March 10, 2007

An End To Schalit Saga, Chapter 176 And Counting

Hamas now says that they want to end the months-long kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. They have agreed in principle to release Schalit as part of the process towards a unity government in the Palestinian territories, with the staged release of "several hundred" Palestinian prisoners by Israel:

The release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit affair depends on the establishment of a unity government in the Palestinian Authority, Hamas faction head Halil Alhaya said Saturday.

According to Israel Radio, the head of Hamas's armed wing, Abu Obaida, corroborated Alhaya's statement, but stressed that even if no agreement on Schalit's release was reached, it would not prevent the PA from setting up a unity government.

Abu Obaida added that Hamas wanted an end to the Schalit affair, and said that Egyptian envoys had asked Hamas to move forward on negotiations in the next few days. ...

According to defense officials, the prisoner swap will be conducted in three stages. Israel will first release prisoners as a gesture to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Schalit will then be released into Egyptian custody, and only then will Israel release several hundred additional prisoners, mostly affiliated with Hamas.

Hamas may not want to end the Schalit affair, but the Egyptians and the Saudis do. They have both pressed the West to work with a unity government that includes both Hamas and Fatah, but the West has refused to do so while Hamas continues to support terrorism and refuse to recognize Israel. The Schalit abduction reminds everyone that Hamas has not and will not renounce terrorism and war, and it reminds everyone who started the Gaza war last summer.

The Israelis are making a mistake by agreeing to this swap. They continue releasing prisoners on a hundreds-to-one basis that does nothing but undermine their own security. Israeli soldiers die while arresting Palestinian terrorists in small numbers, and then Israel releases them by the hundreds to get one or two captured soldiers back. It makes Israel look weak, and it puts Palestinian terrorists back onto the street with exponentially magnified credibility.

Acquiescing to Hamas in this instance, as all the others before, only incentivizes the Palestinians to abduct more IDF soldiers. Hostages become the coin of this twisted realm only because Israel keeps ratifying their value. And in the end, they can't even easily buy back their hostages even with the hundreds of Palestinians they release -- as the long and redundant tale of Gilad Schalit's abduction aptly demonstrates.


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