Hamas in Gaza
Hamas in GazaAbed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

The media is reporting a stalemate in the attempts to promote contacts aimed at the release of Israeli prisoners held by Hamas.

Arab affairs expert Yoni Ben Menachem, a senior researcher for the Jerusalem Center, explained in an interview with Arutz Sheva on Tuesday the main problems that prevent progress on the issue.

"The deal is at a standstill because there are signals and statements from senior Hamas figures who understand that the current Israeli government has learned lessons from the Shalit deal and Netanyahu does not want to repeat the same mistakes. Even though the government has not yet officially adopted the recommendations of the Shamgar Committee on the issue, he is trying to implement some of the criteria recommended by the committee and which sets some conditions that Hamas is not prepared for," said Ben Menachem.

He continued, "There are two main obstacles: First, Israel refuses to release, at the request of Hamas, several dozen terrorists who were released in the Shalit deal, returned to terrorism and were arrested again by the Shin Bet. Officials in Jerusalem say that this is a matter of principle and will not be compromised upon. The second is Hamas' demand to release hundreds of murderous terrorists, including some of the great symbols of terrorism against Israel and we are not prepared to hear about that."

Ben Menachem wrote in an article published in recent days that there is increasing pressure on Hamas leaders to try and kidnap Israelis in order to change the balance and force a deal on Israel.

"Since the start of the coronavirus period, there has been increasing pressure on senior members of Hamas' military wing, both from the families of the terrorists and from the terrorists themselves, to expedite a deal with Israel, for fear that those terrorists will die in prison. During this period, [Hamas leader] Yahya Sinwar tried to organize a 'humanitarian gesture' in which Israel would release sick terrorists, women and minors imprisoned for terrorist offenses in exchange for information about the fate of the prisoners and missing persons in the hands of the organization. Israel rejected this offer because it wanted to make a deal all at once and not in stages as was the case in the Shalit deal."

"In the current situation, the pressure by the terrorists and their families on the leaders of Hamas is increasing again and it appears as though the military arm of the organization has come to the conclusion that bargaining chips or additional pressure levers are needed to prevent Israel from insisting on its position. As far as they are concerned, the abduction of Israeli civilians or soldiers would be a convenient option to speed up negotiations," he added.

Ben Menachem asserted that Hamas has great difficulty in carrying out abductions in Judea and Samaria, as well as in the Gaza Strip. "One of the ideas was to use the Hamas commando force that would carry out a kidnapping by sea and there are such plans and Israel should prepare accordingly. This is a force that is considered one of the spearheads of Hamas' war against us."

Israel is not acting correctly on the issue of prisoners and missing persons, he opined. "Unfortunately, there are cabinet decisions from two and three years ago to use leverage on Hamas to expedite a deal, including taking senior Hamas figures captives to be used as bargaining chips, but they have not been carried out."