Gilead Shalit’s family protest has wrong address
Five years after the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas in a cross-border raid from Gaza, members of his family Saturday, June 25, chained themselves to the fence outside the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence in support of their desperate demand to pay any price for his release.
debkafile's sourcesreport that their protest is entirely misdirected: Even if Israel bowed to every Hamas demand, this Palestinian terrorist organization, backed by Iran and Syria, would come back with a new condition because they have no intention of letting this prime asset out of their hands.
Netanyahu's predecessors and Israel defense ministers have run foul of this cruel reality. One well-intentioned mediator after another – German, Norwegian, Palestinian, Egyptian and French – has run into this same blank wall.
The Shalit family knows the truth. So why do they maintain the pretense that the prime minister has the power to rescue their son from captivity – if he wished – and let themselves to be exploited by a flock of "artists," political hacks and other attention-seekers who show solidarity by chaining themselves to fences outside their own high-end homes ready for photo-ops?
Why don't they focus their agonizing protests on the perpetrators of their tragedy and stage demonstrations outside Islamic and Arab institutions around the world which support the Palestinian fundamentalists ruling the Gaza Strip. They might at least raise enough international pressure to alleviate the inhumanity of the conditions in which Gilead Shalit's is held –no access to Red Cross or human rights organizations, no communication with the outside world including his family and no sign of life – violations of every standard of international law and decency from the word go.
Shalit was never a prisoner of war in any legal sense. He was not captured in battle but kidnapped by a terrorist gang made up of Hamas and Iranian and Hizballah agents, which raided Israel in a coordinated cross-border surprise attack from the Gaza Strip.
Even if Hamas' military chief Mohammed al-Jabry decided to let him go, he would be obliged to obtain permission from Iran, Syria and Hizballah.
Netanyahu's predecessor Ehud Olmert missed the only real chance of breaking the missing soldier out of prison by military means. In the third week of January, at the end of Israel's Cast Lead operation against Hamas missile attacks, a group of commanders asked for a 48- hour extension in order to capture Hamas leaders and hold them as ransom for Shalit – or least as chips for serious bargaining. Olmert and the chief of staff at the time, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, refused the request.
From the start, Hamas itself has never presented a uniform front on the fate of Shalit. It is not as though the Palestinian terrorist group has ever agreed to negotiate with Israel or even maintain an orderly bargaining channel. In some cases, as the various mediators discovered, a Hamas representation would come forward with a proposal, only to disappear later. They would all claim they had no idea who is holding the Israeli soldier and were just messengers. In the past five years, new Israeli offers have mostly been greeted with long silence.
Hamas leaders only come to life when a new political opportunity presents itself.
A month ago, for instance, elements of Egyptian intelligence announced they had brokered a unity pact between the rival Palestinian Fatah and Hamas factions, following which they opened the Rafah crossing between Sinai and the Gaza Strip on May 28. Cairo then informed Washington and Jerusalem that the release of Gilead Shalit was one of Egypt's the conditions for continuing the process. Hamas' Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshaal had been so informed, they said, and accepted this condition.
In less than two weeks, the unity pact had dissolved along with all the promises which accompanied it, including the Israeli soldier's release.
His parents Noam and Aviva Shalit refuse to be concerned by any setbacks, maintaining that their government is responsible for its soldiers and therefore responsible for recovering their son. They also present a horrific picture of his incarceration in a dark underground cell, which no intelligence source has been able to confirm.
Since all avenues of negotiations have been blocked, the only way left to rescue the soldier would seem to be a military operation. Here, it must be admitted, that Israeli intelligence has failed to discover his place of confinement.
Still, a series of commando raids could be mounted to capture Hamas's political and military leaders and carry them into Israel as hostages against Shalit's release.
Such operations are never smooth going: They would entail the loss of Israeli soldiers' lives and casualties among Palestinian civilians with no guarantee of success. And finally, no one can be sure how Gilead Shalit would be treated or come out of such a raid.
That is the only option open today to the Israeli prime minister – not whether or not to release 1,000 or more Palestinian terrorists. That is not on the table. Netanyahu can either send the army into the Gaza Strip for an operation which the captive soldier may or may not survive or let the propaganda machine manipulating his desperate family continue to misrepresent him as refusing to pay the price for releasing their son.