Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Gilad Shalit Arrives Home After Meeting PM Netanyahu & National Leaders



Gilad Shalit Arrives Home After Meeting National Leaders

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-18-11

A teary-eyed Israel, headed by the Shalit family, welcomed Gilad back home to Israel Tuesday after 1,941 days in captivity at the hands of Hamas and allied terrorists, some of whom continued to urge more kidnappings. He underwent medical tests before returning to his family home in the Galilee.

The soldier, who had changed into an IDF uniform, met his parents at the Tel Nof Air Force base near Tel Aviv after being initially received by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

The happiness, considered the fulfillment of the mitzvah of bringing back a Jew from captivity ,was mixed with the pain and fear that more Israelis will be murdered by the 1,027 terrorists and security prisoners who were freed in exchange for Shalit. That mitzvah hedged by halakha which is against redeeming a captive if it leads to more captives being taken.

In Gaza and Ramallah, thousands of Arabs wildly celebrated the return of the first batch of terrorists to Judea and Samaria. Others are to be deported.

Hamas leaders, including one of those released from jail, continued to call for more kidnappings of Israeli soldiers to gain the freedom of terrorists who were not included in the swap.

Yehiye Sinwar, who was freed by Israel after being sentenced for kidnapping and killing two soldiers, told Hamas television, “We shall spare no efforts to liberate the rest of our brothers and sisters. We urge the Al Qassam Brigades to kidnap more soldiers to exchange them for the freedom of our loved ones who are still behind bars”.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas showed willingness to unite with Hamas as he agreed to share the stage with the terrorist group’s local leaders during a welcoming ceremony in Ramallah.

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Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Gilad Shalit’s father Noam speaks after emotional reunion



Gilad Shalit’s father speaks after emotional reunion

Source: The Jewish Chronicle, 10-18-11

Gilad Shalit with Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu and his father NoamGilad Shalit with Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu and his father Noam

Gilad Shalit’s father Noam has describing meeting his son for the first time in more than five years.

He said: “Today, it feels like my son has been reborn.”

Mr Shalit told the assembled press in his home town of Mitzpe Hila what it was like to bring his son home. “He came down the stairs, into the house, and through the door he left so long ago.

“Gilad is feeling well, he has a few light wounds which have not been treated well, some are shrapnel wounds, and he has also had a lack of sunlight. But he is just very happy to be home.

He said his son would not be coming out to greet the press or his supporters. “Obviously he finds it hard to be exposed to a big crowd after being alone and isolated for so many days and years.

“He did not communicate with anyone in his own language, he only spoke to kidnappers or guards. We hope he can be rehabilitated as quick as possible with the help of the IDF. We hope he can go back to normal life.

“The pilot of the chopper flew us over the town and Gilad looked down and waved at everyone. He saw the support he was getting along the roads.

He thanked the solidarity movement, the activists in Mitzpe Hila, the IDF and IAF and the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He said the decision to free more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners was “not easy.”

He added: “I feel for the bereaved families, we do understand their pain and the price paying for Gilad’s freedom.”

He said the family had sat down together for a meal and his son had discussed a ittle of what he went through in captivity. “He could listen to the radio, he had some TV, mostly Arabic TV stations. We didn’t ask for him for much, we just sat together, and he has not said much so far. But he did say that at the beginning he was treated very badly, but it had got better in last few years.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks Following the Release of Gilad Shalit – Transcript



PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks Following the Release of Gilad Shalit

Source: PMO, 10-18-11

Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO

Citizens of Israel, today we are all united in joy and in pain.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I returned to the Prime Minister’s Office.  One of the principal and most complicated missions that I found on my desk, and which I set my heart to, was to bring our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit back home, alive and well.  Today, that mission has been completed.

It entailed a very difficult decision.  I saw the need to return home someone whom the State of Israel had sent to the battlefield.  As an IDF soldier and commander, I went out on dangerous missions many times.  But I always knew that if I or one of my comrades fell captive, the Government of Israel would do its utmost to return us home, and as Prime Minister, I have now carried this out.  As a leader who daily sends out soldiers to defend Israeli citizens, I believe that mutual responsibility is no mere slogan – it is a cornerstone of our existence here.

But I also see an additional need, that of minimizing the danger to the security of Israel’s citizens.  To this end, I enunciated two clear demands.  First, that senior Hamas leaders, including arch-murderers, remain in prison.  Second, that the overwhelming majority of those designated for release either be expelled or remain outside Judea and Samaria, in order to impede their ability to attack our citizens.

For years, Hamas strongly opposed these demands.  But several months ago, we received clear signs that it was prepared to back down from this opposition.  Tough negotiations were carried out, night and day, in Cairo, with the mediation of the Egyptian government.  We stood our ground, and when our main demands were met – I had to make a decision.

I know very well that the pain of the families of the victims of terrorism is too heavy to bear.  It is difficult to see the miscreants who murdered their loved ones being released before serving out their full sentences.  But I also knew that in the current diplomatic circumstances, this was the best agreement we could achieve, and there was no guarantee that the conditions which enabled it to be achieved would hold in the future.  It could be that Gilad would disappear; to my regret, such things have already happened.

I thought of Gilad and the five years that he spent rotting away in a Hamas cell.  I did not want his fate to be that of Ron Arad.  Ron fell captive exactly 25 years ago and has yet to return.  I remembered the noble Batya Arad.  I remembered her concern for her son Ron, right up until her passing.  At such moments, a leader finds himself alone and must make a decision.  I considered – and I decided.  Government ministers supported me by a large majority.

