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Gilad Shalit: At Any Price?

As the Shalit family sets out on a major public campaign, Israel debates whether to meet Hamas' painful price for the kidnapped soldier's freedom.

by
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Bio

June 29, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Ynet columnist Shimon Shiffer doesn’t believe that any amount of public protest will be able to convince Netanyahu to free such dangerous terrorists:

We can assume that in Shalit’s case he will hold firm and act like a prime minister should.

But the pressure on the government from the Shalit family is formidable. Their position — secure Shalit’s release at any price — is supported by an op-ed piece that appeared in Ha’aretz on Sunday titled “Make a Deal Now.” The article dismisses as “unconvincing” any argument by the government that releasing the most dangerous prisoners would represent a true national security threat. It is only a matter of time until the government concedes to public pressure and meets the Hamas demands, they argue. Why not just do it sooner instead of later?

Unfortunately, the march appears to be bolstering morale in Hamas as successfully as it boosts the spirits of the Shalit family. The Hebrew daily Israel Today quoted a “senior Palestinian source” as saying that “Hamas is drunk with power as they watch this debate rage within Israeli society.” They see the internal arguments within Israel as a breaking point among Israelis. More than one Hamas official has argued that they shouldn’t release the captured soldier under any circumstances, even if Israel meets its demands. “Hamas is displaying the kidnapping as one of its organization’s greatest achievements.”

This animated propaganda film recently released by Hamas celebrating the kidnapping supports that observation.

But these are the government’s concerns, not those of the Shalit family. The Shalits say that they have waited long enough and have kept their suffering private long enough so as not to encourage their son’s captors. This 11-day march and the subsequent sit-in represent a turning point for them: after four years of diplomacy, they are taking their struggle public. Together with the approximately 500 supporters committed to accompanying them all the way to Jerusalem, they have put their lives and careers on hold in order to fully dedicate themselves to their goal.

Noam Shalit, speaking to the press as he set out, said they are determined that their son will not meet the sad fate of Israel’s previous famous prisoner of war, Ron Arad, who is believed to have died of illness while in captivity.

Our family, with the support of thousands of activists who are walking with us are saying: no more. We won’t wait anymore. We are bringing our protest by foot together with out supporters on this long journey until we arrive at the home of Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem — a journey from which we intend to return only with Gilad.

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Allison Kaplan Sommer is a writer living outside Tel Aviv. She is a former PJM editor.
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