Israel missed the boat for Gilead Shalit’s release as Hamas grew stronger
Hamas is no longer under pressure to conclude a deal with Israel for the release of Gilead Shalit, 22, the kidnapped Israeli soldier spending a third birthday in Gazan captivity.
Sunday, Aug. 31, a special ministerial committee will convene in Jerusalem to draw up a fresh list of jailed Palestinian terrorists on offer for his return. It is headed by vice premier Haim Ramon.
What they decide matters little. Hamas holds all the cards. Even if they recommend the release of all the 450 hard-core prisoners demanded by Hamas for the past two years, including the five-time terrorist murderer Marwan Barghouti and the mastermind of an Israeli minister’s assassination, it must be said that Hamas is no longer listening.
In fact, Shalit’s chances of freedom have receded because the Olmert government has let the fundamentalist Islamic group dedicated to Israel’s destruction grow strong – with the help of Iran and Syria, since its seizure of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak repeatedly promised a military operation to halt the long Palestinian missile campaign from Gaza against Israeli civilians, curb Hamas’ mounting strength and crush its expanding arsenal.
He never delivered.
Instead, Israel last year accepted a ceasefire with the terrorist group, indirectly negotiated through Egypt. Even the Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza is full of holes.
Hamas therefore feels no compulsion to deal with Israel. Shalit’s situation has worsened in inverse proportion to the Palestinian terrorists’ enhanced leverage.
1. The Israeli soldier is no longer held hostage for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners; he has become an instrument of extortion and coercion, both to hold Israel’s hand against a military operation and against the Arab governments seeking to force Hamas into a power-sharing accord with its rival, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah.
Hamas totally rejects the Saudi-Egyptian 11-plan plan for the Gaza Strip to revert to Egyptian military rule under a power-sharing deal that would extend Hamas control to the West Bank.
For debkafile‘s Exclusive Report on the plan click HERE
Hamas is demanding first that Abbas’ Palestinian Authority recognize its Gaza government and stop hounding its operatives on the West Bank.
2. The prisoner swap with Hizballah earlier this year showed Shalit’s captors that Israel was willing to satisfy every last demand made by the Lebanese Shiite group without even discovering if the two Israeli abductees were alive or dead.
In the event, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were handed back in coffins, two years after they were kidnapped on the Israeli side the Lebanese border. Gilead Shalit’s life is therefore in great danger as Hamas turns the screw on Israel.
3. Hamas, far from being feared and reviled by mainstream Arab governments, has become the object of pursuit. Jordan’s Abdullah is now vying with Cairo for Hamas’ favors. debkafile‘s Middle East sources disclose that, in obedience to royal directives, Jordanian military intelligence chiefs recently traveled to Damascus to invite Hamas’ hardline political leaders to return to Amman and run their regional operations from the Hashemite Kingdom.
Cairo and Jerusalem have therefore been upstaged as Hamas’ opposite numbers in the Shalit negotiations and lost their clout.
Hamas is in a position to hold out as long as it likes.
King Abdullah, disappointed in his expectation that his pro-American orientation – especially the support he gave to the US-led war in Iraq – would give his kingdom a boost and extra security, has reverted to the policy of his father, Hussein, who entered into pacts with his enemies. He is quietly establishing good relations with Syria, Hizballah and now courting Hamas, whose leadership King Hussein expelled from the kingdom in 1999 as a threat to the throne.