War Over Prisoners Hampers Peace In Middle East

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal accused Israel of hampering the peace process by refusing to free Palestinian prisoners in return release of the captured IDF soldier, Gilad Schalit. “The conditions for an agreement have been known for three years, and the Egyptians know them, too. They are the release of 1,000 Palestinians in two stages.” He charged that Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not want to release all the 1,000 and is creating barriers to a resolution of the problem. Mashaal went on to complain about continued construction of housing in the West Bank and in Jerusalem. He also made clear that Hamas was not going to allow the appointment of hard liner Benjamin Netanyahu to frighten them into an agreement.

A basic concept in foreign policy is focusing on national interests, not emotional factors. The life of Gilad Schalit is important, but so are the lives of Palestinians. To argue the life of a single Israeli soldier is worth continued war, the death of hundreds, raises issues that transcend foreign policy and enter the realm of emotions. Gilad Schalit will secure his release and his life if Israel focuses on issues, not emotions. There is need to accept the challenge posed by the Arab League and enter the road of a comprehensive peace. At that point, Mr. Schalit will be released.

Israel has created an emotional issue which interferes with the process of peace.