NY Times: Shalit Deal Shows Netanyahu Can Reach Mideast Peace, but Won't

In editorial published following prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, NY Times says Netanyahu would rather negotiate with extremist Hamas than with moderate Palestinian Authority.

A prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas that freed Israel Defense Soldier Gilad Shalit shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn't interested in reaching a compromise that would advance peace talks with the Palestinians, a New York Times editorial said on Tuesday.

According to the column, the successful prisoner swap deal with the Gaza-ruling militant group indicated that Netanyahu preferred negotiations with arch-enemy Hamas than with the moderate Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank.

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu - AP - 05092011

"If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas — which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and, on Tuesday, vowed to take even more hostages — why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank?," the article asked.

The conclusion from such a move, one that would, the NY Times editorial said, weaken Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was that "the problem" with the premier wasn't "that he can’t compromise and make tough choices. It’s that he won’t. That won’t make Israel safer."

The editorial column also pressed administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as well as its partners to "keep trying to get negotiations going." The best way to bolster [Abbas'] standing is by leading his people in the creation of a Palestinian state, through negotiations."

In addition, the NY Times articles rejected claims that Netanyahu was staying away from peace negotiations because his coalition was reportedly too weak to withstand the concessions such a move would require, saying that the PM "was strong enough to go against the grief-stricken families of those Israelis killed by the Palestinian prisoners he just freed."

"Why can’t he make a similarly impassioned appeal for a settlement freeze for the sake of Israel’s security?" NY Times writers asked.

The NY Times editorial came after, earlier Tuesday, Kadima MK Nachman Shai urged Netanyahu's cabinet to rethink its stance toward Hamas as a result of the swap deal that brought on Shalit's release.

"With Gilad Shalit's return home, Israel needs to weigh the possibility that relations with Hamas may be open to change," MK Shai said, adding that "the blockade on Gaza was, in a significant way, dictated by Gilad's abduction and captivity."