By Vic Rosenthal
On 25 June 2006, several well-armed Hamas terrorists emerged from an almost ½ mile long tunnel they had dug near the Keren Shalom border crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza strip. The tunnel opened 350m inside Israeli territory, making it possible to attack a nearby IDF position from the rear. Two Israelis were killed and five wounded; Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, was lightly wounded and was dragged back across the border.
Although Israeli troops entered Gaza several times in attempts to rescue him, he was not found. He is thought to be in good health; he was treated by Palestinian doctors and has communicated with his family. The assumption is that he is being held to obtain the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. It’s generally thought that although he is somewhere in Gaza, he’s under the control of Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas ‘military wing’ leader who is based in Damascus. While there have been negotiations with elements in Hamas thorough various channels, no agreement has yet been reached. In the past few days Olmert has made concessions that may be the beginning of some kind of deal.
Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit, has been unhappy with the government from day one, from the incompetence that allowed the attack to take place to the inability to make a deal. He has recently said that he would back the release of a ‘limited number’ of prisoners in return for his son.
Although I can’t truly know how he feels, as the father of three children who served in the IDF, I can imagine only too well. Nevertheless, there must be no prisoners released. It’s inconceivable that this tactic can be allowed to succeed, for there will then be no end of similar actions. And the prisoners themselves are terrorists, many of them held for multiple murders of Israeli civilians. Israeli security personnel were killed in operations to arrest them.
The only correct response to Hamas must be an ultimatum to release Gilad within hours or suffer a massive attack on their leaders (including Meshaal in Syria) and their infrastructure and population in Gaza and elsewhere. Yes, I said ‘population’. Israel may have already lost credibility to the point that the ultimatum by itself will not free him, and it will have to be carried out. But in the long run, the amount of death and destruction on both sides will be reduced by getting credibility back.