Nahum Barnea
There is no other way
Time has come for our government to make a decision on Gilad Shalit

The list of Hamas demands published by the prime minister’s bureau Saturday night shows us that the organization holding Gilad Shalit is a bitter, dangerous enemy. Its objective is not only to free its prisoners, but also to bring the worst of them back to action on the terror front.


It’s a good thing that the government published the demands, if only so that the thousands who as of today will be marching with the Shalit family will know the price. Yet the timing of the publication is less exciting: It gives off a strong scent of public relations.


Despite the shock certainly felt today by those who were unaware of the scope of Hamas’ demands, the details do not change the essence of the decision. Governments are supposed to provide solutions. After four years where the way to release the abducted soldier by force was not found, and even his captivity whereabouts remain unknown, the Israeli government only has two options left.


The first one is to give up on Gilad Shalit for all intents and purposes. The second one is to complete the deal with Hamas and sustain the full price, in terms of future terror acts and damage to our deterrent power.


Both options are terribly difficult. It is no wonder that the current government, just like the previous one, refuses to make a choice.


The defense minister, the IDF chief of staff, and a series of future and present generals, who have been aware of Hamas’ grave demands for a while now, have been saying time and again – openly and privately – that we must accept the demands and close a deal. There is no other way.


These people are looking ahead: They are convinced that there is no chance that Hamas will soften its demands in the future. Even if there was a slight chance, and it is doubtful whether there was one, the prime minister’s bureau’s publication Saturday night virtually eliminated this chance.


Now, Hamas is “chained” to its demands, just like Netanyahu is bound to rejecting these demands. We shifted from futile negotiations to a dead end.


National humiliation

Does Netanyahu have an endgame? A decision on how or when he intends to put an end to this bothersome affair? Does he possess even one piece of data that points to a more convenient solution? Apparently not. Even he doesn’t claim he has something like that.


Appeasement towards an enemy and capitulation to dictates is a humiliating move, and it is especially humiliating when dealing with a terrorist movement that aims to destroy Israel. Yet at the same time, national humiliation can be a relative matter.


Only two weeks ago, all our leaders and experts told us that the Gaza blockade is not only essential for security reasons, it also greatly weakens Hamas. Yet then came the flotilla affair, the government lifted the siege in the face of global pressure, and now our leaders and experts tell us that lifting the siege was a severe punishment for Hamas: Its income source from the taxes imposed on smuggling tunnels had been curbed; meanwhile, its propaganda campaign against Israel was eliminated.


In other words, we won. In the midst of the Vietnam War, Senator George Aiken proposed a dignified way to end the war: “declare victory and get out.” This is apparently what remains to be done in the Shalit affair. Declare victory or bring Gilad back home. There is no other way.


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