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.
Then last week, the Shalits and several supporters successfully blocked a courier service truck at the Gaza border forcing it to return to Jerusalem. The truck was attempting to transfer fresh shekels to Gazan banks which Shalit activists want withheld until Gilad Shalit is granted visitations from the Red Cross.
All of these moves to free their son have been only briefly reported by the Israeli press. The successful blocking of the aid funds earned nothing but a 270- word report in Haaretz.
No columns or editorials referred to these efforts, let alone galvanized the Israeli public. The silence of the Israeli press has been deafening. It contrasts sharply with the encouragement that Israeli journalists and columnists exude whenever the Shalits insist that Israel release all the terrorist murderers that Hamas demands in return for their son’s freedom.
The message to the Shalits could not be clearer: the media will assist you unstintingly as long as you stick to the prisoner release route. But once you try to punish the Palestinians for Shalit’s captivity – you are on your own.
In other words: Let the Israeli public pay the price for Shalit’s return – just leave the poor perpetrators alone.
Turning a blind eye to the activities funded by those revenues is unforgivable. The PA provides a monthly stipend for all Palestinian and Israeli Arab terrorists imprisoned in Israel. (http://thisongoingwar.blogspot.com/2011/05/20-may-11-rewarding-palestinian-arab.html)Included on the payroll are the terrorists who carried out the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in central Jerusalem on 9th August 2001, the massacre that cost the life of our daughter Malki, 15, and many other innocents. [ JPost].
The fungibility of PA money means that while the US, the EU and other Western donors are not explicitly promoting terrorism, their gifts enable the PA to divert other funds toward that end. [ Source: “ PA to Pay Salaries to All Terrorists in Israeli Prisons“]
Together with the European Union, the US provides the bulk of financial aid that reaches the PA. Only 22% of the $530,000,000 received since the beginning of 2010 came from Arab donors . The total amount of foreign aid received directly by the PA was $1.4 billion in 2009 and $1.8 billion in 2008
I have vowed to my dead daughter that I will never cease pleading and fighting for justice toward her murderer, Ahlam Tamimi.
Often misleadingly described as the woman who transported the bomb that was used in the Jerusalem Sbarro terror attack, Tamimi was actually the main perpetrator of that massacre. She selected the target, a venue packed at that hour with women and children. She transported the 10 kg. of explosives, met up with her accomplice, handed him the bomb, deposited him at the target and instructed him on the precise timing the attack so that she could escape unharmed.
Last week the website of Al-Qassam Brigades, the wing of Hamas to which Tamimi belonged, revealed that the streets of Ramallah – the “moderate” Abbas’ headquarters – are emblazoned with posters of Tamimi’s smiling face.
The site also mentions Tamimi’s conviction and sentence: 16 life sentences along with “a recommendation not to release her in any possible exchange of prisoners.”
The judges foresaw the current predicament we are in but their clause is one we, the victims, have never heard or read from any other source. Presumably it is one that the media and the government would prefer to bury.
If the PA officials are correct, Israel is about to add fuel to the very fire of terrorist danger that IDF commanders warn is about to ignite. Once again, our leaders, entrusted with the job of protecting their constituents, are content to place us in the line of fire in order to remove one very painful political thorn in their sides.
And we, the parents of murdered Jewish children, will weep alone for our second loss.
Frimet Roth is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the Sbarro restaurant bombing (2001). She and her husband founded the Malki Foundation [www.kerenmalki.org] which provides concrete support for Israeli families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.