Who really won in the Shalit swap?

Oct. 18, 2011 at 2:30 PM
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BRUSSELS, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- European leaders praised the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as a boost for Middle East peace, though one analyst said it's a key victory for Hamas.

Shalit was on Israeli soil Tuesday for the first time since he was captured by Hamas five years ago.

Hamas said Israel transferred Palestinian prisoners due to be deported overseas and to Gaza. Israel is releasing 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners in phases in return for Shalit.

Shalit, 25, was captured in 2006 by Hamas and two other Gaza militant factions in a cross-border raid near where the Israeli, Gaza and Egyptian borders meet. He hadn't been seen in public since.

Jerzey Buzek, president of the European Parliament, in a statement, said Shalit's release was a long time coming.

"Gilad's personal story is a testimony to the idea that we must not lose faith in the pursuit of reconciliation, even if this requires some hard compromises and negotiations," he said.

British Middle East and North African Minister Alistair Burt echoed those sentiments, saying he hoped to see more progress "on other issues leading to Middle East peace and reconciliation."

But Robert Danin, a Middle East analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNN that it was Hamas, labeled as a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel, that emerges victorious in the swap.

He said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, pushing for statehood through diplomatic means, hasn't been able produce results when dealing with Israel.

"In contrast, Hamas just produced over 1,000 prisoners," he said.

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