Saturday, August 15

The Return of Gilad Shalit

The issue of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who remains in Hamas captivity, is painful. It is a tragedy to his parents and his close family. It is also a tragedy for Israel's soldiers who know that under captivity they stand a chance of abandonment. The concealing of information concerning his wellbeing is a criminal act unforgivable by any standards.

He has been held by Hamas for over 3 years now and the negotiations for his release have achieved nothing. There are Palestinians who say that there is so much concern over Gilad Shalit but no concern over the Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

First, the Palestinian prisoners are not held incommunicado and they have visiting rights including contact with their families. Many prisoners have been involved in violence as well as murder of innocent people which they themselves regard as an essential part of their just struggle against the occupation.

Gilad Shalit has had no contact with his family. Nobody knows his place of captivity, or the condition of his health. This is not the case with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. The prisons where they are being held is known as well as the right to receive visitors has not been curtailed.

The negotiations for Gilad's release are tough and the bargaining for the release of Palestinian prisoners, including those imprisoned for murder, have not achieved any results. While imprisonment is no vacation it is less harsh than what Gilad Shalit and his family are being subjected for reasons already mentioned.

The price for Gilad's release is very high and there is a question mark as to whether he will be released eventually. It does create a moral dilemma as to whether thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including those convicted of murder, ought to be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

The answer to this is a two-edged sword, but for Shalit's family no price is too high for Gilad's release.

The Hamas hate for Israel is so great and their desire for Israel's destruction no less so, makes any form of negotiations an impossible mission.

However, despite these insurmountable difficulties, Gilad must never be abandoned to his fate. Even the release of prisoners "with blood on their hands" is not too great a price to bring Gilad home.

Another well known prisoner who should be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit is Marwan Barghoutti. We are aware that he was condemned for the organization of the murder of 4 Israelis and 1 foreigner. Barghoutti has great influence amongst his people. He has been elected to third place in the recent Fatah elections.

Some Knesset members such as Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Prof Avishay Braverman support his release despite his heavy prison sentence.
The release of Palestinian prisoners including those accused of terrorism and murder as well as Marwan Barghoutti must be seriously considered as an exchange for Gilad Shalit's release. There is no other option. A military option is a far greater risk and is unrealistic.

The only other alternative is to abandon Gilad Shalit to his fate which is unacceptable! The moral repercussions to IDF soldiers serving are great. They will get the feeling that under certain circumstances they will be abandoned by Israel if they are kidnapped by Hamas.

The release of Shalit is essential and the price for his release is painful but will not be a security risk for Israel or a danger to its existence. It would strengthen the moderates in the Palestinian camp and could weaken Hamas.

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