Recently we have been informed of a spontaneous group of Israelis getting together in order to press the prime minister to secure Gilad Shalit’s release. It is indeed heartwarming to see good people who feel the urge to get up and do something. Against the backdrop of the corruption and disasters that befall us frequently, it is pleasant to see our positive, humane side, in the form of mutual accountability. Kol Israel Arevim Ze La’Ze.
Indeed, who can forget Gilad Shalit? Who doesn’t feel the heartache every time his name his mentioned or every time we see his parents, heroes who did not choose to be in this spot, on TV? Who doesn’t feel pangs of conscience over the fact that we’re going on with our lives while he’s rotting in Hamas’ hands? Who has not told himself, if this was my own son God forbid, I would do everything in order to bring about his immediate release?
However, is there any doubt that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would want, more than anything else, a farewell gift in the form of Shalit’s release? Wouldn’t Minister Tzipi Livni want to bring the abducted son back to his parents as one of the first acts of her new government once it is formed?
Olmert’s and Livni’s failure to secure Shalit’s release thus far does not indicate that they do not care about the Shalit family’s pain or do not possess the required measure of mercy and compassion. Rather, they believe that we cannot comply with Hamas’ extreme demands.
Israel has already announced that it is willing to release hundreds of terrorists from prison, including members of Hamas, a movement espousing Israel’s destruction. These terrorists include many murderers with “blood on their hands.” However, Hamas demands more. Israeli security officials apparently believe we must not comply with those demands in light of the great risk this would pose to the security of Israel and its citizens.
Hamas’ conscientious students adopted the doctrine of their Hizbullah instructors and are engaging in psychological warfare as an inseparable part of the abduction, using propaganda in order to prompt public pressure on our government. There is nothing Hamas enjoys seeing more than Israeli “protest movements” that urge the prime minister to immediately submit to the group’s demands.
Raising the price tagHowever, all those who are anxious about Shalit’s fate should ask themselves whether such protest movements do not jeopardize him and all other Israeli citizens. Would Hamas show greater flexibility on its demands if it knows there is massive public pressure on our PM to accept its demands, or rather, if it finds out that our PM enjoys public support in respect to the negotiations? The protests merely raise the price tag and reinforce Hamas’ refusal to compromise.
Israeli decision-makers must learn the art of creating psychological pressure during negotiations from our Hamas and Hizbullah enemies. Israel should be the one to prompt the relatives and fellow citizens of Palestinian terrorists to exert pressure on Hamas leaders to promote the release of their loved ones from Israeli prisons.
This objective can be achieved, for example, by airing a daily Arabic-language TV show featuring messages from terrorists Israel is willing to free in exchange for Shalit, while urging the families to facilitate their release.
Another option is to publish in advance the names of all the terrorists that Israel is willing to release, making it clear they are only staying in prison because of the stubbornness of Hamas leaders, who sit in lavish offices in Gaza or Damascus. Shifting the pressure from Israel to Hamas is the move that would bring about Gilad Shalit’s speedy release.
Dr. Boaz Ganor is the director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, IDC