Thursday, October 20

A Catalyst for Peace?

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 12:   Noam Shalit (...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
This past week has been an exciting week for both Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides were ecstatic. Both claimed a victory.  This is a rare occurrence.

Crowds gathered in Gaza and Ramallah celebrating the release of Palestinian prisoners. The streets were decked with green Hamas flags, interspersed with Fatah flags. Cheering crowds gathered and Hamas leaders delivered speeches of victory. Many even vowed to create another Shalit until all Palestinian prisoners are freed from Israeli prisons.

In Israel, there was great jubilation. After more than five years in a Hamas prison, Gilad Shalit was freed and returned home to his parents in Mitzpe Hila in the northern Galilee. The crowds that gathered there were whooping for joy. For more than five years, many had volunteered to pressure the Israeli Government to reach this incredible day.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claimed a victory; both sides felt that something was incomplete.

Many Israelis, who lost loved ones through acts of Palestinian terrorism -suicide bombers on busses, shopping malls and in the main centres, felt that the price for Gilad's release was too high - 1028 Palestinian prisoners, who were given life sentences for their part in organizing terror attacks and murdering innocent people-Jewish and Arab Israelis-in cold blood were now released. All this was achieved for the exchange of one Israeli soldier - Gilad Shalit.

As one Israeli (who had lost family through Hamas terror) said that keeping these Palestinian murderers in prison would not bring his loved ones back - releasing them would save the life of one Israeli soldier whose life was endangered. This says it all!

I speak as a father whose daughter escaped injury in a suicide bombing in a shopping mall in Netanya during the second intifada. I feel that the exchange deal was a bold move and the correct decision. Both sides are satisfied albeit with reservations, each for their own reasons.

We all wish Gilad Shalit a rapid recovery from his nightmarish ordeal and that his rehabilitation will be successful.

Is it justified that Gilad Shalit was cut off from his family for over 5 years? Is it just that the Red Cross was not all allowed to visit him during his time of captivity for so called "security reasons"?  

The Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, while not living in luxury, were granted visiting rights, visits by the Red Cross and were even given facilities to study if they wished. They were also not held in solitary confinement. Most of these prisoners were neither "freedom fighters" nor "fighters for democracy". They were heartless killers who carried out the cruel bidding of Hamas and even Hezbollah.

Had Hamas promised to deliver their people from Israeli occupation and concentrated on that cause without killing innocent people including Palestinians, the prisoners would have had sympathy even from Israel. This is clearly not the case! Even in war, the Geneva Convention in the treatment of prisoners-of-war must be observed by the warring sides. Hamas never adhered to that. They are a terrorist group who has done nothing for the Palestinian cause for freedom from Israeli occupation. Terrorist groups abide by their own rules and the Geneva Convention does not apply to them.

Hamas are cruel to their own people. They torture Palestinians who oppose their rule, even shooting them. Documentation of this is available on the net and not only from Israeli sources. It is a miracle that Gilad Shalit survived his nightmarish ordeal in Hamas captivity.

He survived because Hamas knew that Israel would eventually bargain for Gilad Shalit’s release.  He was isolated in an unknown cell as a bargaining chip for the release of Palestinian prisoners many of whom had received life sentences for cruel terrorist acts resulting in deaths of many innocent Israelis - Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Many will say that these prisoners were "Freedom Fighters" carrying out a legitimate struggle against the occupation. As much as I despise the occupation and the illegal settler movements, including the despicable violence against Palestinians, their property and mosques, Hamas terror is not for the betterment of the Palestinian people but for the destruction of Israel. There will never be a “Palestinian Spring” under Hamas rule. Any belief in that is illusionary. Their record of human rights is dismal.

Some Palestinians say that Israel had murdered innocent people including children during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. While the taking of innocent human life whether Israeli or Palestinian is to be condemned, one must remember that the use of human shields by Hamas, whose reverence for human lives is poor if non-existent, played a great part in the loss of innocent Palestinian lives. I have written about this at length in previous articles.

Hamas will never be the saviors of the Palestinians. Human rights, democracy and equality are not part of their lexicon. They are a cruel, autocratic group of despots who live by the mantra of Israel's total destruction. A separate Palestinian state alongside Israel is not their aim. They have stated that ad nauseam.

It is unlikely that the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit's lease will change the atmosphere. We must remember that this deal was signed between Hamas and Egypt and between Israel and Egypt. From this aspect we can see that direct negotiations between Israel and Hamas never occurred - certainly not on an official basis. There have been unofficial direct contacts between Israel and Hamas but this was played down.

If we see this prisoner exchange as a catalyst for peace negotiations and an improvement in the atmosphere between the two sides, the chances are very remote.

This exchange has raised the support for Hamas substantially at the expense of President Mahmoud Abbas. Even the latter’s declaration of a Palestinian state is on the back burner. While his popularity rose for a short period, it is not so today. Hamas has come out of the cupboard in Ramallah. This was never the case before as we saw from scenes of Hamas flags there.

The release of Gilad Shalit is a great morale booster for future IDF ballotees and their parents as well as the citizens of Israel. They will see that Israel will never abandon a single soldier in captivity. It is unfortunate that Gilad sat for such a long time in captivity until his release. Perhaps this could have been achieved earlier. Anyway, it is better late than never.
Enhanced by Zemanta