As negotiations intensify for a deal to free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas to Gaza in June 2006 when he was 19, Palestinian Media Watch has released an important bulletin on how Israel’s radically lopsided prisoner deals encourage further kidnappings. The bulletin gives 50 statements from various Palestinian media that show how Palestinians have come to view kidnapping as a key strategy to secure the release of large numbers of terrorists jailed in Israel.

One of these statements occurred in an animation on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV on July 6, 2009:

Gilad Shalit: “Mommy!”
Hamas child: “Who is it, Gilad [Shalit]? [Laughing] Poor you! You’ve been rotting here for 3 years, and no one cares.”
Gilad Shalit: “Please release me!”
Hamas child: “Are you asking me to be a collaborator and a traitor, that I’ll betray my people and my homeland? Are you crazy!”
Gilad Shalit: “I have an idea: You [Hamas] go and capture more soldiers, they [Israelis] will be afraid and accept your terms to free me.”
Hamas child: “Ah, they will free you not because they love you, but to prevent anxiety among your soldiers, so they won’t be afraid, and stop their military service.”
Gilad Shalit: “True.”
Hamas child: “Gilad, stay here, and pray that [Hamas] succeeds in capturing another [soldier], so you’ll be freed. Bye.”
Gilad Shalit: “Mommy! Mommy! (in Hebrew) Free me!”

Apart from the clearly perceived utility of kidnapping, the cruel mockery of Shalit, who has been held incommunicado for three and a half years, is chilling. It is not the first such instance; a year ago Shalit was mocked before a crowd of 150,000 in a festive event in Gaza.

Considering that Israel is apparently unable to rescue Shalit militarily and that, absent a deal, he may be doomed to spend the rest of his life in such an environment, Israel’s interest in such a deal may be more understandable despite the appalling terms. Reportedly, the price now under negotiation for this one soldier is the freeing of about a thousand convicted terrorists from Israeli prisons, including some responsible for the planning or perpetrating of some of the worst attacks.