PA President Abbas with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ho New)
The prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Hamas has stolen the show
from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s high-profile statehood bid
at the UN, Palestinian political analysts said on Thursday.
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agreement, which came as a complete surprise to Abbas, has also prompted the PA
president to resume his efforts to achieve “national unity” with
Abbas is expected to meet soon with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal
for renewed talks on ways of achieving unity. On Wednesday, Mashaal phoned Abbas
and briefed him on the details of the agreement, and the two men agreed to meet
Most PA officials in Ramallah refrained from praising Hamas for its
role in the prisoner swap, highlighting instead the claim that the deal was a
severe and painful blow to Israel.
The PA leadership is referring to the
deal as a “huge national achievement,” without noting Hamas’s
However, Palestinian analysts, including some who are affiliated
with the PA, admitted that the prisoner exchange was a “big achievement” for
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Most analysts agreed that the deal would significantly boost
Hamas’s popularity and badly undermine the PA leadership’s
“The Palestinian Authority has been negotiating with Israel
for 20 years and didn’t achieve what Hamas achieved by capturing Schalit,”
newspaper commentator Anwar Sharif said.
“Many Palestinians are now
saying that Hamas is right and Abbas is wrong.”
The deal was announced on
Tuesday while Abbas was visiting Venezuela in the context of his ongoing efforts
to muster world-wide support for his application to the UN for full membership
of a Palestinian state.
Abbas is scheduled to visit Paris on Friday for
talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the statehood bid. Earlier this
week, Abbas failed to convince Columbia to vote in favor of the statehood plan
in the Security Council.
But his tour has now been eclipsed by the drama
surrounding the signing of the prisoner exchange.
Abbas and his aides
have since welcomed the “intention” to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners
from Israeli jail, but have stopped short of giving credit to
“There’s no doubt that this is a significant achievement,”
political analyst Adel Abdel Rahman said. “Hamas has succeeded in keeping Gilad
Schalit in captivity inside the Gaza Strip despite the Israeli siege. For the
past five years, Israel’s security apparatuses have failed to reach the
Another Palestinian analyst with close ties to the PA
leadership, Talal Okal, said the prisoner deal “glorifies the Palestinian
resistance and is a humiliating slap on the face of Israel.”
Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction to seize the opportunity and resume their
efforts to achieve national reconciliation, “in order to foil Israel’s malicious
goals and schemes.”
The agreement coincided with a two-week-old hunger
strike by many Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The PA leadership has been
accused by families of the inmates of failing to do enough to secure their
release. In the eyes of many Palestinians, Hamas has succeeded where Abbas has
The deal also shows that Hamas’s relations with new Egyptian
leadership are stronger than ever. Hamas did not have much faith in ousted
president Hosni Mubarak’s regime – a fact that delayed the signing of a the
prisoner exchange agreement with Israel.
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