And today, now Gilad has returned home, to his family, his people and his country.  This is a very moving moment.  A short time ago, I embraced him as he came off the helicopter and escorted him to his parents, Aviva and Noam, and I said, ‘I have brought your son back home.’  But this is also a hard day; even if the price had been smaller, it would still have been heavy.

I would like to make it clear: We will continue to fight terrorism.  Any released terrorist who returns to terrorism – his blood is upon his head.  The State of Israel is different from its enemies: Here, we do not celebrate the release of murderers.  Here, we do not applaud those who took life.  On the contrary, we believe in the sanctity of life.  We sanctify life.  This is the ancient tradition of the Jewish People.

Citizens of Israel, in recent days, we have all seen national unity such as we have not seen in a long time.  Unity is the source of Israel’s strength, now and in the future.  Today, we all rejoice in Gilad Shalit’s return home to our free country, the State of Israel.  Tomorrow evening, we will celebrate Simchat Torah.  This coming Sabbath, we will read in synagogues, as the weekly portion from the prophets, the words of the prophet Isaiah (42:7): ‘To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.’  Today, I can say, on behalf of all Israelis, in the spirit of the eternal values of the Jewish People: ‘Your children shall return to their own border [Jeremiah 31:17].’  Am Yisrael Chai! [The People of Israel live!].


דברי ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו לאחר שחרור גלעד שליט

18/10/2011 – יום שלישי כ’ תשרי תשע”ב

הטקסט עבר התאמת עריכה –

אזרחי ישראל, ביום הזה כולנו מאוחדים בשמחה ובכאב.
לפני שנתיים וחצי חזרתי לתפקיד ראש הממשלה. אחת המשימות המרכזיות והמורכבות שמצאתי על שולחני, ואותה שמתי על לוח לבי, הייתה להחזיר את חיילנו החטוף גלעד שליט חי ובריא הביתה. היום המשימה הזאת הושלמה.

היא הייתה כרוכה בהחלטה קשה, קשה מאוד. אל מול עיניי עמד הצורך להחזיר הביתה את מי שנשלח על ידי מדינת ישראל לשדה הקרב. כחייל וכמפקד יצאתי פעמים רבות בשליחות צה”ל למשימות מסוכנות. אבל תמיד ידעתי שאם אני או חבריי ניפול בשבי, ממשלת ישראל תעשה כל שביכולתה כדי להחזירנו הביתה, וזה דבר שעכשיו ביצעתי כראש ממשלת ישראל. כמנהיג ששולח מדי יום חיילים להגן על אזרחי ישראל, אני מאמין שערבות הדדית אינה רק סיסמה – היא אחת מאבני היסוד של קיומנו כאן.

אבל לנגד עיניי עמד גם צורך נוסף, הצורך לצמצם ככל האפשר את הסכנה לביטחון אזרחי ישראל. ולשם כך הצבתי שתי דרישות ברורות. הראשונה: שצמרת החמאס, הכוללת רבי מרצחים, תישאר בכלא. והשנייה, שרובם המכריע של המשוחררים יגורשו או יישארו מחוץ לשטחי יהודה ושומרון, וזאת כדי להרחיק אותם מן היכולת לפגוע באזרחינו.

במשך שנים החמאס התנגד בתקיפות לדרישות אלה. אבל לפני מספר חודשים קיבלנו סימנים ברורים שהוא מוכן לסגת מהתנגדותו זו. במשך ימים ולילות התנהל בקהיר משא ומתן עיקש בתיווך ממשלת מצרים. עמדנו על שלנו, ומשנתקבלו עיקר דרישותינו – נדרשתי להכריע.
אני יודע היטב שכאבן של משפחות נפגעי הטרור הוא כבד מנשוא. קשה לראות את בני העוולה שרצחו את יקיריהן משתחררים בטרם מילאו את מלוא עונשם. אך ידעתי גם שבנסיבות המדיניות הנוכחיות זהו ההסכם הטוב ביותר שנוכל להשיגו, ולא היה שום ביטחון שהתנאים שאפשרו את השגתו, שהתנאים הללו יתקיימו בהמשך. ואז ייתכן שגלעד היה נעלם, לצערי דבר כזה כבר קרה בעבר.

חשבתי על גלעד ועל חמש השנים שהוא נָמָק בצינוק של החמאס. לא רציתי שגורלו יהיה כגורלו של רון ארד. רון נפל בשבי בדיוק לפני 25 שנים, ועד היום לא שב. זכרתי את בתיה ארד האצילה, זכרתי את כמיהתה לבנה רון  עד יום מותה. ידעתי שאני נושא באחריות כבדה. ידעתי את מלוא המשמעות של קבלת ההחלטה. ברגעים הללו מנהיג נמצא לבדו וצריך לקבל החלטה. שקלתי – והכרעתי. שרי הממשלה תמכו בהחלטה ברוב גדול.

