And the winner is………?

In this grand exchange of prisoners announced today by Hamas and Israel – who won?  Did Israel win when it agreed to release  Palestinians held in Israel in exchange for an Israeli soldier held somewhere by Hamas?  Or did Hamas win when it gained the release of 1027 prisoners for one Israeli?  The news is just breaking and the avalanche of analysis has only started, but already there is plenty of debate about who won this diplomatic war of negotiation and exchange.  Some of the choices for for the title of  “winner” are: Egypt for brokering the deal;  Israel for regaining Egypt as an ally in negotiations; Hamas because it made the deal and probably gained some political assendancy over Fatah in the process;  Netanyahu because he secured the release of Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity and probably strengthened his own political position at the same time; Shalit because he is out of prison and not dead; the Palestinian prisoners being released for the same reason; Germany because it too played a big role in the negotiations; other candidates are Turkey, Syria and possibly even the Middle East peace process it self.

It will take a long time to sort out all of the ramifications – years probably –  but even after years,  picking a winner will not be easy.  For one thing, there will always be two winners depending on whether the person awarding the prize speaks Arabic or Hebrew – one winner for Hebrew and another for Arabic; and then within those two groups it will become even more complicated depending on which political party or religious sect the person belongs to – and on and on – ad nauseam.

However, there is one simple answer and it that will survive the test of time. There are 1028 winners today.  The winners are all of those people who over the next couple of months will get out of prison and return to their homes and families;  some have been in captivity for 20 years.  And there is another and even larger group of people, the friends and families of the prisoners, who will also be winners.

That this the human answer to the question; the human answer is often buried very deeply under the political answer is such questions, but it is as close as one can get to a true answer.  Who were the winners in this exchange – the people who regained their freedom and the people who loved them and have been waiting years for their release.  That should be answer enough for anyone.


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