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There are myriad reasonable paths available for securing the freedom of Gilad Shalit, kidnapped and held by Hamas five years ago. So why has Israel persistently pursued the suicidal release of hardened murderers in order to bring him home?
Senior PA officials revealed last week that an agreement between Hamas and Israel on a mass Palestinian prisoner release is imminent. We have PM Netanyahu’s serial bungled handling of Shalit’s captivity to thank for this sorry state of affairs.
Many opportunities presented themselves for pressuring Hamas to free Shalit without the disastrous return of convicted mass murderers to Hamas. Netanyahu caved-in on each occasion.
One confounding example is his recent payment of tax revenues to the PA. In response to the PA’s unity deal with Hamas, Netanyahu initially withheld those funds, totaling $100 million, from the PA for two weeks.
The Shalit family urged Netanyahu to remain firm and freeze that money until Shalit’s return. Yet their call won no support from the Israeli media; their desperate lone voice went unheeded. Under pressure from the West, and from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Netanyahu capitulated and transferred the funds to the PA.
The Shalit’s push for a prolonged revenue freeze aimed to hurt the perpetrators of Shalit’s kidnapping: Hamas and its new accomplice, the Palestinian Authority. Clearly, if the PA has genuinely reunited with Hamas terrorists, it now shares responsibility for all of Hamas’ actions, including, of course, the Shalit kidnapping.
As Noam Shalit said: “Today, after the reconciliation deal… the PA is actually responsible for the kidnapped Israeli soldier held by his captors, who are also part of the new government set to be formed.”
After the release of the funds, Shalit noted: “Unfortunately we received no explanation of why the tax funds were transferred to the PA given these facts.”
Of course not. There was no rational explanation.
In return for the transfer of funds, Israel received – in the words of Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz – “reassurances and clarifications that the money would not find its way to terrorists’ hands…”
Whom was he kidding? Those commitments come from the same Fatah and PLO people who promised that they would never join forces with the terror organization, Hamas.
Despite this, and throwing all caution to the wind, Israel has gone ahead and transferred the funds to the PA while failing to implement any mechanism for tracking the transferred funds.
After the confounding release of those tax revenues, Noam and Aviva Shalit turned to the US for help. They called on Congress to halt its financial assistance to the PA in the wake of its union with Hamas, until his son’s release. Since Fatah and Hamas have agreed to form a unity government, the letter argued, the PA can no longer disclaim responsibility for Gilad’s fate, and the threat of losing Washington’s annual $400 million donation might encourage it to take action. They even pleaded directly with Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to halt that funding.
The Shalits reminded the two US legislators that under the Rome Statute of the International Court 1998, it is a war crime to hold someone hostage.
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