The ‘surprise’ announcement by exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit is “alive and well” makes man wonder just what the radical Islamic organization is trying to do in regards to again “dangling the bait” in front of the Israeli public. Speaking from his headquarters in Damascus, Mashaal said that Schalit is “alive and well and being treated very humanely by those who have been assigned to care for him”. Mashaal also went on to say that Gilad has been given a pair of spectacles that had been supplied by Israel to the Red Cross office in Gaza City, where Schalit is rumored to be held captive.
Does “being treated humanely” mean that Schalit is being kept in a dark, possibly underground chamber, with perhaps constant death threats and other forms of intimidation? For a young man, aged 20, who appears to have been a quiet, sensitive boy and not an aggressive warrior as many young Palestinians profess to be, this year+ consignment to solitary confinement must be nothing short of being plunged into the depths of hell.
The Hamas leader went into some detail as to what might be ‘acceptable’ to gain the young solder’s release, and who has now been in captivity for 428 days. Aside from more than 1,100 Palestinian Hamas prisoners being held by Israel, Mashaal also mentioned that he is seeking the release of West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who was given no less than 5 consecutive life sentences for his responsibility in the deaths of numerous Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Now here is the intriguing question: why would Hamas, who are now still at odds with Fatah since the Hamas takeover in Gaza, want to have a potential political and security adversary like Barghouti released? Barghouti has often been tapped as a future Palestinian Fatah leader, despite the fact he may never be released from Israeli custody. But here is where a clever person like Mashaal, and perhaps his proxy in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, are ‘investing’ in a future “Sulha” between Hamas and Fatah by being the ones who may be responsible for Barghoutiâ€™s release. If Hamas can pull off this coup and Barghouti is included in a prisoner swap for Schalit’s repatriation, the possibility of Fatah and Hamas’ reconciliation is that much closer to being reality.
Asking for the release of all 1,100 Hamas prisoners, many of them with “blood on their hands”, like Barghouti, may not be a foreseeable accomplishment; even for an expert ‘fishermen’. But if, say 400-500 are released, including Barghouti, this would give Hamas a lot of credibility clout with Palestinians on both sides of the political and Islamic spectrum.
With the continuance of Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched Qassam rockets into Israel from Gaza, however; plus attempted terror infiltrations as what happened over the weekend when two Palestinians with explosive belts climbed over a security wall at the Eres crossover point from Gaza into Israel, Hamas and Company might use a bit more prudence when fishing in “Israeli waters”. The ‘bait’ they appear to now be dangling in front of the Israeli government may wind up not being taken.