Chuck asked yesterday about the situation with Corporal Gilyad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held in Gaza by Hamas for the last 1255 days. As I mentioned in the news broadcast, there is a censor for us over here in Israel – which restricts what we can speak about – but let me share now a little about what we know.
The price to gain Shalit's release stands at 980 Palestinians being held or detained in the various prison and military camps in Israel. Israel will reportedly cut the life sentences of some who are prisoners.
Hamas sources claim that in recent days there has been significant progress in contacts to release Gilad Shalit. But there has been a petition to Israel's High Court asking for an injuction to prevent the State from carrying out the swap. Also there is a bit of a hang up alledgedly over some West Bank prisoners as to where they will be released.
Some Israelis are saying that Israel is paying too high a price, that with each such agreement that it reaches to get a kidnapped or abducted soldier returned, the price becomes more and more. The observation seems correct, because this arrangement will bind future governments facing similar deals.
But what has been happening in Israel in recent weeks in the political debate for the soldiers' release is that the details are being largely kept away from the public. Thus the debate begins. The Israeli media believes it is being prevented from publishing details of the negotiations. One can argue easily that this adds to the emotionally charged public debate. The problem is that there is a lot of alledged disinformation being published in foreign newspapers.
The public is divided into two – those who believe Shalit should be returned home alive – so release prisoners before it is too late, and then there is the families of terrorism victims and activists from the Right who say that the release of prisoners is capitulating to Hamas.
There is no question that this is a tough situation, which is why public debate may be a healthy way forward. But right now you have got only a handful of people making decisions, Negotiations being “ambiguously” conducted, and that does not look set to change.
Middle East Correspondent