Gilad Shalit, Five Years
Almost five years ago, on June 25th 2006, terrorists affiliated with Hamas invaded Israel through an underground tunnel, killed two Israeli soldiers and made away with the third. Since then, Gilad Shalit has become an international celebrity – and yet his plight, and price for his eventual release, means very different things to different people. While Shalit’s family is dealing with an incredible personal tragedy, for the outside world Shalit is a symbol – and a tool.
For the victims of Palestinian terrorism in Israel and worldwide, the Shalit deal will be a gruesome reminder that, in the absence of a death penalty, murderers of their loved ones will, in the end, walk out of the jails of the Jewish State in all their beastly glory, to be received as heroes by the adoring Palestinian Arab population. It will expose yet again the travesty and the emptiness of Israeli “justice,” where the ultimate crime ultimately pays off.
In fairness, it’s not as if the terrorist prisoners are suffering within the prison walls. Incarceration as punishment is a liberal idea, based on the belief that nothing is as oppressive to human nature as the curtailing of basic freedoms. Since the Palestinian terrorists are products not of the culture of freedom but of hate, for them the failure of the infidels to exact blood for blood is just another proof of righteousness of their cause. Moreover, Israeli “human rights” organizations have repeatedly defeated all attempts to make lives of those murderers of Jews any harder. To kill Jewish civilians, and then to live a good life in the company of your peers, paid for by the Jews, while waiting for eventual release and rapturous welcome – isn’t that an ultimate vindication?
For the Israeli Left, whose cup of ideas is virtually empty nowadays, Shalit’s predicament is a useful club to bash the government with. Being in no danger of assuming power and its responsibilities, the Left is happy to capitalize on Shalit’s family suffering, serving as an amplifier for their understandable yet unacceptable demands to pay any price for the life of their child. Shielding the jailed terrorists with one hand from a retribution that could alter the calculations of Hamas, the Left is pouring money and support into useless pageants, marches, demonstrations and “concerts of solidarity,” the purpose of which is but one – to embarrass and pressure the Israeli government, the only true object of their hate. For all uses and purposes, the Israeli Left is conspiring with Hamas to weaken the Israeli negotiating position, which only serves to delay Shalit’s release even further.
For the leadership of Hamas itself, Gilad Shalit had proven to be an incredibly effective human shield. Despite being just as vile bunch of Islamofascists and anti-Semites as their “militant” brethren, no leading member of Hamas’ “political wing” and “government” in Gaza was harmed by Israel since Shalit’s abduction. Even during operation “Cast Lead” the Israeli military did not attack the building where Ismail Haniyeh was staying with his “cabinet.” So long as Israel agrees to play this transparent shell game – personal safety for Hamas leaders during the negotiations – those negotiations are doomed to be permanent and fruitless. Time and again, once Hamas felt that Israel was about to agree to another round of outrageous demands, it has upped the ante, come up with new requests and refused to budge an inch in giving in to Israeli red lines. Today, with Egypt under new management firmly in Hamas’ corner, and no meaningful international punishment for inhumane and illegal treatment of war prisoner forthcoming, there is absolutely no rush. To give up such a great leverage, Hamas would want guarantees of its safety and retention of power. Happily for them, there are others ready to meet them more than half-way.
For the feckless French and German governments, who have invested themselves into the negotiations, finding the solution to Shalit problem is not a “humanitarian mission,” but a gateway to gradual legitimization of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, possibly even in the West Bank. If Hamas will release Shalit and keep the border with Israel quiet, its genocidal charter, its war crimes against the Jewish civilians, its links to Iran and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood can be made to go away. In the Muslim-infested Europe, nothing says “re-election” as a picture taken with the Islamofascist leaders in the Gaza City, all smiles and handshakes and “humanitarian” aid.
The American position is no different. Using its moral leverage when it is eminently appropriate, Washington could have reminded Israel that, if it wishes to be counted among American allies in the global war against Islamist terrorism, it cannot break ranks on the most important principle – no negotiations with hostage-takers. America could have asked Israel, how the Jewish state would react if the US would liberate a Jew-killer to get some of its soldiers back from savage captivity. Yet, the Obama administration is keeping its mouth shut and its fingers crossed, hoping that the closure of the Shalit file will extricate them from the rhetorical quagmire the president has entered with his pronouncements that, on the one hand, Israel cannot be expected to talk to Hamas, yet on the other hand talks must resume.
It is not far-fetched to assume that if the Europeans will begin direct contacts with Hamas, the Obama administration will not be far behind. After all, if the new face of the “Jewish outreach”, NSC director for the Middle East Steven Simon, is an enthusiastic promoter of a dialogue with Hezbollah – an arguably much more dangerous Iranian offshoot with gallons more American blood on its hands – then how hard could it be to sit down with Palestinian Islamists, who keep the peace and make the right noises about “statehood in 1967 borders”? The real nugget could be Hamas’ denunciation of the killing of Bin Laden, but hey, nobody’s perfect, right?
For the Israeli government, current as previous, Shalit’s file is a predicament from Hell. Despite having an institutional responsibility both for Shalit’s abduction and for the lack of actionable intelligence that could have made an attempt to liberate him possible, Israeli generals have not only abandoned the political leadership to withstand the growing impatience of the public, they’ve even joined the chorus of those demanding “unconditional release.” The former Chief of Staff of the IDF Gabi Ashkenazi made public statements to that effect while in uniform, and instead of hanging his head in shame for a miserable failure to locate a soldier hidden only miles from Israel’s border, went on to accept honorary degrees and encourage rumors of his forthcoming political career.
It is up to Israeli political leadership to hold what remains of the Israeli center, the few ultimate red lines, chief of which is the deportation of all released terrorists either to Gaza Strip or abroad. This is perhaps the only measure that can prevent an explosion of terrorism in the West Bank and Israel proper, as has always happened after previous such “exchanges.” Although, bombarded by the “any price” message from every corner, polls show that two-thirds of Israelis demand to bring Shalit home immediately and at whatever cost, they will hold their government accountable if the warnings of the intelligence community, both of Mossad and of SHABAK, will come true with renewed bloodshed on the Israeli streets.
Finally, for those good people abroad, who think that waving Shalit’s portraits at the mass rallies helps Israel, this doesn’t mean that they should stop. What they need, is to add a very simple slogan to their demonstrations, to make certain they help the right side. It should be: “This far, and no further.”