והיום, עכשיו, גלעד שב הביתה, אל משפחתו ועמו ומדינתו. זהו רגע מרגש ביותר. לפני זמן קצר חיבקתי אותו ברדתו מהמטוס וליוויתי אותו להוריו אביבה ונועם, ואמרתי: החזרתי את בנכם הביתה. אבל זהו גם יום קשה. כי גם אם המחיר צומצם, הוא עדיין כבד.
אני מבקש להבהיר: נמשיך להילחם בטרור. וכל מחבל משוחרר שיחזור לטרור  – דמו בראשו.  מדינת ישראל נבדלת מאויביה. כאן לא חוגגים שחרור של רוצחים, כאן לא נושאים על כפיים את אלה שגדעו חיים. להיפך, אנחנו מאמינים בקדושת החיים, אנחנו מקדשים את החיים. זוהי מסורת עתיקה בעמנו, העם היהודי.

אזרחי ישראל, בימים האחרונים ראינו כולנו לכידות בעם שלא נראתה זמן רב. ואחדות זו היא מקור עוצמה לישראל בהווה ובעתיד. כולנו מִתְבָּרְכִים היום בהשבתו של גלעד הביתה אל מדינתנו החופשית, מדינת ישראל. מחר אנחנו נחגוג את ערב שמחת תורה. בשבת יקראו בבתי הכנסת בהפטרה של פרשת בראשית את דברי הנביא ישעיהו: ‘להוציא ממסגר אסיר, מבית כלא יושבי חושך’. וביום הזה אני יכול לומר בשם כולכם אזרחי ישראל, ברוח ערכי הנצח של עם ישראל: ושבו בנים לגבולם, עם ישראל חי!


Full Text Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Ambassador Michael Oren’s Remarks on the Release of Gilad Shalit – Transcript



Welcome Home: Ambassador Michael Oren’s Remarks on the Release of Gilad Shalit

Today, the people of Israel and our supporters worldwide share in the joy of the Shalit family who were reunited with their beloved Gilad, held for five agonizing years by Hamas terrorists. As we witness this expression of happiness, we take pride in the strength and unity of the people of Israel and of their unwavering commitment to redeem prisoners who have fallen into enemy hands. We reaffirm the covenant between the State of Israel and its citizen army that exalts the principle that no soldier is ever left behind. Today, too, we are pained by the price we have paid in order to secure Gilad’s release, and we share the torment of those for whom this price is intensely personal.

We are hopeful that the Palestinian leadership will work to prevent any future terrorist attacks and renounce the violent acts perpetrated by many of those Palestinian prisoners who will be released.  Today is an opportunity for the Palestinian people to display the humanity and dignity that have given expression throughout the Arab world this year by turning their backs on the convicted murderers and those who laud them.

Israel will continue to defend itself in the face of multiple threats and withstand the attempts of those who seek to destroy us. We will be girded by our love of life, trusting in its supremacy — moral as well as military – over those who love death. We will make the hard choices, whether in war or in peace, to ensure the safety and integrity of Israel – the State, the Land, and its people.

Gilad, his father Noam, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Barak.

Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Finally free, Gilad Shalit returns to Israel



Finally free, Gilad Shalit returns to Israel

Source: JTA, 10-18-11

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is embraced by his father, Noam, at Israel's Tel Nef Air Force base shortly after Shalit's release from more than five years of captivity, Oct. 18, 2011. (GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at the Tel Nof Air Force base in Israel shortly after his release from captivity, Oct. 18, 2011. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)






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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at the Tel Nof Air Force base in Israel shortly after his release from captivity, Oct. 18, 2011. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

Gilad Shalit was reunited with his family shortly after crossing into Israel from Egypt after his release earlier in the day by his captors in Gaza, ending five years and four months in captivity.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman announced Shalit’s return at 11 a.m. Tuesday Israel time. Shalit arrived in Egypt approximately three hours earlier.

Images of Shalit walking were broadcast by Egyptian TV, and in an interview Shalit said he was treated well by his captors but that he missed family, friends and freedom. The IDF reported that Shalit is in good health.

After meeting with IDF officials and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Shalit was met by family members, and images of him embracing his father, Noam, were broadcast throughout Israel.

Shalit’s release came as Israel began transferring 477 Palestinian prisoners to the Red Cross as part of a swap deal between Israel and Hamas that will see the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Eyewitnesses confirmed that some of the prisoners had begun entering Gaza.

Shalit’s family was waiting for him at the Tel Nof Air Force base, where he was to be taken after crossing into Israel.

Shalit had been held in Gaza since being captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid in June 2006.

Israel Political Brief October 18, 2011: Egyptian TV Interview Asks Gilad Shalit to Join Campaign to Free Palestinian Prisoners



Egyptian TV Asks Shalit to Join Campaign to Free Palestinian Prisoners

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-18-11
In an interview Egypt conducted with with Gilad Shalit before releasing him to Israeli custody, an interviewer asked Shalit if he would join a campaign to help the more than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners still held “languishing” in Israeli prisons. The interview was aired on Egyptian and other Arab stations.

Israeli news carried the interview at the same time that it was first being aired on Arab television. The interview questions were asked in English, then translated. Gilad responded in Hebrew and English, which was promptly translated to Arabic.

After asking Shalit if Hamas treated him well, and “what he missed most,” the interviewer looked directly at Shalit, saying: “You’ve known what it’s like to be in captivity. There are more than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, will you now join the campaign for their release?”

“I’ll be very happy if they are released, but only if they don’t go back to fight Israel, to more wars.” Shalit responded. Shalit, who appears to be in good physical health, though very pale, and breathing heavily, waited a moment before adding that they should join the fight for peace.

