'Allah is on the side of those who are patient." This is what a Hamas representative in the Gaza Strip had to say this week in response to a barrage of reports in the Arab media about a "breakthrough" in negotiations to achieve a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel.
Hamas is in no rush to strike a deal because its leaders truly believe that time is on their side. Osama Mazini, the Hamas official in charge of the "Schalit portfolio," said this week that Israel had no choice but to accept all of his movement's demands if it wanted to see the soldier reunited with his family.
"We have a lot of patience," explained Mushir al-Masri, one of Hamas's prominent spokesmen. "We can wait for another 20 years."
Hamas's main problem is that it has climbed a very high tree since the kidnapping of Schalit. Attempts by the Egyptians, Turks and now the Germans to help Hamas climb down have thus far been unsuccessful. And the more time passes, the more difficult it will be for Hamas to make concessions.
The kidnapping of Schalit has cost Hamas and the Palestinians a very heavy price. More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed and thousands others wounded since Schalit was snatched from his tank. Dozens of Hamas officials have been imprisoned by Israel, and the Islamic movement's security and civilian infrastructure in the West Bank has almost been wiped out, in part thanks to the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority.