Israel on Sunday published the names of 477 Palestinian prisoners it is willing to exchange for an Israeli soldier in a landmark prisoner swap that’s boosting the popularity of both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian group Hamas. The 477 prisoners are set to walk free on Tuesday, while a further 550 will be let go after captured Israeli sergeant Gilad Shalit returns home. Shalit, who’s been held in captivity since 2006, quickly turned into an emotional symbol for many Israeli families, whose sons and daughters must serve in the army at the age 18. His impending release seems to have improved the domestic popularity of Israel’s right-wing government, which has been struggling to quell widespread discontent about the rising cost of living. As well, the diplomatic deal appears to have boosted appreciation for Netanyahu among Western officials, who took note of his willingness to negotiate with Hamas, a group Israel considers a terrorist organization. The swap also bolstered Hamas’ standing against rival Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Monday, October 17, 2011