees with Karon's second point. "Hamas will benefit politically from this deal, particularly within intra-Palestinian politics," he writes. "They will argue that their hard-line approach pays greater dividends than the nonviolent tactics employed by Fatah's leader Mahmoud Abbas. The deal will provide Hamas greater legitimacy for having successfully negotiated a deal with Israel by proxy, and will increase the calls for renewed Hamas-Fatah unity discussions."
As for Netanyahu, though, Danin says that "for a prime minister who wrote a book arguing for an uncompromising approach to terrorism, this is a heavy price to pay. It signals that Israel will indeed negotiate, albeit under duress, for hostages and with an organization that most of the world regards as terrorists."
-- And Tod Robberson, editorial writer at The Dallas Morning News believes that:
"If Israel can reach a deal with Hamas, then certainly, there must be a way to leverage this to re-open talks with the Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. The real lesson here is this: Whatever you're working on, do it quietly. And for just a while, all sides should stop all the name-calling in public. Worse than being unproductive, it makes opposing sides harden their positions and makes a peace deal that much harder to achieve."