Shalit deal more extortion than reconciliation
After 1,940 days as a prisoner of Hamas, Gilad Shalit, pale, gaunt and hollow-eyed, blinked anxiously during an Egyptian television interview Tuesday.
Asked by his Egyptian interviewer if he would work to help secure the release of 5,000 Palestinian prisoners still held in Israeli jails, Sergeant-Major Shalit, the first captive Israeli soldier to be returned home alive in 26 years, hesitated and thought carefully.
“I will be happy for them to be released if they don’t return to fight us,” he said. “I very much hope that this deal will advance peace and not lead to war.”
It’s a nice thought and probably the polite thing to say. But don’t expect Sgt.-Maj. Shalit’s release to do anything to restart peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Tuesday’s prisoner swap, which saw Hamas release the Israeli soldier in return for 1,027 jailed Palestinians, was essentially a form of extortion. There is not the slightest hint of reconciliation in the exchange.
If anything, it will entrench Hamas in its opposition to Israel, give Palestinian radicals an incentive to kidnap another Israeli soldier, undermine Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President and increase the risk of renewed terrorism against Israel.