Monday, October 17, 2011

Mixed feelings on Schalit

The majority of Israelis have mixed feelings over the impending prisoner exchange between Gilad Schalit, held in captivity by Hamas for 5 years in solitary confinement, and ca. 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. The majority definitely want Schalit to be released, but the question is at what price. For many the price seems too high, since the ratio is not only 1,000:1 but many of the1,000 Palestinians being released are arch-terrorists who had been convicted in court of the murder of Israelis. In fact ca. 300 of them to be released in the first round at the same time as Schalit are in the category of having "blood on their hands," a group that the Israeli Government has in the past declared that it would never release or exchange. But, as some members of the Cabinet who voted for the exchange have said, they felt that this was the last chance to release Schalit, and so had to vote for the deal but with a heavy heart. Some Israelis who have lost loved ones to the murderers being released are antagonistic to the deal, for example a man who lost all his family in the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem in 2001, defaced the Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv in protest against the deal. Many clear-headed Israelis see this deal as sentiment overtaking reason. There is little doubt that a percentage of those being released will return to terrorism and kill more Israelis. At least some of the terrorist leaders, Marwan Barghouti and Sa'adi of the PFLP are not included. So is it a good deal?

The advantage for Israel and for its Government are clear, they get Schalit back and can play the heroes, as well as removing this impedient to their freedom of action over Gaza. For Hamas, the deal is a victory of a kind, since it catapults them into the news as the saviours of the Palestinian prisoners and gives them a huge advantage over Pres. Abbas of the PA, who is attempting to obtain unilateral statehood for Palestine, but so far without success. It is also a victory for Egypt which has brokered the deal, following attempts by France (of which Schalit is also a citizen), Germany, Qatar and Turkey. In the case of Turkey, it has been said that the deal will please Turkish PM Erdogan. The exchange will take place at the Egyptian border and Israel has pledged not to attack any of the prisoners released unless they return to terrorism. In order to check this it has been suggested that all prisoners released should be given a secret electronic tag so that they can be followed whereever they go.

Under the circumstances, this may have been the best deal that Israel could get and although in the past such unbalanced exchanges have been seen to have been mistakes, one can only hope that in this case the results will not be too bad. The ratio of 1,000: 1 indicates the general value of Palestinians vs. Israelis. But, the IDF must take greater measures to prevent future kidnappings. Perhaps all IDF soldiers should also be given an electronic tag so that their whereabouts can be monitored at all times. The problem is that this disproportionate exchange means that there will be a premium by Hamas and other terrorists to kidnap Israeli soldiers in the future.


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