Capturing and detaining Gilad Shalit in a Hamas hellhole for four years serves no purpose. Clearly, Hamas has its own agenda to leverage this high-profile prisoner. Israel also has her own highly politicized (and often criticized) stance regarding negotiating for hostages.
But when will Hamas release Gilad? The deal struck with Hamas, Israel, Egypt and marginalized partner Abbas is now in peril of ever panning out, has taken far too long and is lopsided to boot.
The fact remains that while the Israeli government released 20 female Palestinian prisoners in the initial phase, Hamas released a video to prove Gilad is alive. Seem unfair? A video in exchange for 20 female detainees accused of crimes ranging from plotting suicide attacks to carrying concealed weapons? While viewing the video of Gilad reading a September 14th Falasteen newspaper aloud is a huge relief it’s not the same as seeing him eat and drink in his family’s kitchen. I’m sure his family would agree. Did I note that he looked a bit thin? Human rights violations, anyone? Prior to capture, Gilad looked healthy.
The second phase of the release plan that Israel negotiated between Hamas, Egypt and Abbas involves releasing hundreds of prisoners in exchange for Shalit’s transfer to Egypt. Let me vent how this exchange is a tad lopsided: hundreds for one. Not to lessen his speedy return (which we are all hoping and praying for) but the sincerity of the swap is akin to letting the neighborhood bully trade one piece of your favorite candy while he giggles and hijacks your entire stash. Acts like this are no different from pirating efforts in Somalia. It’s all about invoking fear and terror whether we’re talking millions of dollars in ransom for wealthy yachters, workers of oil companies like Chevron or Shell or the swap of one high-profile Israeli soldier for hundreds of prisoners.
BTW: the third phase is actually the phase where Hamas is supposed to release Shalit. In this major release, Israel is to release its heavy-duty detainees (in other words the most violent and serious offenders) along with a huge group of additional Palestinian prisoners.
Imagine this scenario where 20 female Palestinian prisoners, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and heavy-duty detainees all in exchange for one: Shalit. Perhaps a bit uneven? Most would agree. Why not release Gilad in the first phase? Or how about the second? Why wait four years to concoct such a haphazard plan that resembles an awful three-act play? Many have sat through one and even walked out disheartened. Obviously, we don’t want that. We simply want to revive this deadlocked deal and bring Gilad home where he can once again enjoy his family, his friends and his life.
In any case, the stalled swap seems risky in the third phase. How can we trust Hamas? Swaps like this have proved lethal before with Israel on the losing end. Take the 1985 swap where Israel traded 1,150 Arab prisonersâ€”some of whom did a 360 and hailed fire againâ€”for three soldiers captured during the Lebanon occupation. Experts believe paying off kidnappers only increases future abductions.
With no clear timeline of when we can expect to see Gilad is there reason to think a kidnapping, terrorist organization who has gained so much mileage out of his capture (and has clearly underfed him) will really hand him over. Ya think?
Seem hopeless? Not a chance. There are a number of ways to help. Continue pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Government to negotiate a swift and fail-proof release. Continue spreading the word to influential officials of our own governments. And keep Gilad’s name and rescue efforts alive through blogs, tweets and thoughts and prayers (One group has already created a blog on Gilad’s behalf).