There is a way to exert pressure in order to secure the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit; this strategy could also see Israel securing other achievements.
The Israeli government should declare a new policy: As long as a lull is maintained in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, 50 significant Palestinian prisoners will be released every month: However, the prisoners to be released will not be related to Hamas in any way.
Such move may hold several advantages. First and foremost, it will make Hamas and its supporters realize that holding on to Gilad Shalit is preventing the release of their prisoners. Secondly, the Palestinian Authority’s position vis-à-vis Hamas may be boosted. Also, the lull in our relations with the PA will be rewarded; so far, the rewards have been slim.
The prisoners held by Israel have become a bargaining chip a long time ago. Why don’t we use this bargaining chip on our initiative and to our benefit, and not only on the enemy’s initiative, with our backs to the wall?
Such gradual and measured prisoner release will also reduce the pressure and desire of our enemies to abduct Israeli soldiers and civilians in order to bring about the release of their prisoners. Our enemies must be made to realize that abducting soldiers only serves to delay the release of their prisoners, not the other way around.
Moreover, releasing prisoners on our initiative will reduce the public relations damage we incur (usually because of our own conduct and because of our media) as well as the damage to our image that may be caused in the future if we release prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit.
If we get the public, both here and across the border, accustomed to the gradual release of prisoners, the damage caused when we are forced to release a large number of prisoners will be reduced. Let’s not make it easier for Hamas.
Reuven Bachar is an attorny