Israeli Soldier Freed After Five Years Capitivity

An Israeli solider that has held by Hamas for five years has been released after negotiations that also resulted in the freeing of thousands of Palestinian prisoners:

JERUSALEM — An Israeli soldier held for more than five years by the militant Palestinian group Hamaswas traded on Tuesday for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in an elaborate exchange that could shake up regional politics.

Buses containing the Palestinian prisoners — the first group of what will eventually be more than 1,000 — made their way into Egypt and from there to the West Bank and Gaza Strip where jubilant relatives awaited and celebrations were planned.

The soldier, Sergeant First Class Gilad Shalit, was taken from Gaza, where he had been held since being abducted in a cross-border raid in 2006, into Egypt and from there to Israel, where he was given a quick medical check and declared in good health. He changed into a military uniform before being flown by helicopter to an Israeli military base where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was reunited with his family.

“Today we are all united in joy and in pain,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a televised address from the air base shortly after.

Sergeant Shalit was interviewed on Egyptian television before being handed over to Israel. Sitting in a blue checked shirt and speaking Hebrew, he smiled and reflected on the questions before answering them. He looked thin and pale but appeared otherwise healthy.

Asked if he had feared that he would never get out, Sergeant Shalit answered that he worried it would take many more years although in the past month he suspected a deal was in the works. He said he was told of his release a week ago.

Asked what he missed most in prison, he replied, “My family and my friends and seeing and talking with people. The worst was having to do the same thing every day over and over.”

He was told that Israel still had thousands of prisoners and was asked if he would like them released. “I will be happy for them to be released if they don’t return to fight us,” he said. “I very much hope that this deal will advance peace.”

The chief spokesman of the Israeli military, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, told reporters after Sergeant Shalit was handed over to Israelis, “Not far from here, Gilad’s tank was attacked and two armored corps soldiers were killed. In the same area, Gilad Shalit, accompanied by the commander of the south is at this moment being brought to the Amitai base. There he will have medical checks but before that he will talk with his family.”

Egyptian television showed Sergeant Shalit being rushed through the Rafah crossing terminal from Gaza into Egypt accompanied by Hamas and Egyptian officials.

Soon afterward, an Israeli military statement said: “Gilad Shalit crossed the border into Israel, ending over five years in captivity.”

One can question the wisdom of releasing some 1000 criminals, many of whom had been convicted of terrorist attacks, but it seems hard to me to argue that the government of Benjamin Netenyahu is being soft on terrorism. In fact, the thought occurs that the fact that these parties were able to negotiate this prisoner swap means that they can negotiate after all. But, of course, a prisoner exchange is a far more simple matter than the fundamental disagreements that exist between Israelis and Palestinians so I wouldn’t hold out much hope on that end.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jay Tea says:

    The price has been established: one Israeli is worth 1,000 Palestinians. Works for me.

    So the next time the Palestinians kill Israelis in a terrorist attack, the payback should be equally proportional.

    J.

  2. Rob in CT says:

    IIRC, the Israelis already tend to kill a whole lot more Palestinians than the other way ’round, Jay, so you can go right ahead and jerk off about it now.

    Good for Shalit.

    the thought occurs that the fact that these parties were able to negotiate this prisoner swap means that they can negotiate after all

    Indeed – but both sides have to actually want the outcome. As far as I can tell, Hamas was always looking to exchange Shalid for X number of their guys, and the Isrealis always wanted Shalid back.

    Peace negotiations, on the other hand, don’t seem to line up that way. Not only are the issues more complex, but the simple fact is that powerful factions on each side don’t really seem to want peace (unless “peace” means “I win”).

  3. Jay Tea says:

    @Rob in CT: IIRC, the Israelis already tend to kill a whole lot more Palestinians than the other way ’round, Jay, so you can go right ahead and jerk off about it now.

    Yeah, Rob, that’s the ticket — let’s punish the Israelis for not being as incompetent as the Palestinians. That’s true justice.

    Ever heard the saying “being stupid should be painful?” It applies in spades here. The Palestinians keep attacking Israel, killing and wounding innocents (or, at least, trying their best, which is quite often not very good), and the world howls when Israel hits back. It’s the only reason I can think of to back a Palestinian state — because then the terrorist attacks are acts of war, and Israel can actually fight back properly.

    But remember, it was the Palestinians who decided that 1 Israeli was worth over 1,000 Palestinians in this exchange. I’m just going along with their declaration of principles.

    J.

  4. legion says:

    the simple fact is that powerful factions on each side don’t really seem to want peace (unless “peace” means “I win”).

