Instead of beating themselves up over the failure to negotiate a release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his partner beat everyone else up.
Everyone was to blame - the lobby that pressures, the ministers that identified with them, the media that reported, and especially the price-gougers in Hamas. The excuses and claims being scattered by government spokespeople, the heads of the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad and emissary Ofer Dekel, reveal their failure in managing this crisis.
Their conduct over the past few days limits the next government and makes it more difficult to reach a deal; after Israel published the list of heavy-duty Hamas prisoners it refuses to release, it may be expected that Hamas will insist to include them in the swap.
The government did all it could to bring about Shalit's release:
Internal Israel Defense Forces documents revealed Wednesday in Haaretz that finding Shalit was not given top priority. Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin vehemently opposed a swap. So why was he, of all people, sent to support Dekel in the critical moments of the negotiations?
Hamas hardened its position:
According to Egyptian sources, Hamas' basic price did not change. Israel is the party that kept on trying to bargain. The strange demand to expel some Hamas men to Arab countries (where they could beef up the Hamas military wing far from Shin Bet surveillance), hardened Hamas' stance. For Hamas, theologically speaking, exile from Palestine is equivalent to a death sentence.
Accepting Hamas' demands would reward extremists and would have harmed moderates like the Palestinian Authority:
All of a sudden the government and intelligence are concerned over the fate of the Palestinian partners. What kept them from releasing Marwan Barghouti as a gesture to Mahmoud Abbas?
The deal increases the appetite of terror groups to abduct Israelis:
Did the loss of any trace of Ron Arad put the organizations on an abduction diet? Did rescue operations like the one to release Nachshon Wachsman deter Hamas or Hezbolah?
The release of terrorist masterminds will endanger Israeli lives:
This claim never stopped us before. The Olmert government itself went to war, losing more than 160 civilians and soldiers, after two soldiers were kidnapped (who, the evidence showed, were apparently dead).
The public campaign burdened the negotiations:
The Shalit family showed restraint for many months. Only after they realized that holding back would not bring their son home did Noam and Aviva Shalit do what the parents of many other soldiers did immediately after their loved ones were captured.
The ministers and public figures who visited the Shalit family's protest tent acted irresponsibly:
Would Ehud Barak, defense minister, and a former prime minister and chief-of-staff, have visited the Shalit family if he thought he was harming the negotiations and the chances of the soldier's release?
If the Netanyahu government wants to succeed where the Olmert government failed, its working assumption must be that the price for Shalit's release is a known quantity. Like Bibi once told the Palestinians, if we give, we will get; if we don't give, we will not get.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now