Their release from prison could be interpreted in the territories as a divine miracle, a wonder that only takes place once every several generations, and Khaled Mashaal would become a legend in his life.
Because in the territories, as always, those who succeed in freeing prisoners, no matter how, are immediately crowned as leaders and win public fame.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas know this full well. These days, he is Israel's unexpected ally against realizing the Shalit deal. He, as well, knows that if the deal materializes, the scope and nature of Hamas' victory rallies would be easy to predict. And when these celebrations reach their peak, they could sweep the Palestinians masses in the direction of some of the PA's strongholds in the West Bank.
Condoleezza Rice and Tzipi Livni won't enjoy hearing the "Death to Abbas" and "We are all Hamas" slogans that protestors would chant when they march on the Mukataa in Ramallah. Indeed, the days that would follow the "grand release" as it is called, could have a catastrophic effect on the entire region. The Road Map could become the Map of Bloodshed.
It is not for nothing that Fatah's leaders in the West Bank have demanded from Abbas to boost forces in the area. The United States and Israel have already promised Abbas, who is considered an Israeli-American collaborator in the territories, arms and munitions, armored cars and hundreds of trained soldiers in order to prevent him from becoming a de facto exiled leader.
This scenario has been planned by Hamas' heads for a long time now. Their leaders Khaled Mashaal and his deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk, have become more and more tensed, because Israel's steadfast resistance and its insistence not to free hundreds of human monsters, even for the painful price of not releasing Shalit, have undermined their strategy. It appears that they have been too influenced by Nasrallah's "spider web speech". By refusing to grant "the grand release", Israel has significantly delayed Hamas' plans to take over the West Bank.
Deep and ongoing frustration
The movement is under pressure because it is incapable of fulfilling its promises to better the quality of life of the residents of the territories. It has failed in removing the international siege on Gaza, and has yielded to the Egyptians on the issues of the border crossings and the Philadelphi route.
Therefore, Abu Marzouk's threat that Israel will end up negotiating "the return of Shalit's remains" should be construed as a new height of pressure which Hamas is facing. This statement follows previous declarations by the movement's heads hinting that due to Israel's refusal, Shalit could be killed.
This is yet another threat directed at the overly sensitive Israeli public over its leaders' heads. Abu Marzouk's "vision of dry bones" should be viewed as an expression of deep and ongoing frustration among Hamas' ranks over Israel's refusal to yield to the organization's demands and to its jungle laws and piratical fighting techniques.
Not to worry. Hamas will not give up Shalit so quickly. He is the last asset its leaders have, and they know this full well. Shalit is their insurance policy from being assassinated by the IDF, as well as their guarantee against an invasion to the Gaza Strip and a massive strike of the movement's infrastructure. Abu Marzouk's words are therefore a reflection of the defeatist state of mind of a movement whose ideological ammunition is running out.
The writer served in various posts in the territories and currently researches Palestinian society at the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion