What interest does Hamas have in Israeli Arab prisoners?

Reports that Israeli Arabs prisoners may be freed in the Shalit deal may be indicative of Hamas' ambition to represent the entire Palestinian people.
An article in Ha'aretz reports that Israeli Arab security prisoners may be freed as part of a prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit being discussed between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas' ideology is reflected in the narrative of the Ethos of Struggle which views Israeli Arabs as Palestinians in every respect. Their inclusion alongside Palestinian prisoners therefore, may be indicative of Hamas' ambition to lead the Palestinian national movement and to speak in the name of all Palestinians.

In this context, Hamas' biggest obstacle is its absence from the PLO, which has the political asset of being the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people".

Thus, in addition to its policy vis-à-vis Israeli-Arabs, Hamas is working on two parallel strategies:

Joining a 'new PLO' - One of the most significant clauses of the Mecca Agreement was the decision to reform the PLO by allowing the entry of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the organization (although this has still not happened). (See: Hostile Takeover of a Shell Company and Towards Representing All Palestinians).

Undermining the legitimacy of the current PLO - At the same time, Hamas has also attempted to dilute the power of the current PLO by inviting representatives of Palestinian resistance groups to Damascus for an 'alternative Annapolis conference.'

Although the conference has yet to take place, recent statements by Hamas members have emphasized that the current composition of the PLO makes it illegitimate to make decisions on behalf of the Palestinian people. (See: The Road to Ramallah goes though the PLO).


Jack Khoury, Ha'aretz, 1/16/08; full article.

Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 1/15/08; full article