Tuesday night, Oct. 10, the Israeli cabinet by a majority of 26 approved the accord with Hamas for the release of Gilead Shalit. Three ministers opposed the deal – Avigdor Lieberman and Uzzi Landau of the Israel Beteinu party and Moshe Yaalon of Likud.
The Israeli soldier will gain his freedom – probably next week – after he was hidden by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for more than five years. Israel will hand over 1,027 Palestinian terrorists, cutting short the life sentences of 280 mass murderers responsible for hundreds of Israeli deaths. Among them are Israeli Arabs and East Jerusalem residents convicted on charges of terrorismn as concessions made by Israel to clinch the deal. Of the 110 allowed to return to the West Bank and Jerusalem, 55 are members of Hamas.
All Israel's security chiefs, from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Shin Bet Director Yoram Cohen and Mossad head Tamir Pardo, approved the exchange, which requires Israel to pay the highest price every to secure the release of one soldier. It means that hundreds of arch-terrorists, high-profile activists, will be turned loose, although most face deportation overseas, some to Turkey, or to the Gaza Strip.
None is immune from punishment should they repeat their crimes, the Shin Bet Director promised. However, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, who signed the exchange deal, vowed to continue efforts to kidnap Israeli soldiers to obtain the release of more prisoners. The Shalit abduction was not the last, he said: "We got 1,027 out of jail and we'll recover the remaining 8,000 too."
He was strongly echoed by radical Palestinian leaders in the Gaza Strip as they prepared a heroes' welcome for the homecoming terrorists.
The full list is due to be published Sunday, Oct. 16 on the Internet. Israelis wishing to appeal against the releases, such as the bereaved families of terrorist victims, will have 48 hours to do so. But Netanyahu's acceptance of the deal is widely popular and unlikely to be challenged.
Aviva and Noam Shalit, parents of the kidnapped soldier, are finally folding their tent opposite the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem after a year and two months of occupancy and five years of ceaseless campaigning across the world. They swore they would not go home and return to their lives until they could take Gilad with them.
The Egyptian media in hailing the prisoner exchange highlighted the praise Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu heaped on their government and security services for their key role in brokering the deal.
According to an unconfirmed report, the American-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel held in Egypt on charges of spying and incitement to burn government buildings is included in the prisoner package in return for the release of more than 80 Egyptians in Israeli jails, most of them security offendors.