The best news about the hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas over captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat is that they are seemingly being negotiated with Egypt mediating between the parties.

Mediation is a very effective technique where there are highly emotional conflicts to work through. Often where there is a large degree of emotional history or the current dispute is highly charged it’s difficult for the parties to feel dispassionate enough to negotiate rationally. The emotionalism just gets in the way. Leaving aside the emotional results of 3,000 years of conflict, for Israel the return of its soldiers is always a big emotional issue, whilst for Hamas the return of what it regards as political prisoners is equally charged.

So, using Egypt as a go-between is a good idea. The best mediators are seen to be neutral, are trusted by both sides, keep matters confidential, and are prepared to challenge the entrenched positions of both sides. In the UK Mediation has an 80% success rate in resolving litigious disputes. Maybe it is the best way to resolve this kind of tense, political issue, too.