    True. What gets forgotten a lot of the time in situations like this is that the guys on side ‘A’ believe just as fervently in their principles as the guys on side ‘B’. Whether you agree with them or not, neither the Israelis not the Palestinians are _ever_ going to go away or just give up. It boils down to 2 choices: either you work towards a 2-state future, or you work towards the utter, complete genocide of every man, woman, and child on the other side, everywhere in the world, forever. There is no third path. But if you let fear and hatred choose your road, there’s only one destination.

  5. but it seems hard to me to argue that the government of Benjamin Netenyahu is being soft on terrorism.

    Given that Netenyahu on one had will release hundreds of actual terrorists, while on the other hand refuses to stop the progressive seizure of land from Palestinians who have commited no crime other than being of the wrong ethnicity, I would say he is being soft on terrorism. Certainly softer on terrorists than on civilians.

    In fact, the thought occurs that the fact that these parties were able to negotiate this prisoner swap means that they can negotiate after all.

    He negotiated with Hamas because there was a benefit to his political popularity. He continues to refuse to negotiate with Fatah; there’s no immediate benefit in doing so since they’ve already stopped attacking Israel. As the BBC noted this morning, the released prisoners were almost entirely Hamas militants, while the equivalent Fatah militants are all still in prison. Apparently the message to them seems to be that they should stop negotiating and take more hostages if they want their complaints taken seriously.

    The cynical might even argue Netanyahu is actually hoping this exchange leads to renewed hostilities, both by throwing a thousand unrepenetant fighters into the mix and by incentivizing terror tactics. If attacks resume, he can use it as an excuse to justify continuing Israel’s ongoing repression in the West Bank.

  6. Jay Tea says:

    @Stormy Dragon: This has been a very educational past few years for me. For example, I’ve learned that the peaceful, civil, respectful Tea Party folks and Israeli construction workers are terrorists, and far worse than the peace-loving Palestinians, who demonstrate their tolerance by such gestures as firing an anti-tank guided missile at a school bus. And the OWS mobs are actually representative of the mainstream of America.

    Thanks for your contribution to my education, Stormy.

    J.

  7. legion says:

    @Jay Tea: FYI, Jay, exactly _none_ of the folks occupying Wall Street are carrying automatic weapons around, threatening to use them if they don’t get what they want.

    Contributing to your education truly would bankrupt future generations…

  8. @Jay Tea:

    Palestinians, who demonstrate their tolerance by such gestures as firing an anti-tank guided missile at a school bus

    I realize you’ve somehow convinced yourself that there’s some sort of global Islamic hivemind that makes every single muslim morally responsible for the actions of every other muslim, but taking Palestinian A’s farm away is not the appropriate response to Palestinian B shooting a rocket at you. Like Netenyahu, you’re more worried about punishing Palestinian civilians while letting the actual terrorists go unmolested and then can’t understand why the Palestinian civilians hate you.

    This is also typical of the completely philosophical incoherence that characterized the tea party. For all their blathering about liberty and small government, they’re really just aping catchphrases they’ve been trained to say with no understanding of what the words coming out of their mouths actually mean. The second you push them off script, the Tea Partiers (like all populists) immediately turn into knee jerk collectivists. The Israel-Palestine situation is the perfect example: Jay is incapable comprehending the idea of Palestinians as individuals. Instead they’re just this social collective that needs to be punished, directed, and controlled as a collective.

    Call it military socialism.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    The cynical might even argue Netanyahu is actually hoping this exchange leads to renewed hostilities, both by throwing a thousand unrepenetant fighters into the mix and by incentivizing terror tactics. If attacks resume, he can use it as an excuse to justify continuing Israel’s ongoing repression in the West Bank.

    This may do wonders for Netanyahu’s and Likud’s short-term prospects but will cause great harm for Israel’s long-term prospects…

  10. Jay Tea says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Hey, Stormy, gimme a hand here. I can’t quite figure out how to deal with these terrorists and not put the civilians at risk in these photos:

    http://www.amitiesquebec-israel.org/photos/abus/abuse.jpg

    http://www.middle-east-info.org/gateway/womenchildabuse/childreninfiringzone.jpg

    Any suggestions? I’m sure you, being the humanitarian supergenius you are, will know exactly what should be done.

    J.

  11. mantis says:

    It’s the only reason I can think of to back a Palestinian state — because then the terrorist attacks are acts of war, and Israel can actually fight back properly.

    I can’t quite figure out how to deal with these terrorists and not put the civilians at risk in these photos:

    How about if Israel killed every last Palestinian in the territories, Jay? Would that satisfy you?