Voice of Palestine radio quoted Egyptian sources on Saturday as saying that in an unusual move, security around the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been beefed up, speculating that the added security could signal the imminent transfer of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit from Gaza into Egypt…
The sources also said that when Shalit is transferred from Gaza into Egypt he will be examined by Red Cross medical teams as well as Israeli and French teams, in addition to the German mediator. Israel will simultaneously free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, the sources said…
Senior Hamas officials said Thursday that the talks had hit a snag over some of the Palestinian prisoners the Islamic group wants freed, including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa’adat…
Hamas is demanding, among other the prisoners, the release of Ibrahim Hamad, head of the group’s military wing in the Ramallah area, Abdallah Barghouti, a bomb engineer, and Abbas a-Sayad, the Hamas head in Tul Karm who planned the 2002 massacre during Passover in Netanya’s Park Hotel. These three prisoners are considered responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israelis.
Other names mentioned in the Arab media are Hassan Salame, who was involved in planning the suicide bus bombings in the mid ’90s, and Jamal Abu al-Hijla, head of Hamas in Jenin, who was convicted of taking part in planning and funding several suicide attacks during the second intifada.
Unfortunately, Israel has close to zero leverage. Hamas has held Shalit for three years and can keep him for as long as it likes. The Netanyahu government is under tremendous pressure from the media and others to get Shalit out no matter how much it costs. Although I’m sure the families of the terrorists would like them released, Hamas can afford to be far less responsive to its public than Israel! And of course the conditions under which Palestinian prisoners are held in Israel are far better than those faced by Shalit.
So my guess is that if the exchange actually takes place, the price will be whatever Hamas is asking. Some of the freed terrorists will undoubtedly go on to kill Israelis.
Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, recently said that there should be no negotiations with kidnappers, but that the policy couldn’t be changed while Shalit was in captivity. This is nonsense, since tomorrow they will capture another Israeli soldier or civilian.
Here’s my program to end this:
- Institute the death penalty for convicted terrorist murderers. Then at least these will not be eligible for ‘exchange’.
- Do not negotiate with kidnappers.
- Institute reprisals against the leadership when Israelis are harmed. See if the big shots “love death more than we love life”.
To rescue Shalit, immediately cut off all supplies, water and electricity to Gaza until he is released. This isn’t ‘collective punishment’ because all Hamas has to do to end it is to free Shalit, whom they are holding in contravention of (real) international law. If they hurt him, see no. 3 above.
Just do it — anyone who objects will have to argue that Hamas is justified in holding Shalit. Even the Norwegians can’t say that.