In Shalit Deal, Israel Crossed Its Own Red Lines

The prisoner-swap list includes some of the founders of the Hamas military wing and prisoners involved in some of the most ignoble terror attacks in Israel.

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The unofficial list of names of prisoners to be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, which was posted Thursday on Hamas websites, reveals that Israel indeed crossed red lines in negotiating with Hamas.

These are not just prisoners with "blood on their hands." Rather, the list includes some of the founders of the Hamas military wing, such as Zaher Jabarin and Yihya Sanawar, and prisoners involved in some of the most ignoble terror attacks in Israel, including the 1989 attack on bus 405 and the 1994 abduction of Israel Defense Forces soldier Nachshon Wachsman.

Supporters of the Shalit family at Mitzpeh Hila, October 13, 2011.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

However, many of the Hamas leaders in prison will be staying there. As expected, Palestinian criticism of Hamas over the names on the list was harsh.

Critics said Sanawar was on the list, as opposed to Abdallah Barghouti, Ibrahim Hamed and others, because his brother, Mohammad Sanawar, is one of the military leaders of Hamas in Gaza and was one of Shalit's kidnappers.

Some also claim that the Hamas negotiating team, which is made up entirely of Gazans, stopped short of demanding the release of senior members of the organization from the West Bank, Jabarin notwithstanding, for fear that after their release they would constitute serious political competition to Hamas leadership in Gaza and Damascus.

A commonly voiced protest is that Hamas was almost happy to abandon Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, whom they believe could become a large political threat to Hamas in the power struggle between the two groups.

Barghouti is not included on the list, although Hamas' political head in Damascus, Khaled Meshal, had promised Barghouti's family that there would be no deal without him.

Marwan Barghouti's wife, Fadwa, told Haaretz yesterday she was baffled at Hamas' capitulation.

"Hamas delayed the deal for two years because of the demand to release five key people, among them Marwan," she said. "I can't explain why they gave in now."

Senior Fatah and Palestinian Authority figures were also critical, noting that Hamas' agreement to the expulsion of 203 Palestinians was a betrayal of the group's own principles.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, said that just two years ago, a Hamas leader abroad had said that the group's accession to the demand to expel hundreds of Palestinian prisoners would turn the agreement into an exile order rather than a prisoner swap.

It seems clear that the PA is concerned over Hamas' rather significant political achievement and not only because of the high number of prisoners who will not be released.

Israel, for example, has agreed to the release of other prisoners with major symbolic value, such as cousins Fakhri and Nael Barghouti and members of the Yunis family from Wadi Ara. These names are not known to most Israelis, but for the Palestinians they are no less significant symbols than are the leaders of the Hamas military wing.

The problem that senior Fatah figures have is not that veteran prisoners are being released, but with the lesson Israel is teaching to the coming generations by their release.

These prisoners were convicted of murder, but long before the Oslo Accords. The Barghouti cousins, for example, have been in prison for nearly 34 years. Since the Oslo Accords, hardly has a meeting taken place between senior PA officials and representatives of successive Israeli governments about prisoners in which these names have not been mentioned. Time after time Israel refused to release them as a gesture, and now it is doing so in surrender to a terror group.

The lesson for the Palestinians is clear. This is not only a spit in the face of the PA; it is more.

As Fakhri Barghouti's son, Hadi, whose brother Shadi was sentenced to 27 years in prison and will not be released in the Shalit swap, said: "What do you, an Israeli, think I should do to get my brother released?"

The censor's motives

A word about the censor: The censor banned publication in Haaretz Tuesday morning of a report on significant progress toward Shalit's release and of the visits of Netanyahu's representative for the Shalit talks, David Meidan and Hamas' military-wing leader Ahmed Ja'abari to Cairo. It might be thought that the ban stemmed from concerns over the safety of the kidnapped soldier.

But at that point the agreement had already been signed. Amazingly, shortly before the 8 P.M. news program that evening, and a few minutes before the ministers began their fateful meeting, the censor allowed the details to be aired.

Might the considerations have been ratings rather than Shalit's safety?



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