Israeli government approves deal to swap over 1,000 prisoners for GILAD SHALIT

Last night, the Israeli government approved a deal to bring Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit back home after 1,935 days in captivity. Shalit was abducted in a cross-border attack by Gaza militants on June 25th, 2006. He has since been held incommunicado and his abductors – the terror militia Hamas – has been holding him for over Five years and Four months against all international humanitarian norms and laws. In fact, in 2009 Israel had to release a few dozens low-level terrorists just to receive confirmation for his well being. But tonight, after over 5 years in captivity, Israel and Hamas have agreed that for one Israeli soldier, Israeli will release 1,027 terrorists.

Click here to read more about Shalit’s abduction, the campaign for his release and more about Hamas’ treatment and complete disregard for all international humanitarian laws.

The details of the deal would be released shortly and will begin its’ execution in a matter of days. Israel is obligated to post the full list of prisoners who will be release for the public’s view beforehand. That is in order to inform families of terror victims that their loved ones’ heinous killers would be released. Some of them will attempt to appeal to Israel’s supreme court against the swap deal, however the Supreme court has a policy of not intervening in such decisions. The deal is expected to be executed in two parts – next week 450 terrorists will be release in the span of two months, another 550 terrorists.

Make no mistake – the first batch of terrorists are despicable murders responsible for the deaths of dozens of innocent Israelis (men, women and children alike). They attempt to disguise their acts of slaughter and murder as nothing short of fighting for freedom. That is an absurd and a vicious lie – when giving the choice to talk or dialogue, they’ve chosen (and some declare they still do) war and bloodshed. They’re problem is with the very existence of Israel and not with its’ borders and they perceive all Israeli people to be valid targets. The only thing they are fighting for is death, not freedom.

There are many downfalls that can be seen for this deal –

  • The statistics show that in every past prisoners swap Israel has made, over 60% of those released returned to the ways of terror.
  • This is a huge boost to Israel’s rival Hamas at the expanse of the more moderate fraction in the Palestinian leadership, Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian unity agreement declared elections – this definitely strengths the extremists and weakens the moderates.
  • In accordance with the last point, this act sends a message to the Palestinians that strength and terror against Israel are helpful. As with the unilateral Israel withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 (that boosted Hamas who received most of the votes in the following years’ elections), this strengthen those opting for jihad and terror and oppose dialogue.
  • Another message this swap deal sends is that cross-border attacks, abductions and ignoring all International Laws help the fights “against Israel”. This is an incentive for repeated abductions of Israeli soldiers.
  • This can be perceived as somewhat of an injustice. Murders captured, trialed and sentenced to pay for their crime are sent home scot-free while the people who lost their loved ones get to see them return to their lives as if they did nothing.
  • Some of the prisoners would not be returned to Palestinian territories but instead would be exiled due to fear of their return to terror activities. They will be free to act in European countries against Israel, telling a complete distorted half-side and half-truth of the story. In a time where Israel is facing a disproportional campaign against its’ legitimacy to exist and protect its’ citizens from terror and death, it basically sends dozens and hundreds into the battle fields against it.

And the downfalls don’t stop here. Yet Israel’s public supports this deal in an overwhelming majority (close to 90% support according to most polls) and that Israeli government approved it. Why? Because unlike its’ enemies and those calling to destroy and kill its’ people blindly, unlike those who celebrate their child death by blowing himself up in a crowded place, Israel is a country that cherishes LIFE, even that of a single soldier, rather than cheering for his death!

FROM THE CHANGE IN THE ARAB WORLD TO THE CHANGE IN HAMAS’ STAND

This deal was made possible due to a change in Hamas’ demands. For the past five years, Hamas has been relentless in his demands and accused Israel for having the crazy demands when it refused to release the most dangerous of terrorists. Some of them, who are not included in this deal, serve dozens of consecutive life sentences, one for each life they took. Some make it above 60 life sentences. One whose trial is still in progress is expected to receive over 100. Hamas stood by his refusal to allow any contact between Shalit and his family and any visits of the Red Cross to Gilad Shalit. It demanded the heaviest of terrorists – even as Israel became more and more flexible and continued to change its’ definition of “terrorists with blood on their hands” (today only referring to those who are responsible for a 2-digit death total), those it refuses to release, Hamas was completely unwilling to change his demands. It did not worry for its’ prisoners well being in the Israeli prisons (where they get visitation rights to both the Red Cross and their families, and the chance to study and get a Bachelor’s degree at the expanse of the Israeli taxpayers dime), but for its’ terror infrastructure – it wanted and needed the heaviest of terrorists.

For the past five years, those calling the shots were Hamas’ leadership residing in Damascus, Syria. But things in the Middle East have begun to change. The fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the six month long bloodshed in Syria has taken its’ tool. Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has been killings hundreds of people not belonging to his Allawi minority, meaning mostly the “Muslim Brothers” – Hamas’ ethnicity. The instability of the government in Syria as well as Hamas refusal to publicity support al-Assad brought forth two major changes: First, it weakened Hamas’ leadership in Syria and strengthened its’ leaders in the Gaza Strip, and Second it brought a serious cash-shortage to Hamas because its’ main supporters – Syria and Iran – stopped founding it. With even the US declaring just a few weeks ago that Hamas makes it impossible to try and aid the people of Gaza and pulling the plug on their aid, Hamas’s strength began to slip. Moreover, the leadership of Hamas is looking to relocate from Syria and the suddenly warmed ties with the new Egyptians government makes Egypt a tempting location. And Egypt is trying to become a major force and player in the region, strengthening itself after the fall of Mubarak. This gives Hams an incentive to be more flexible.

