Monday, February 09, 2009

Israel Prepared To Trade For Shalit And Negate Operation Cast Lead (Updated)

There were all kinds of rumors at the time that Reagan and his staff had arranged with Iran to delay the release of hostages till after the 1980 elections so as to prevent Carter from benefiting from the resultant boost.

Call me cynical, but it appears that today in Israel, we see the opposite--the open arranging of the release of Gilad Shalit so that Kadima can win the election.

According to
A ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas is expected to be signed within the next 48 hours, Egyptian newspaper al-Gomhuria reported Monday.

The deal is set to include two stages: An oral agreement on both sides to hold fire, followed by a written agreement for a one-year truce at least.

...Israel expects the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit to be included in the truce agreement along with the reopening of the Gaza Strip's crossings. The past few days have seen many reports on progress made in the indirect talks on this matter, including some flexibility on both sides.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared that Operation Cast Lead had advanced the changes to secure Shalit's release. He expressed his hope that the captive soldier will return home before a new government is sworn in.
[emphasis added]
No doubt.

And of course, in a situation like this bloody hands are no object:
Arab newspapers reported Monday morning that Israel had expressed its willingness to release most of the senior prisoners demanded by Hamas, excluding Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat, who was responsible for the assassination of Minister Rehavam Ze'evi, and three other prisoners.
Releasing murders is getting to be a habit.

Arutz7 has a different take on the arrangement--the deal is unlikely to be done before the election, but that won't prevent the agreement from being done by whomever wins tomorrow's election:
National Union Knesset Member Uri Ariel said Monday that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may be trying to establish conditions in a deal for freeing kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit that will make it "very difficult" for the next government to refuse.

An Egyptian newspaper reported Monday morning that a truce, including the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, will be announced in the next 48 hours. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has insisted that too much talk could endanger an agreement but in the past has stoked the rumor mill after ordering the Cabinet to stay silent on talks involving Shalit's release.

Arab dailies in Egypt and London reported that the Olmert government has agreed to release approximately 1,000 terrorists and other Palestinian Authority Arab prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for planning murderous attacks on Israelis. The Egyptian Al-Gomhoria daily said the agreement, including a one-year truce and the re-opening of Gaza borders, will be finalized orally in 48 hours.

However, all sides agree that it cannot be implemented before Election Day, a situation that could leave the next government in a bind. If the new government does not carry out a deal, it might risk Shalit's life, but MK Ariel said that freeing murderers "will bring more terror."
Of course, if a cease-fire is seen as a victory for Hamas, just imagine what they will do with this deal:
Labor party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak accelerated the pace of the campaign during the electioneering, with promises to "pay a heavy price" and bring Shalit back home, according to [Reserve Lt. Col Meir] Indor [head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association].

...The Almagor director added, "Freeing terrorists for Shalit would in effect be a victory for Hamas and negate all of the accomplishments of the recent Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist operation against the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Gaza."
Then there is the issue of the Arab world--a number of Arab countries saw Israel's actions in Gaza as a way of keeping Iran's plans for control in the Middle East in check. Handing Hamas, Iran's proxy, this kind of victory will cause them to think twice before going out on a limb for Israel, tempering criticism of Israel and risking a backlash from their own people:
The Arab world has interpreted the government's failure to win Shalit's release as weakness. The Saudi Gazette noted this week, "Far from forcing a defeated Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit, Israel will no doubt have to agree to exchange him for at least one thousand Palestinian prisoners – if, that is, it decides at long last to pay the price of freeing him, rather than letting him rot."
Looks like a victory for Hamas after all--a point not lost on Hizbollah, which appeared cautious about interfering.

The lesson: Kidnapping Israelis pays off! Sure, Israel will retaliate, and retaliate hard. But if you don't mind sacrificing civilians to harness the negative backlash against Israel, you can get your cease-fire, and a good trade as well.

UPDATE: One wonders just how much thought has gone into the long term consequences of this move. See Haaretz: Shalit and Hamas / The deal that could bring down Abbas:
Concerned voices have been heard in the Muqata in Ramallah over the past few days: Senior Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials are speaking openly of the end of an era if an agreement to free abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is reached. Palestinian officials say a Shalit deal would bring about early elections in the territories, and Hamas would win again - but this time it would win the Palestinian presidential election, too. Israel would then be forced to deal with a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they say.
Read the whole thing.

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