This statement was apparently not translated into Arabic for their viewing public.

gilad shalit released

The general consensus in the Israeli media is that while this strange interview was disturbing and borderline abusive, Shalit responded beautifully, especially under the difficult and uncomfortable circumstances.

Gilad was still in Egyptian custody when he gave this interview. The interview began with the question: “Gilad Shalit, you look fine! How are you?”

It has been confirmed that Shalit has had a very emotional conversation with his family on the phone.

UPDATE: After undergoing a medical examination, Gilad Shalit was taken home to Mitzpeh Hila where he was greeted by thousands of supporters.

Israel Political Brief October 17, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Letter to Families of Victims of Shalit-Deal Prisoners



Netanyahu writes to families of victims of Shalit-deal prisoners

Source: JTA, 10-17-11

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to family members of the victims of attacks perpetrated by some of the 1,027 prisoners to be released in return for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

In the letters issued Monday, Netanyahu tells the families that he understands their “negative feelings” toward the deal because of the death of his brother Jonathan, who was the sole casualty of the 1976 Israeli operation to free hostages at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

“In my many deliberations throughout the negotiations, you were always on my mind,” he wrote, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. “The decision to release Gilad Shalit was one of the most difficult ones I have ever made. It’s difficult for me for the same reason it’s difficult for you, dear family members.

Dozens of those families and other protesters marched Monday morning to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, where a three-justice panel convened to hear petitions opposing the deal. The release of the Palestinian prisoners is scheduled to begin Tuesday; Shalit is to gain his freedom on the same day.

The petition was filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Assocation, which asked the court to cancel the prisoner swap deal. The association also asked the court to delay the releases to allow more time to study the list and make objections. Several families also have filed separate petitions against the release of particular prisoners.

Shalit’s father, Noam, also attended the proceedings and submitted his own response to the petitions, arguing that “any change in its delicate framework could torpedo the entire deal.”

The Prime Minister’s Office also announced Monday that Gilad Shalit will be promoted to the rank of sergeant-major in time for his release, which is expected to come Tuesday. He was a corporal when he was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006, and since then has been promoted twice.


Letter from PM Benjamin Netanyahu to Bereaved Families

Source: PMO, 10-17-11

Dear Families,

I write to you with a heavy heart.  I understand and know your pain.

I belong to a bereaved family of the victims and fallen of terrorism.  By brother was killed in the operation to rescue the Entebbe hostages.

I know that you have a heavy heart and that your wounds have been opened anew these past days; that your thoughts are not at ease.

Numerous misgivings accompanied me throughout the negotiations on the agreement to return the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.  You were always in my thoughts.

The decision in the matter of the release of Gilad Shalit was among the most difficult that I have ever made.  It is difficult for me for the same reasons that it is difficult for you, dear families.

In the decision to return Gilad home, I was faced with the responsibility of the Prime Minister of Israel to bring home every soldier who is sent to protect our citizens.

I also, when I went off to fight in the name of the State of Israel, knew always: The State of Israel does not abandon its soldiers and citizens.

Opposite the strong desire to return home a captive soldier, was the need to limit the heavy price that the State of Israel would have to pay upon the abduction of Gilad Shalit over five years ago.

I know that the price is very heavy for you.  I understand the difficulty to countenance that the evil people who perpetrated the appalling crimes against your loved ones will not pay the full price that they deserve.

During these moments I hope that you will find solace that I and the entire nation of Israel embrace you and share your pain.

Your loved ones will forever be in my heart,

Yours in pain and deep sorrow for your loved ones,

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel Political Brief October 11, 2011: Isreali Government Approves 26-3 Gilad Shalit Release Agreement



The Government approved the agreement for the release of Gilad Shalit

Source: PMO, 10-11-11

The Government approved the agreement for the release of Gilad Shalit by a large majority of 26 ministers in favor and 3 against. During the discussions outlines were heard by the heads of the security services – Director of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz , Director of the Mossad Tamir Pardo and the Prime Minister’s special envoy to the negotiations David Meidan. The heads of the security services presented the agreement and its various aspects and expressed their support in it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “this is a difficult decision to make, but a leadership is examined in moments like these, in its ability to make difficult decisions. I am bringing Gilad Shalit home, to his parents Noam and Aviva, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the people of Israel.”

Israeli Cabinet approves Shalit deal

Source: JTA, 10-11-11

Noam Shalit, the father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, reacts at the protest encampment opposite the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem that a deal has been reached for the release of his son, Oct. 11, 2011. (Miriam Alster / Flash90)
Israelis in Jerusalem celebrate the news that an agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Oct. 11, 2011. (Miriam Alster / Flash90)
 Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was 19 when he was taken captive in a cross-border raid on the Israel-Gaza line. (Shalit family)
Noam Shalit, the father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, reacts at the protest encampment opposite the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem that a deal has been reached for the release of his son, Oct. 11, 2011. (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

If Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is freed in the prisoner-exchange deal with Hamas that was approved by Israel’s Cabinet in a 26-3 vote late Tuesday night, it will raise two immediate questions: Which side finally acceded to the other’s demands after years of fruitless negotiations since Shalit was captured in a June 2006 raid along the Israel-Gaza border, and what took so long to get here?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered some hints about the first issue in a hastily called news conference shortly before going into the special Cabinet meeting. This deal, he suggested, was the best Israel was going to get, so if Israel was ever going to recover Shalit, it had to happen now.

