Thursday, June 25, 2009
As seen in Ha'aretz (with a tip o'the hat to the Huffington Post):
European diplomatic sources said Thursday that kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit will be transferred to Egypt in the coming hours or coming days.(emphasis mine)
This information has yet to be confirmed by Israeli officials.
According to the European sources, Shalit's transfer is the first stage of an agreement between the various Palestinian factions, assisted by Egyptian mediation and done in coordination with the United States and with the support of Syria.
Shalit will be used as a "deposit" toward the completion of a prisoner exchange between the Palestinian factions, the sources said.
The agreement will include the exchange of prisoners and the opening of crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
According to Egyptian officials, a deal will be signed between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions by July 7 at the latest.
The deal would put the Gaza Strip under the leadership of a joint committee subordinate to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and not under the control of the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
On Tuesday Palestinian news agency Maan quoted Egyptian sources as saying that Shalit was about to be transferred from the Gaza Strip into Egypt within hours, a report that Israeli sources denied.
Shalit was kidnapped in a cross-border raid by Gaza militants on June 25, 2006, exactly three years ago.
If true, this is wonderful news -- and if Presidents Obama and Mubarak were able to facilitate this, my hat's off to them.
But I'll believe it when I see it. We've been waiting three long years, during which time even the Red Cross was given no proof that Corporal Shalit was alive or dead.
Israelis know better than to get their hopes up, particularly in response to "promises" or "assurances" from -- well, from just about anyone. We'll see.
(I'm intrigued by the nature of the deal that supposedly is being struck here. Is this a negotiation largely between Fatah and Hamas, facilitated by Egypt, with minimal Israeli involvement? Or is this a three-way deal, in which Israel is expected to open border crossings and release prisoners she is holding? I could read this news report either way.)
Stay tuned. But in keeping with the way things often work in the Middle East, my expectation is that we will see -- nothing. Negotiations will break down, we still won't see Corporal Shalit or know anything about his status, and Hamas and Fatah will continue trying to kill Israelis when they aren't too busy killing each other.
If I'm wrong about that, hardly anyone will be more delighted than I.
UPDATE: As of June 26, 2009, still no definitive word -- just talking heads speculating to one another. This detail is new to me, though:
[Hamas] officials have been consistent in their demands to Israel, through Egyptian mediators, that Cpl Shalit only be exchanged for 1,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons including several who were behind major suicide attacks that killed dozens of Israelis.New, but not terribly surprising. The terrorists have not changed their methods. Nor would it surprise me -- although it would distress me greatly -- if Israel agrees to release the 1000 Palestinian prisoners, only to be given in return the remains of a Corporal Shalit who died long ago. (Remember, he has not been seen, except by his captors, for over three years.)
I don't think it's necessary to speculate on the futility of exchanging one kidnapped soldier, the condition of whom is totally unknown, for one thousand criminals and terrorists, every one of whom was convicted in a court of law and whose status is readily available. It seems obvious to me that doing so, however anxious Israel is to get Corporal Shalit back, will only encourage more kidnapping raids, precisely like the one that took Shalit in the first place. Terrorists, like the rest of us, will continue doing what they think works for them.
I will note, however, as I have before, that this shows us what Hamas thinks Palestinian life is worth.
Others have also noted this:
First, it would do good to remind our Arab neighbours and the world about this price whenever someone brings up the "disproportionate" killing of Arabs by Israelis in times of conflict. If the other side is setting a price of 1,000 Arabs for 1 Jew in a prisoner exchange, then they shouldn't complain when, in a war, more Arabs than Jews are killed. If they were to value life as much as we do, then the exchange would be 1 to 1.I agree.
What I hope will happen -- but I regretfully doubt -- is that, as part of the exchange process, Israel is able (finally!) to find out where Shalit is... and then to take him back by force. (If Hamas wants its own people back badly enough, they are welcome to try the same tactic. They will not be successful.)
UPDATE 2: Israeli Defense Minister Barak has categorically denied that Gilad Shalit is any closer to coming home. According to the same report, Hamas also denies this.