Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was captured in a cross border raid by Palestinian militants on 25 June 2006, and has been held hostage by the Hamas ever since. There have been numerous diplomatic efforts to negotiate an exchange between Israel and the Hamas: hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for Gilad's release. Israel has been stating that no prisoner with blood on their hands shall be released, a condition that Israel will not breach. A ministerial committee has suggested changing the definition to cover only those who personally killed Israelis, and not the terrorists who masterminded the attacks. The change in definition is meant to provide Israel with more flexibility for releasing senior terrorists in exchange for the kidnapped IDF soldier. The committee met this week, spurred up controversies and concluded with no result. Israeli political entities stated that the main instigator for the current conversation on the modification of the criterion results from a recent Hamas presentation of a new solution to the Shalit case – an exchange of 450 prisoners instead of the 1000 previously requested.
Journalist Daniel Bloch writes in his blog:
I am not envious of the person who decides on the prisoner exchange deal for Gilad Shalit. I would not want to take the prime minister's place… Are we placing numerous people in future danger by saving one?
It must be clear to our leaders that we must seek every possibility for diplomacy, even if the other side is considered inappropriate or unsuitable for negotiations. The only question we should worry about is whether the other side can fulfill its commitment.
Abba Eban‘s well known quote states that “the Arabs did not miss out any opportunity to miss out on all the opportunities“. While this saying holds truth, it also relates to us. Ever since 1967 we have missed out on many opportunities. Are we continuing in our disregard today?
Through the smoke screen of denial, I feel that this time Israel is not missing out on a chance to negotiate with the Hamas, not even an indirectly… If the negotiations exist, I praise them. It is true that with cease fire agreements there is high risk, but it is preferable to take the risk of negotiation over that of the battlefield.
Pinhas Inbari describes the different facets emerging from a possible deal between Hamas and Israel, in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs blog:
Israel is willing to release a massive amount of prisoners, including Barghouti, and is beginning to blur the criterion for releasing prisoners with blood on their hands as a gesture to Abu Mazen.
The Hamas is in an unclear situation, proving its rule in Gaza and becoming stronger with each passing day. On the other hand, Hamas understands it needs to provide its supporters with some comfort, especially seeing the suffering of the Palestinian people. For this reason, Hamas is willing to accept Barghouti's release and to deal with him after he is free. Without the severe state of the Palestinian people, Hamas would object to the release of Barghouti.
Bottom line – there seems to be a common point of intersection between the desires of Hamas, Israel and Egypt. Abu Mazen's does not play a significant role as he will not be able to object a deal which will include Barghouti's release. However, it is too early to know if this intersection of desires will be enough for closing a deal.
While various Israeli bloggers have been presenting their wishes for Gilad Shalit's safety and hopes for his return, Eldad, an IDF solder, writes about his distrust towards the government and the way it is dealing with the abduction case in his blog:
The direct result from the Gilad Shalit incident is that as a fighter in the IDF I do not feel secure.
I have no sense of trust for the system that is supposed to protect its soldiers for any price, not ruling out killing your fellow soldier when that is the only way to prevent their abduction. Is there a guarantor? if I find myself taken by the Hamas will any of the high level officers in this country even bat an eyelid?