“With everything that is happening in Egypt and the region, I don’t know if the future would have allowed us to get a better deal — or any deal at all for that matter,” Netanyahu said on Israeli television. “The window appeared following fears that collapsing Mideast regimes and the rise of extremist forces would make Gilad Shalit’s return impossible.”

The prime minister added, “If all goes according to plan, Gilad will be returning to Israel in the coming days.”

The deal reportedly was signed by the two sides on Oct. 6 in Cairo following years of negotiations and mediation via the Egyptians. News of the deal was first reported by the satellite TV station Al Arabiya. Its exact contours remain unknown.

Shalit’s release would mark a remarkable end to a five-year saga that has transfixed the Israeli public, frustrated two successive Israeli governments and spanned two wars.

Then a corporal in the Israeli army, Shalit was taken captive at age 19 on June 25, 2006, and almost immediately his family launched an incessant public campaign to free him. The crusade included vigils, marches, meetings, statements by world leaders, celebrity endorsements, bumper stickers, congressional resolutions, songs and a protest encampment opposite the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.

Shalit’s plight struck a chord in the Jewish state and the Jewish world, and Israelis and Jews from all walks of life and political camps took part in activities calling for his release.

It’s not clear whether this public campaign helped usher in the deal announced Tuesday or whether it hindered an agreement from being reached.

Shalit’s family believed that it had to keep up the public pressure on the Israeli government to seal the deal. At the official state Independence Day ceremony last Yom Ha’atzmaut, in May, Shalit’s brother Yoel darted onstage with his girlfriend and a banner reading “Shalit is still alive.” Instead of getting arrested for the stunt on national television broadcast, he got an audience with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

But some analysts warned that all the public clamor to free Shalit only made a deal more difficult by increasing the price Hamas demanded for his release. Indeed, for years Israel insisted that the price was too high.

On Tuesday, Time magazine reported that the exchange would include as many as 1,000 Palestinian prisoners – first the 450 named by Hamas, and then 550 named by Israel. The prisoners “will include as many as 315 men convicted of killing hundreds of Israelis in terror attacks,” Time Foreign Editor Tony Karon wrote.

Critics of prisoner-exchange swaps warn that such deal merely encourages Israel’s enemies to capture more Israelis.

Such criticism followed then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decision in July 2008 to trade five Lebanese prisoners — including notorious murderer Samir Kuntar — and the bodies of 199 others in exchange for the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two Israeli soldiers captured in the border attack by Hezbollah that sparked the 2006 Lebanon War.

Goldwasser and Regev were thought to have been killed in the attack or shortly thereafter, but until the coffins with their bodies arrived on Israeli soil, Israeli officials said they could not know with certainty that they were dead.

Shalit’s case has been a little different. In a video released by his captors in October 2009, a frail but otherwise healthy-looking Shalit held a current newspaper and read a message asking Israeli authorities to conclude an agreement for his release. In all his years in captivity, Shalit was allowed no international or Red Cross visitors.

As Israel’s Cabinet discussed the deal into the wee hours Wednesday morning, the heads of the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad and the Shin Bet internal security service all reportedly expressed support for the deal. When the matter finally came to a vote, there were only three dissenting ministers: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau of Yisrael Beiteinu, and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon of Likud.

Israel Political Brief October 11, 2011: Israel and Hamas Agree to Gilad Shalit Deal



Israel and Hamas Agree to Shalit Deal

Israel and Hamas reach a tentative agreement on a proposal to exchange Gilad Shalit for 1027 prisoners.

Source: Shalom Life, 10-11-11

According to reports, a deal has been reached to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

The deal to return Shalit – held by Hamas since his capture in June, 2006 in a cross-border raid by Palestinian terrorists – will see Israel release 300 Hamas prisoners within a few days from today (October 11). Then, once Shalit has been transferred from Gaza to Egypt, Israel would release another 150 terrorists, culminating with his safe return to Israel, which would see Israel release another 550 prisoners. 27 Female prisoners will also be released.

The deal reportedly includes about 300 hard-core terrorists, including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat. Hamas reportedly intends to release the full list of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners tonight.

“If all goes according to plan, Gilad will be returning to Israel in the coming days,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Israeli television earlier today, a sign that he’s confident the deal will go through.

Israel Political Brief Full Text October 11, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the Opening of Special Cabinet Meeting on Deal Reached for Gilad Shalit’s Release — Transcript





Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarks at the opening of a special cabinet meeting today

Source: PMO, 10-11-11

PM Netanyahu

Today, I bring a proposal to the Government for a deal that will bring Gilad Shalit home alive and well; bring him home to his parents Aviva and Noam, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the entire people of Israel. Two and a half years ago, when the government was formed, I took upon myself, as my first priority, to bring Gilad home to his people, to his family – to bring him home safe and sound.

At the time, Gilad was already held in captivity for two and a half years, with no visits from the Red Cross, with no visits at all, and we did not know what state he was in. The first step I took, and we approved it here in the Government, was to get a video recording of Gilad, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw it. We saw that he was functioning, physically, mentally and cognitively. We saw that he was functioning well. We knew that he was healthy and that he was alive.  I regarded that tape as an insurance policy, because it obliged the Hamas before the international community to safeguard him, to keep him alive and maintain his health. But that was obviously only the first step.

The most important mission that we had was more challenging – to actually bring Gilad home. To that end we held long and tough negotiations through the German mediator. These negotiations were based on a framework outlined by the previous government. They were long and exhausting and despite all our efforts, a deal was not reached.

