Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The people are in trenches while the leaders are in the hotels! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Israeli Prime Minister, and likewise the Palestinian leaders, took part in a race to secure pictures with the prisoners released on Tuesday; Netanyahu did so with the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and the Palestinian leaders did so with the released Palestinian prisoners, in what was a clear trade in human commodities, and the future of our region.

It is really sad when the countries of the world are exchanging their expertise and technology with each other, and negotiating over the impact of currency differences or the balance of trade and so on, whilst Israel and the countries of our region are disputing over dead bodies or the number of prisoners! This is very disappointing. To further compound our disappointment, I heard a reporter on “CBS” shamelessly state that Shalit appeared exhausted, while the Hamas prisoners were in better health, and had maintained their strength. The reporter was acting just like the Egyptian television anchor who had told the Israeli soldier “you seem in good health”. This is not everything of course; another American news bulletin raised the issue of whether Hamas was considering kidnapping other Israeli soldiers, because the experiment had succeeded with Shalit. However, what this channel ignored, like the leaders of Hamas and all their affiliates, was that the price for Shalit was not 477 Palestinian prisoners, but rather all the victims of the war in Gaza, which exceeded 1,300 casualties. In reality, the deal was Shalit the Israeli in exchange for nearly 2,400 Palestinians, whether alive or dead. Following this, where is the sense of shame and disgrace? Is this the region that we want our children to live in?

What’s more surprising is that the West, instead of being more sensible than some of those in our region, was also jubilant at the prisoner exchange deal, rather than seeking to say to Israel once again that enough is enough, and that the time to sit at the negotiation table and genuinely respond to the requirements of peace has come. The West, specifically America, must ask itself the following question: How can anyone guarantee that another Osama bin Laden will not emerge in our region, as long as the new generations see nothing but devastation, destruction and humiliation?

The West, which blessed the prisoner exchange deal, was not mindful that when its leaders are contesting elections, in any Western country, they are competing with electoral agendas based on economic reform, education, social security reform and the health system. Meanwhile, leaders in our region, especially amongst the advocates of resistance, opposition and imaginary heroism, are exchanging prisoners and dead bodies! Had the West, and more importantly the rational figures in our region of course, reflected on the photographs on Tuesday, they would find Netanyahu the opportunist investing in the image of Shalit, to give the impression that the Israelis have accomplished something. Yet this is a man who does not have a single accomplishment to serve peace and humanity. Anyone observing the events would also note how Khaled Mishal was sitting relaxed as he watched the prisoner exchange, as if he was watching a football match, indifferent to all those who were killed, maimed, or lost their possessions in the Gaza war, which the Palestinians had no vested interest in.

I doubt that Mishal ever considered these questions, or dared to say that he had made a mistake, because the image of Mishal on Tuesday told us that “the people are in the trenches whilst the leaders are in the hotels”!