Let’s start at the end. Hamas will release Gilad Shalit only if the Israel government complies with all the demands raised by the group’s military wing during the indirect negotiations between the sides.
The price demanded by Hamas has been known for a long time now: The release of 450 terrorists, including the murderers of Israelis and those who send them to carry out the worst, most despicable terror attacks.
We can assume that no Israeli government will accept Hamas’ demands. The Shalit family’s march is resonating among the public, yet it will not force Netanyahu to comply with Hamas’ demands.
It’s not a personal matter: Netanyahu the prime minister is the one who has to face the Shalit family, yet Netanyahu is also the one who needs to maintain the principle whereby a state doesn’t pay “any price.” There are situation where a state – any state – says “no” to the demands of a terror organization.
The commission of inquiry to be established one of these days would have to look into quite a few issues. The first one is why Israel’s intelligence community has been unable to provide decision-makers with any accurate information regarding Shalit’s whereabouts in captivity.
When top defense officials wish to impress someone, they sit him down in front of a screen and air live images of what goes on at that very moment on a Gaza street or in a Khan Younis alleyway. It’s impressive, embarrassing, and stirs a sense of misplaced voyeurism.
However, this defense establishment had been unable to discover where Gilad Shalit is being held.
None of the proposals being brought up frequently won’t change the cruel formula set by Hamas: Shalit will come back home only if Israel complies with all its demands. The march to Jerusalem will allow the Israeli public – which does not bear the responsibility born by the PM – to let off some steam.
The words attributed to negotiator Hagai Hadas, whereby the protests tought Hamas’ position, are irrelevant: Hamas sees the protests and continues to wait for the next Israeli concession. With the demonstrations or without them, Hamas has no intention of compromising. It has all the time in the world.
To Netanyahu’s credit we should note that although he always preached against capitulating to terror, in Shalit’s case he walked the extra mile and agreed to release dozens of terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands – on condition they won’t return to the territories.
However, Hamas, under pressure from military wing Commander Ahmad Jabari and Political Bureau chief Khaled Mashaal, imposed a veto on Netanyahu’s far-reaching proposals. It got to the point where top Hamas member Mahmoud al-Zahar, who agreed to accept the German mediator’s offer, had to disgracefully quit the negotiation team.
Hamas will continue to safeguard Shalit. For the group, he is a priceless asset. Shalit is the life insurance policy of Ahmad Jabari, and also the entry ticket for Hamas to the club of leading European states, whose representatives hold contacts with the group, claiming that this is a humanitarian issue.
The decision whether to keep or lift the Gaza siege has no effect whatsoever on the Shalit negotiations. Coriander won’t change Jabari’s mood. Moreover, the Netanyahu government agreed to endorse a bill that is supposed to make the life of Hamas prisoners harder. Yet this is a populist move and has no influence on Shalit’s captors.
In the best case scenario, the decision on worsening the conditions of prisoners would appease the Israeli street’s demand to “screw them.” In the worst case scenario, it will end with Hamas prisoners abducting several prison guards and igniting the jailhouse, and then you’ll see the proud Netanyahu government reverting to the previous conditions.
Netanyahu’s time in office shows that public pressure prompts him to make decisions he wouldn’t have made in the past. However, we can assume that in Shalit’s case he will hold firm and act like a prime minister should. There is only one way to return Shalit back to his family: The operational alternative, which had not yet developed into a reality that requires the cabinet to take a decision.