I must point out that not a day went by without us trying various ways to bring Gilad home, any way possible, and that didn’t work either. In the last few weeks, the negotiations were renewed in Cairo, this time with the Egyptian government as mediator. My instructions to the team were to adhere to the principles and framework that are important for the security of the State of Israel, which I will detail in the meeting.

There is an inbuilt tension between the desire to bring back an abducted soldier, or citizen, and the need to maintain the security of the citizens of Israel.  This is my dual responsibility as Prime Minister.

The deal I am bringing to the Government expresses the right balance between all of these considerations. I do not wish to hide the truth from you – it is a very difficult decision. I feel for the families of victims of terror, I appreciate their suffering and distress, I am one of them. But leadership must be examined at moments such as this, being able to make difficult, but right, decisions.

I believe that we have reached the best deal we could have at this time, when storms are sweeping the Middle East.  I do not know if in the near future we would have been able to reach a better deal or any deal at all. It is very possible that this window of opportunity, that opened because of the circumstances, would close indefinitely and we would never have been able to bring Gilad home at all.

Therefore, for all of these reasons, I instructed the team to put their initials on the deal last Thursday, and today it was finalized and signed by both sides. I thank my Military Secretary Maj. Gen. Yohanan Locker, the Chief of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen, my personal envoy to the negotiations, David Meidan and his predecessor Hagai Hadas. I thank the team that has accompanied them all these years.

I thank the IDF, the security forces for doing everything they could regarding Gilad Shalit. I also wish to thank the German mediator, and the Chancellor Angela Merkel who supported his mission all along. A send a special thanks to the Government of Egypt and the Egyptian Intelligence Services for providing much assistance in mediating and helping us reaching this agreement.

This morning I Invited Noam Shalit to my residence, and I spoke on the phone with the mother Aviva and the grandfather Zvi. I told them that I am keeping my promise and I’m bringing their son and grandson home. I told them, “I’m bringing your boy back.” I am happy that I succeeded in fulfilling the Jewish decree of redeeming captives, and if all goes as planned, Gilad will be back in Israel in the next few days with his family and his people.

The Nation of Israel is a unique people. We are all mutually responsible for each other, as our Sages said: “He who saves one soul, it is as though he saved an entire world.” Tonight, I bring the Government a proposal to save Gilad Shalit, to finally bring him home to Israel after five years.

Gilad Shalit Timeline: 1,934 Days in Hamas Captivity




Gilad Shalit timeline: 1,934 days in Hamas captivity

Source: YNet News, 10-11-11

IDF soldier was captured on June 25, 2006 by Gaza terrorists who raided his tank Israel News

Israel and Hamas have agreed on a deal to swap IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive for five years, for the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.



Here is a timeline of events since Shalit was captured:


June 25, 2006 – Hamas operatives launch raid into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing two soldiers and capturing Shalit.


June 28 – Israeli troops invade the Gaza Strip.


Sept 15 – Letter from Shalit reaches his family via Egyptian mediators brokering a prisoner swap deal.


Oct 1 – Worst internal Palestinian fighting in a decade raises fears of a civil war in Gaza.


Nov 26 – Ceasefire in Gaza announced, ends five months of Israeli air strikes and incursions that fail to free Shalit.


June 14, 2007 – Hamas takes over Gaza from Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. At least 100 die in fighting.


June 25 – Israeli TV airs audio tape from Shalit’s captors asking for medical treatment and release of Palestinians.


Sept 8 – Israeli special forces disguised as Hamas gunmen abduct Hamas commander to be used as “bargaining chip.”


Dec 26 – Hamas says Shalit won’t be freed unless Israel frees 1,400 Palestinian prisoners, many long-term.


April 24, 2008 – Hamas leader offers Israel six-month truce in Gaza but says fate of Shalit separate issue.


May 12 – Israel says ceasefire deal must include Shalit. Ceasefire talks falter 10 days later over Israel’s refusal to reopen Gaza’s border crossings.


June 9 – Israeli television says Shalit’s family receives hand-written letter from their son.


June 17 – Israel and Hamas agree to Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.


July 4 – Hamas suspends prisoner swap talks in dispute over Israeli blockade and cross-border rocket fire from Gaza.


Sept 25 – Hamas rejects list of prisoners Israel is ready to free in exchange for Shalit, saying it wants more.


Dec 19 – Fragile six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas expires as they fail to agree on terms to extend truce.


Dec 27 – Israel launches 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis are killed.


Jan 18, 2009 – Israel and Hamas cease fire in Gaza.


Feb 14 – Gaza truce deal stalls after Israel insists on Shalit release as condition to ceasefire.


Sept 30 – Israel and Hamas confirm deal to exchange proof that Shalit is alive for release of 20 female Palestinians.


Oct 2 – Video is handed over and authenticated in which Shalit looked “pale but in good health”. A Red Cross convoy carries women to freedom in the West Bank and Gaza.


Nov 25 – Israel rejects a demand for the release of several Hamas commanders as part of any exchange for Shalit, signalling talks have hit a snag. Israel has long balked at granting amnesty to Palestinians jailed for attacks that killed Israelis.


June 27, 2010 – Shalit’s parents begin a 12-day march from their northern home to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau’s Jerusalem residence to press for a prisoner swap.


April 9, 2011 – The Israeli military says that Tayser Abu Snima, a top Hamas militant, killed in a raid, was “directly and physically involved” in Shalit’s capture.


