Israeli stubbornness saved Shalit, but at a price
The nation should hug the Shalits tightly, but our not ignore the harsh feelings in hundreds of Israeli families who lost their dearest ones in the murderous terror attacks.
The decision on the Gilad Shalit deal is behind us. The cabinet, the body with the authority to make such a decision, gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a large majority to carry out the deal. The decision obligates us all. Each of us shares Noam and Aviva Shalit's joy with all his heart. The Shalits are noble people, and it's hard to imagine their horrible suffering over the past five and a half years - and that of Gilad, the Israeli soldier returning home.
But the joy is mixed with great sorrow - sorrow over the release of hundreds of terrorist murderers, who by law and justice should have ended their lives behind bars. And there's sorrow for the difficult feelings and suffering of thousands of Israelis whose dear ones were brutally murdered by these terrorists. Today they feel that justice has been violated. The entire nation needs to hug Aviva and Noam Shalit tightly, but our mutual responsibility requires us not to ignore the harsh feelings in hundreds of Israeli homes - homes whose families lost their dearest ones in the murderous terror attacks.
Again, the decision on the deal is behind us. But it's important to learn the lessons of the agreement. A number of lessons will certainly come to light with time, but one, the most important, already stands out. Some people claimed for years that we must surrender to Hamas' demands and do the exchange at any price. And since Hamas would never be flexible and never give in on a single demand, this was "the only deal possible."
But they made a big mistake. The legend that terrorist organizations never give in and only "rational" Israel must make concessions has been revealed as a lie. Israel made huge concessions, but it turns out that when Israel shows decisiveness - and we've had prime ministers, the current one and his predecessor, who don't bow to public opinion and know how to draw lines in the sand - Hamas knows how to be flexible and give in on plenty of demands.
Due to the Israeli stubbornness and steadfastness, Hamas was forced to make two serious concessions. The first concerns who was released. Hamas retreated from its original demand to release Abdullah Barghouti, Ibrahim Hamed, Abbas Sayad, Hassan Salameh, Ahmed Saadat, Marwan Barghouti and others, and in doing so conceded on the senior members of its military wing and clear symbols of terror. There is something of an exaggeration in the words of the head of the Shin Bet security service that Hamas' leaders remain in prison, but at least there's a kernel of truth to it.
The second concession, which Netanyahu deserves praise for, is Hamas' agreement to deport to Gaza and overseas 203 of the released - almost half the terrorists who committed the most serious acts and two-thirds of those who live in the West Bank. True, it's better to be abroad or in Gaza than in an Israeli prison, but the ones released can't return home. For them that's just half-freedom.
Expulsion in the Palestinian narrative is a nightmare and a red flag. Hamas' agreement to this arrangement, which Netanyahu insisted on resolutely, is a very bitter pill. And now we're witnessing their efforts to justify this with the claim that the Israelis insisted and there was no choice. It's sometimes worth listening to Hamas spokesmen.
It's possible that without all the public protest, demonstrations and irresponsible behavior by the media over the years - which only strengthened Hamas' mistaken feeling that Israel would surrender to all its demands - Gilad Shalit would have been home a long time ago and for a much lower price.