Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, has been working diligently toward a resolution to Israel's current military incursion into Gaza. According to the Jerusalem Post, Mubarak's efforts may, in fact, bear fruit:
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Friday that a compromise had been reached with several Hamas leaders for a conditional release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Israeli government, however, has made clear that Shalit's release was not a point for negotiation; in other words, a "conditional release" is unacceptable. According to a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, Gideon Meira:
"Israel's stance is . . . that the soldier will only be released unconditionally and there will be no negotiations with a gang of terrorists and criminals who abducted a soldier from Israeli territory."
While some may view Israel's stance as extreme, history indicates that it is entirely justified and indeed necessary.
Shalit was kidnapped in order to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners who are being held in Israeli prisons. A statement issued by the Palestinian Information Ministry (PIM) on Wednesday reveals the strategic logic behind Shalit's kidnapping:
"This (prisoner swap) has been exercised by previous Israeli governments with Hezbollah and the PLO, and this is what other countries do in conflict situations."
Basically, the PIM is acknowledging that kidnapping Israeli soldiers and civilians are profitable endeavors, which terrorists fully realize. The question then becomes: Does Israel want to reinforce these views?
The repercussions of negotiating with terrorists are fairly straightforward. Through such dealings, terrorist activity is justified by the rewards that it produces. Thus, additional terrorist activity is sure to follow.
Israel is, by far, the most experienced (Western) country at dealing with terrorists. Still, the exceptionally high value that the country places on human life has long been taken advantage of by terrorists, who realize that Israel would agree to most anything in order to preserve the life of even a single citizen.
However, the recent military incursion into Gaza indicates that the Israeli government has opted for an alternative strategy, making terrorist activity far more costly. More importantly, Israel's Gaza operation has surely convinced the terrorists that harming Shalit would spell disaster for the Palestinian people at large. Indeed, taking Shalit's life would inevitably lead the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority and quite possibly the re-occupation of Gaza.
Meanwhile, the deal reached by Mubarak, to which Hamas has apparently agreed, is nothing more than an attempt by the terrorists to save face:
The agreement that Mubarak claimed to have reached with the kidnappers involved an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of prisoners scheduled to be released anyway in the next year, in exchange for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped on Sunday, Palestinian sources said.
Should Israel accept the terms of the agreement, it would be a hollow victory for the terrorists. One can hardly argue that the freeing of prisoners who are scheduled for release within a year justifies the damage that Gaza has experienced thus far. Still, propagandists in the Arab media would surely report it as a major victory for the "freedom fighters," which Israel must avoid. Indeed, even when they lose, they win.
Mubarak further demanded of Syrian president, Bashar Assad, to expel the Hamas leadership from Syria, unless Shalit is returned.
[Mubarak] warned Mashaal that by insisting that thousands of Palestinian detainees be released in exchange for Shalit, he was leading the Palestinians to disaster, Israel Radio reported.
Though I'm hopeful that Shalit will be released in the coming days in order to avoid the hell that his continued captivity promises for the Palestinians, Marshaal has ample reasons to stall Shalit's release. Indeed, Marshaal surely realizes by now that his own life is directly tied to that of Shalit. Israel will not attempt to assassinate Marshaal until Shalit's fate is known. An early attempt by Israel would likely lead to the retaliatory killing of Shalit by his captors. Once the situation is resolved, however, Marshaal's remaining days on planet Earth will be numbered — and likely in single digits.
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