June 23 – The International Committee of the Red Cross calls on Hamas to provide proof that Shalit is still alive five years after his capture.


July 4 – Defence Minister Ehud Barak halts the handover of 84 bodies of Palestinian militants to Palestinian authorities, hours after the military said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approved the move. The stop order is to ensure no harm would be done to negotiations on any future swap deal to secure Shalit’s release.


Oct 3 – Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails join a hunger strike to protest against worsening prison conditions, the Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs says. Netanyahu toughened restrictions on Palestinian prisoners as part of an effort to force Hamas to free Shalit.


Oct 11 – Israeli and Hamas officials say a deal has been reached to swap Shalit for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.


Israel Political Brief October 11, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Brokers Deal for Gilad Shalit’s Release in Exchange for the Release of Over 1000 Palestinian Prisoners




Captured Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Shalit appears in this undated photo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a prisoner swap deal that will release Shalit, who has been held for five years in the Gaza Strip, in return for some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. A deal to exchange Palestinian prisoners for Shalit will take place next month, Al Arabiya television channel reported on October 11, 2011. REUTERS/Handout/Files

Netanyahu: Israeli soldier held by Hamas returning home in ‘coming days’

Israel’s prime minister says prisoner exchange deal has been agreed upon. In turn, Israel will free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including many convicted in deadly attacks on Israelis. — WaPo, 10-11-11

Netanyahu Announces Deal to Free Shalit

Israel and Hamas have reached a tentative agreement on a proposal to exchange Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier held captive for more than five years, both sides said Tuesday. The Israeli cabinet was meeting in emergency session to discuss it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who summoned all 29 Cabinet ministers to vote on the agreement concerning the fate of the captive soldier, Staff. Sgt. Gilad Shalit, went on Israeli television beforehand to announce it, a sign that he was confident of Cabinet approval.
“If all goes according to plan, Gilad will be returning to Israel in the coming days,” Mr. Netanyahu said…. READ MORE – NYT, 10-11-11

Reports: Deal reached for Shalit release

Source: JTA, 10-11-11

Israel and Hamas reportedly have arrived at a prisoner exchange agreement that would free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israeli media quoted officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office as confirming a report that appeared earlier Tuesday in the Arab media.

The reports said that the Israeli Cabinet was meeting late Tuesday to vote to approve the deal. Media reports did not provide specifics about the agreement.

A spokesman for the terrorist organization Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, where Shalit reportedly is being held, confirmed the deal to the Israeli daily Haaretz. He said the deal would include the release of Israeli-Arab prisoners serving life sentences. He also said the deal followed Hamas’ demands, which in the past have included the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including some with blood on their hands.

Previous efforts to free Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas-associated gunmen in a 2006 cross-border raid, have been frustrated by Hamas demands that Israel release terrorists responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on Israel.

Germany and Egypt have been attempting to broker a deal.

Netanyahu Confirms: Gilad Coming Home in a Few Days

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-11-11

Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed in a statement that a “difficult, but right” agreement has been signed with Hamas to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who is slated to arrive home in Israel in a few days.

Netanyahu stated that a video showing Gilad Shalit alive and “functional” was given as proof of life before negotiations ensued. He referred to the tape as a “insurance policy.”

Netanyahu said that upon receiving the video, a difficult and lengthy negotiation ensued with a German negotiator. He claimed that since his kidnapping, not one day has passed in which they did not attempt to bring Gilad home.

The negotiations were renewed this week, this time under Egyptian mediation. He stated, “The point this time was to hold to our principles and ensure the factors that would guarantee Israeli security.”

Netanyahu said he had a “huge responsibility” to bring Gilad home, but also a deep responsibility to protecting the people of Israel. He stated multiple times that it was a difficult decision, and that he understands the deep pain of the people affected by the terrorists that will now be released. He said, “I understand your distress, because I am one of you.”

Netanyahu also insinuated that had they not gone forth with the current deal, due to the “uncertain future” in the region, there may have never been another chance to return Gilad home.

Video still from Hamas video released in 09

The Prime Minister revealed that both sides they signed an initial agreement last Thursday, and today (Tuesday) it was finalized.

Netanyahu let the Shalit family know about Gilad’s release at a meeting at his own home. He said, “I’m keeping my promise, I am returning your son to you.”

He added that Gilad should be home in Israel in a number of days.

Mixed reactions are flooding in from Israelis, many of whom expect terror attacks to rise due to the release of 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, many of which are “heavy” prisoners, an Israeli term that refers to murderous terrorists, responsible for some of Israel’s worst terror attacks.


Israel And Hamas Near Deal To Exchange Prisoners For Gilad Shalit

Source: NY Jewish Week, 10-11-11

More than five ears after he was seized by Hamas militants, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may be on the verge of going home, and 1,000 Palestinian militants may be the price.

Reports from Israel on Tuesday said the Israeli cabinet was finalizing a deal to exchange the prisoners for Shalit, 25, who was captured near the Keren Shalom Gaza crossing in June, 2006. Egypt reportedly was a broker in the deal. Shalit’s release could happen as soon as the next few days, though some reports said it would be in early November.

The reports originated with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya TV, and an Israeli government later confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was discussing the matter with his cabinet.