Moreover, Hamas itself is getting weak. With the Arab Spring around them and the life in Gaza still somewhat difficult even after Israel and Egypt eased their blockade separately in the past 18 months, Hamas has reasons to fear for its’ survival. That is amplified by the last round of violence in August – Hamas is still licking the wounds of Israel’s retaliation to its’ years of terror on Israel’s south and has attempted to maintain a ceasefire with Israel. It is cornered by much more extreme militias in the Gaza Strip, demanding harsher jihad and war against Israel. They are responsible for the continued barrage of rockets against Israel (just LAST NIGHT a rocket was fired at Israel!) and threaten to overthrow Hamas. It’s refusal to acknowledge Israel, its’ rhetoric for jihad against Israel and to destroy it completely, the blockade that Israel has imposed because of said rhetoric and terror actions, and the continued status quo weaken Hamas. Especially when the moderate fraction receives global recognition and is perceived as somewhat of hero, fighting against the United States and Obama and making his power play at the United Nations.

All these and then some made Hamas make a few meaningful concessions for the first time. This enabled the deal. Israel always wanted to release Shalit – this government and the previous one negotiated with Hamas but were unable to accept the harsh terms it presented.

Make no mistake again – THIS IS NOT AN EASY DEAL FOR ISRAEL — It is still 1,000 terrorists, murders and those who aided them, sent free as if the lives they took in such horrible ways are not important. This is because of Israel’s values and principals, its’ love for life and dialogue and deep desire to peace, that it is willing to take the chance, to make this deal, and not forsake one soldier who was unprovoked and attacked, wounded, abducted and kept so viciously and horribly for so long.

THE CHALLANGES ISRAEL FACES NOW

Spin it anyway you want to, ultimately this is act of saving one single life brings many dangers to Israel. It puts its’ soldiers and citizens in grave life-threatening danger. Hamas’ willing to not include the deadliest of terrorists in this deal, does not mean deadly and dangerous terrorists will not be released. On the contrary, as I’ve said above, the first batch of 450 terrorists would be of the despicable kind. Those opposing the swap deal, among them families and friends of victims of terror, warn of the outcome. Personally, as someone who frequently rides buses in populated areas in Israel, I cannot help but feel some fear and dread for the future. Israel’s top security personnel supported this deal and claimed it’ll be plausible to handle the flood of terrorists into the West Bank and Gaza due to Hamas’ flexibility at all. But the dangers are still very much real.

As I’ve stated, statistics show how over 50% (close to 60% and some claim above it) of Palestinian terrorists return to devote their lives to death and murder. In his speeches regarding a possible swap deal with Hamas in the past years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu iterated numbers and names of how swap deals of the last decade brought more terror and death. Israel’s security forces would have to work hard to prevent terror, and in such quantities, from making a massive comeback. If history is any indication, it will not only be hard, it might even be impossible. Hamas itself was created due to a swap deal – most of its’ established and leaders were already in Israeli prisons but were released in 1985 in a swap deal.

But the biggest challenge Israel now faces is that of moral – by saving Gilad Shalit’s life, by saving him from captivity, Israel is not only facing a changing Middle East around it, it is also facing a change in power to its’ partners in conflict. Though it is hard for me personally to say, Abbas and Fatah have had intentions to truly make concessions and end this conflict, I can say that they have made a one important startling realization – the choice to abandon terror activity actively (though they still cherish, honor and refuse to consider it immoral or inhuman) and their attempts to collaborate with Israel’s security forces to prevent terror (though it doesn’t always succeed…) brought forth one of the calmest and most stable atmosphere in years. Though they still operate in matters of terror against Israel in unilateral moves and such in stead of willing to sit down and talk and negotiate (what will force them to make concessions on the most difficult of issues – something they don’t seem willing to do), their choice of abandoning death and bloodshed in even somewhat admirable. Their continued rhetoric of “terror unhelpful to the Palestinian cause today” changed them from the people dancing in the streets on 9/11 to being warmly embraced and accepted by almost every country and entity in the international community. But now they might be weakened – the ways of terror, of force, might seem appealing to the public again and those supporting Hamas could be strengthen. This is a huge boost to the moral of Palestinians (honestly, it pains me to say this, but yes, as Abbas statement from last night reveals, they celebrate the release of murders and not outcast them, once again proving they simply consider terror unhelpful but not in any way inhumane. They still grow a society that cherishes terror and death, even if its’ unappealing today as it was six-seven-eight and so one years ago). This is also a huge boost for terror and the extremists. This could mean a serious shift in power – from those attempting to stop terror to those welcoming it with open arms.

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