Follow Dan Williams, and Tracy follows Grapel


Dan Williams is at Reuters. And he is just one of the best Middle East watchers around. I have not seen a better analysis of the Gilad Shalit release than these three Tweets — less than 420 characters! — on his feed, @MideastWarWatch:

Prisoner swap undercuts #Israel’s suspicion #Hamas saw #Shalit as insurance against hits on its leaders and thus would avoid freeing him.

Seems #Hamas feels a new confidence that relative #Gaza calm could hold — perhaps thanks to intercession of #Egypt. #Israel #Shalit

But: Shalit risk didn’t stop Israel invading Gaza in 2009 and assassinating two Hamas chiefs. Swap may be simple loss-cutting on both sides.

And at Tablet, Marc Tracy connects the dots on why Ilan Grapel is part of the package — did the United States press Israel to make a costly deal because it had a stake in Grapel’s release?

I like Tracy’s Hitchcock reference — haven’t we all been particularly dumb Hitchcock heroes at one point or another?

Finally, this line of inquiry leads to a yet more tantalizing (if less consequential) one. Namely: is Grapel a spy? He has always seemed less Mossad and more particularly dumb Hitchcock protagonist, an idealistic bro who put photos of himself in Tahrir Square on his Facebook page and suddenly found himself caught up in intrigue he had nothing to do with (“he had a satellite phone like I’m an astronaut,” his father memorably put it). At the same time, if you are Egypt, why hold him so long? We may have our answer: according to Meidan, the top-secret negotiations have been ongoing for several months—which is to say, likely since before Grapel’s June arrest. Egypt may have arrested him and quickly realized that he was perfect leverage: someone they could both semi-plausibly accuse of spying for Israel (he had been an IDF paratrooper and had lied about being a journalist upon entry) and use to get the Americans involved. 

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