For a moment, Israel has a statesman who makes courageous and correct decisions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demonstrated praiseworthy leadership in the process that led to the signing of a deal for the release of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
The prime minister made the right decision and impressively managed to garner an overwhelming majority for the move in his cabinet.
The Shalit deal is not devoid of problems. The release of 1,027 prisoners for one soldier is a steep price, proving once again to the Palestinians and the world that Israel can only be prevailed upon by force and pressure. The question as to why a deal, the outlines of which have been clear for some time, was delayed for so long, is also troublesome.
No less troubling is the issue of the risk that the freed terrorists will revert to engaging in terrorist acts, but despite it all, signing the agreement was the only correct way to proceed. Shalit has long been entitled to go free, and other Israel Defense Force soldiers and their families have long been entitled to know that there is a government in Jerusalem that is looking after their fate and would not forsake them if they are taken captive.
The agreement for Shalit's release shows that, when he wishes to, Netanyahu is capable of taking courageous steps, without having to face significant opposition. This lesson should also guide him when it comes to even more crucial steps than the release of one soldier.
The deal proves that there is a partner on the other side, even with Hamas, for negotiations. This time it was over the release of an abducted soldier, but it is also possible to talk even beyond this case.
Gilad Shalit has long become a national symbol. And the agreement for his release has sparked an outpouring of elation among Israelis, even if it is mixed with a measure of concern for the future and some reservations over the price that is being paid.
Most of Israeli society appears to support the move, and that it good. Now it must only be hoped that the deal is in fact brought to fruition in the next several days, that Gilad Shalit is returned to his parents, and that his time in captivity has not inflicted unduly deep scars.
The day on which he returns home next week will be one of great happiness for Israel.
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