Diplomatic Sources: Shalit Deal Hurt Chances of Renewing Israel-Palestinian Talks

Diplomats in New York say Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange deal undermined position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The prisoner exchange deal reached between Israel and Hamas has hurt the chances that peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, diplomatic sources in New York said following the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the exchange deal, calling it a positive step in the ongoing effort to resolve the Middle East conflict. He said that Shalits release marked a significant humanitarian breakthrough and that he had long called for Shalits release.

Mahmoud Abbas AP Sept. 23, 2010

In conversations with Haaretz, however, diplomatic sources in New York said that the prisoner exchange deal severely damaged chances of renewing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the near future.

A senior diplomat said that the prisoner exchange deal undermined Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas position as an exclusive partner in negotiations with Israel.

The diplomat also said that the speeches given by Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at last months UN General Assembly session hurt efforts to renew peace talks because the speeches revealed the width and depth of the gap between the two sides.

The sources do not expect significant movement toward the resumption of talks will result from meetings to be held between Middle East Quartet officials with Israeli and Palestinian officials next week.

These meetings will show even more the weakening position of the Palestinian Authority against the strengthening of Hamas, in the wake of the prisoner exchange, the sources said.