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Israeli political sources said late last week that the aim of the military operations in the Gaza Strip and the detention of senior Hamas officials in the West Bank was to make clear to Hamas that the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit will be of no benefit to it. On the contrary - it will be harmful to the movement. This may be what will happen as time goes by, but in the meantime, the deteriorating security situation has considerably augmented Hamas' power.

The recent developments have left only two players in the Israeli-Palestinian arena: Israel and Hamas. There are no others. The most notable non-player is Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has nearly no ability to influence events - not in the case of Shalit and not in the matter of the Qassam rockets, the two issues at the center of the current violent confrontation.

No one knows how this crisis will end and how much more blood will be spilled on both sides. But it is certainly possible to expect some sort of compromise. For now it does not appear that Hamas is willing to make concessions. The damaging strikes in the Gaza Strip, the casualties and the destruction have stirred up frustration, rage and hatred, both in Gaza and the West Bank. None of these emotions is directed against the Hamas-led government. Everyone considers Israel responsible: for unemployment, the failure to pay salaries, the power outages. No one dares to criticize the Hamas government and no one considers it to be responsible for what is happening. All this may change, but for now this is the scenario.

The majority of the Hamas leadership appears willing to accept the compromise agreement formulated by Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, and his minister of intelligence, General Omar Suleiman. It includes a complete cease-fire and the freeing of Shalit. In return, Israel will have to release prisoners who fit the following criteria: women, minors, those serving for more than 20 years, and people who are ill. Israel is willing to release some of these prisoners, but not as part of an exchange for the abducted soldier, rather at a later date. In other words, Hamas must first release the soldier and end the Qassam attacks, and only later will Israel release the prisoners. How many and who will be released - this will be decided by Israel and Egypt.

Hamas representatives holding talks with the Egyptians do not accept Israel's conditions. They want to begin immediate talks on the list of prisoners and they are not willing to accept any delays. They have no faith in the promises the Israeli government makes to Mubarak.

Expectations among prisoners and their families are unprecedentedly high. But even if just a few are released, Hamas will be able to interpret this as a major victory. After all, Abbas and his people, who dealt with Israel in a civilized manner, did not succeed in gaining the release of nearly anyone, except some car thieves, manual laborers who snuck into Israel for work, and prisoners who had almost completed their term of incarceration. In other words, Hamas has a good chance of emerging from this conflict empowered.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas political bureau director Khaled Meshal and perhaps another of the group's heads will soon emerge as the prime Palestinian leaders. In the meantime, Palestinian politics suffer from a serious crisis of leadership.

On average, Yasser Arafat's popularity ranged between 40 to 70 percent. He was followed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas founder, with 15 percent at best. In the most recent poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, taken last week, Haniyeh received 18 percent; Abbas, 13 percent; and the jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, 5.5 percent. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said they had no trust in any leader, and the rest gave 2-3 percent to various others.

In any event, the conclusion is that Hamas will be with us for a long while. Instead of thinking how to get rid of it, it is worth while to spend some time thinking how to deal with it.