Prison Raid Shows Israel's New Freedom

(AP/Washington Post) Steven Gutkin - Israel's dramatic seizure of senior Palestinian militants from a West Bank jail highlights its new freedom of action with the internationally shunned Hamas poised to take over Palestinian government. Tuesday's raid also sends a strong warning to Hamas about failing to honor past accords. In one way, though, it lets Hamas off the hook. Hamas had intended to release the militants, but the raid allowed them to avoid the international outcry that almost surely would have followed had they done so. With Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence in the wake of its surprise Jan. 25 victory in parliamentary elections, many Israelis and Palestinians were wondering which agreement would unravel next. Delicate understandings painstakingly brokered by the U.S. and Europe after Israel's Gaza pullout last summer - including a new Gaza-Egypt border crossing monitored by European inspectors - could meet the same fate as the Jericho accord. "Hamas, I think, has to see this as a preview of things to come," Israeli political analyst Yossi Alpher said. "If they are involved in breaking agreements with Israel, Israel is going to respond very aggressively."

2006-03-16 00:00:00

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