Gilad Shalit Prisoner Swap Was Partly a Response to 2011 Social Protests, Ex-cabinet Secretary Says

Zvi Hauser tells Channel 10 that the agreement that freed Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit 'served as a cold bucket of water' on the social justice protests of the prior summer.

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Benjamin Netanyahu looking on as Noam and Gilad Shalit embrace following Gilad's release, Oct. 18, 2011.
Benjamin Netanyahu looking on as Noam and Gilad Shalit embrace following Gilad's release, Oct. 18, 2011.Credit: IDF Spokesman's Office

Former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser told Channel 10 that the 2011 social justice protests in Israel were a factor leading to the Israeli government's agreement to the Palestinian prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed in October of that year. The agreement, Hauser said, was "a bucket of cold water of sorts on the fire."

"Around the prime minister, there was a minority of people who objected to the deal," said Hauser, who was cabinet secretary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Among those who supported the deal, some, but not all, also viewed the deal as a response of sorts to the questions that surfaced in the social protest and a bucket of cold water of sorts thrown on the fire." And Hauser added: "In an era in which there is the experience of a total lack trust in the political system, I have no doubt that an event like the release of Gilad Shalit has a kind of effect of reestablishing trust."

David Meidan, who had been Netanyahu's emissary to the prisoner exchange talks,  said similar things in 2012 in a private lecture in Tel Aviv. The decision to strike an agreement with Hamas on the prisoner exchange was also influenced, he said, by domestic political considerations such as the social justice protests.

"There are a lot of reasons [for the agreement]," Meidan said in answer to a question on the matter. "The social justice protest had a certain part in the decision," he said, but added: "not a central part." The main influence on the decision, he said, was Egypt.

In August, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was defense minister in Netanyahu's cabinet at the time of the deal, harshly criticized Netanyahu's conduct regarding the release of Gilad Shalit. In recordings released by Channel 2, Barak is heard commenting on the official reception of Shalit after his release, saying that for Netanyahu, who was covered welcoming Shalit back to Israel, the pictures were more important than the release itself.

Shalit was abducted and taken to Gaza in 2006. After years of public activity in Israel in support of his release, in October of 2011, the cabinet voted 26 to 3 in favor of an agreement with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, over a prisoner swap that led to the freeing of Shalit on October 18 of that year.