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Gilad Shalit prisoner swap: Why Netanyahu agreed to 1,000 Palestinians for one Israeli

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'The deal of Netanyahu's life'

During his first term in office in the 1990s, Mr. Netanyahu implemented West Bank withdrawals under the Oslo Accords that he had disparaged as a opposition leader, and even shook hands with long-time Palestinian guerrilla fighter Yasser Arafat, who had abandoned violent rhetoric and began seeking a peace deal with Israel. At the beginning of his second term as prime minister in 2009, Netanyahu broke with the ideological hard-liners in his decision to support the creation of a Palestinian state and back a moratorium on new settlement houses in the West Bank.

But in the past year, that trait has been obscured by his decision to renew settlement building, a move which focused blame on him for the breakdown of peace talks. More recently, he was criticized for hurting Israel’s strategic position by refusing to apologize to Turkey for a naval raid that killed nine Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year.

In an article headlined "the deal of Netanyahu’s life," Yossi Verter, a columnist in the liberal Haaretz newspaper said the decision was the most important of his current term.

"He hasn’t embarked on war. He hasn’t made peace," he wrote. "It is often said that Netanyahu is more a politician of speeches and words, and less of deeds. This time Netanyahu behaved like a leader."

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