Gilad Shalit 5 Years Later: After five years of Shalit deal impasse, recent diplomatic moves bring new hope

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Haaretz, 6-24-11

Sources involved in the talks say despite extremist positions voiced by both sides, the outlines of the deal have long been known: the release, in two phases, of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

 

The fifth year of Gilad Shalit’s captivity, which ends today, brought no better news than its predecessors. It had the usual mix of lip service and grand protests – yielding nothing except publicity for their creators and unfounded, optimistic reports about supposed progress in the negotiations.

There were a few developments between last June and now, but effectively the negotiations remained where they ran aground in December 2009, with what appears to be a nearly unbridgeable gap between Israel’s maximum offer and Hamas’ minimal demand.

Gilad Shalit Jabalya residents walking yesterday past a mural depicting captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
Photo by: Reuters

Sources involved in the talks say that despite the extremist positions being put forth publicly by both sides, the outlines of the deal have long been known, and that it’s clear to everyone they contain the only possible solution: the release, in two phases, of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

The sources expressed the hope that no reckless measures will impede the talks. Were they warning against an attempt to abduct another Israeli soldier?

For now, it appears that disagreement over the fate of a few dozen senior prisoners, arch-terrorists, is holding up the deal. Will they all be freed? Will those from the West Bank be exiled to the Gaza Strip or abroad?

Perhaps only a radical combination of external circumstances, such as continued unrest in the Middle East or real movement in the relationship among Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, could bring the negotiations out of their coma.

There were a few localized changes on the negotiations front: Senior Mossad official David Meidan replaced Haggai Hadas as chief negotiator; Egypt returned to the picture in providing assistance to German mediator Gerhard Conrad, giving a big boost to Cairo’s relations with the Hamas leadership in Gaza. But the key is still the parties’ willingness to move forward.

For now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears unwilling to cross the line he drew a year and a half ago. Hamas, particularly the armed wing of the organization that is holding Shalit, continues to make unreasonable demands….READ MORE

Gilad Shalit 5 Years Later: Global Support for Shalit

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Kidnapped Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Credit: Israeli Foreign Ministry

JEWS around the world are being urged to pause for five minutes of silence this weekend to show their solidarity with Gilad Shalit on the fifth anniversary of his kidnapping by Hamas terrorists.

To mark the occasion, community leaders and politicians around the world have stepped up their calls for the young Israeli soldier to be freed.

The Zionist Council of Victoria and Jewish Community Council of Victoria have issued a joint letter to state members of parliament and parliamentary friends of both Israel and Palestine. Signed by the two organisation’s presidents, the letter calls for recipients to “use this opportune time to demand from Gilad Shalit’s captors his immediate release from captivity”.

Meanwhile, federal Labor Member for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus has once again addressed parliament on Shalit’s plight, drawing attention to the 1826 days the soldier has been held captive.

“Before people call for Israel to sit down and negotiate with Hamas, they should think about the conduct of this organisation, an organisation that took power in an armed coup in Gaza and murdered hundreds of its opponents … and an organisation which to this day illegally holds Gilad Shalit hostage,” he said.

“I call on human rights activists and world leaders to stand up, to speak up and to demand the immediate release of Gilad Shalit.”

On the international stage, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have jointly issued a statement calling for the soldier’s release.

Both leaders have been active on the issue in the past; with Sarkozy conscious of Shalit’s dual Israeli-French nationality and Germany acting as a mediator between Israel and Hamas in previous negotiations concerning Shalit.

The joint statement, issued during a meeting on the Greece debt crisis, came amid reports that the two countries were offering Hamas added incentives – including easing restrictions on Gaza’s border crossings, as well as de facto recognition of the Hamas government in Gaza, which would allow for European investment in the territory – in exchange for Shalit’s release.

Closer to home, the Melbourne Jewish community is staging a rally for Shalit at Caulfield Park Pavilion this Sunday, which will include a musical presentation and five minutes of silence.

An online campaign has also been launched by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) to highlight Shalit’s continuing captivity.

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