The Israeli site YNet cited Jerusalem sources saying it was “very likely” the deal would be approved by the Knesset and said Shalit’s father, Noam, had confirmed that he was notified of the deal. Previous efforts to free Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas-associated gunmen in a 2006 cross-border raid, have been frustrated by Hamas demands that Israel release terrorists responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on Israel.

Germany and Egypt have been attempting to broker a deal.


Israel, Hamas reach Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal, officials say

Announcement by Netanyahu’s office comes before planned emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the details of a deal geared at securing the release of the abducted IDF soldier

Source: Haaretz, 10-11-11

Israel and Hamas have reached a prisoner exchange deal that will secure the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, officials at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that “a brief window of opportunity has been opened that would possibly lead to Gilad Shalit’s homecoming,” adding: “The window appeared following fears that collapsing Mideast regimes and the rise of extremist forces would make Gilad Shalit’s return impossible.”

IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in 2006 IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in 2006.
Photo by: Archive

The officials’ comment came following a report by Al-Arabiya, according to which a deal has indeed been reached between Israel and Hamas geared at the release of the IDF soldier, in Hamas captivity in Gaza since 2006.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are meeting several ministers in the Prime Minister’s Office in order to pressure them into voting for the deal, with Netanyahu aides estimating that the deal will be approved by the cabinet,

Special attention is reportedly being given to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman no to vote against the deal along with ministers from his Yisrael Beiteinu party. Several Likud ministers who have voiced opposition to freeing terrorists in exchange for Shalit are also being pushed to approve the deal.

Netanyahu called an emergency cabinet meeting scheduled for later Tuesday in which ministers are to discuss the status of talks geared at securing Shalit’s release.

Gilad Shalit's mother, Aviva, smiles as she sits in a protest tent erected in Jerusalem by the campaign for his release, following the news that a deal has been reached, October 11, 2011.

Gilad Shalit’s mother, Aviva, smiles as she sits in a protest tent erected in Jerusalem by the campaign for his release, following the news that a deal has been reached, October 11, 2011. Channel 10 television

Speaking with Haaertz, one Egyptian official said: “After 64 months of tough negotiations we were able to complete the deal. It was a very difficult task, which included thousands of hours of negotiations.”

Also on Tuesday, top Egyptian officials confimed to Haaretz that there had been significant progress in the attempts to strike a prisoner exchange deal that would lead to Shalit’s release.

The officials confirmed that an Israeli delegation, headed by the head of Shalit negotiations David Meidan, was in Cairo to indirectly discuss the details of a possible deal with the chief of Hamas’ military wing Ahmed Al-Jabari.

Similarly to previous rounds of Shalit talks, the indirect talks are overseen by Egyptian intelligence, headed by intelligence chief General Murad Muwafi and his aides.

Egyptian officials have also said that a the deal which has been reached in recent days also includes accused Israeli spy Ilan Garpal.

Activists linked to Palestinian prisoner rights in Israel have also indicated that a recent hunger strike amid those prisoners in Israeli jails was linked to the protest move, as well as the reason Hamas prisoners did not join the strike.

Gilad Shalit release: Why Israel and Hamas agreed to a prisoner swap

Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier captured more than five years ago, is due to be released along with some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners under a deal announced today.

Source: CS Monitor, 10-11-11

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced tonight that Israel and Hamas have agreed to an historic prisoner swap deal that will release Sgt. Gilad Shalit, who has been held for five years in the Gaza Strip, in return for some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

After thanking the Egyptian government for mediating the deal, Mr. Netanyahu said that if everything goes according to plan, Mr. Shalit would return home in the coming days.

“Today I am bringing the cabinet a proposal that will bring Gilad home healthy and in one piece,” he said.

The diplomatic breakthrough gives a much needed boost to Hamas, Egypt, and Mr. Netanyahu, all of whom have been struggling of late amid the regional changes prompted by the so-called Arab Spring.

How the deal helps Israel, Hamas

The Israeli prime minister is likely to get a boost in popular support for releasing a soldier who has become a nationwide celebrity since being kidnapped from the Gaza border in June 2006. In addition, he was likely keen to boost ties with Cairo by collaborating on the prisoner deal, analysts say. Relations had grown chilly after a terrorist attack on the Israel-Egyptian border in August, and the storming of Israel’s embassy in Cairo by a mob of Egyptians.

Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University, says Israel wanted to shore up Egypt’s interim military rulers as a counterweight to the growing efforts of Turkey to gain regional prominence.

“The goal is to help stabilize [Cairo], so they play a constructive role” in the region, Mr. Steinberg says. “It’s to show to other countries” that Egypt is still a regional power after this year’s revolution…. READ MORE

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Israel Political Brief October 6, 2011: Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird mounts vigorous defense of Israel in address at the United Nations (UN)




Baird mounts vigorous defense of Israel at UN

Source: CJN, 10-6-11

“Canadian tradition is to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular or convenient or expedient.”

John Baird addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 26.

So said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird just before launching into one of the most vigorous defences of Israel the United Nations General Assembly has heard by someone other than a representative of the Jewish state.

In his Sept. 26 speech in New York City, Baird praised the founding principles of the UN, but said that Canada, at least as governed by the Conservatives, will no longer “go along to get along” with the world body on any number of issues, particularly with respect to Israel.

“We supported the aspirations of those peoples who sought for themselves and their countries brighter futures during the Arab Spring that just passed,” he said. “But we will not go along with the unilateral actions of the Palestinian Authority.”

He called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table to reach a peace deal with Israel, saying it’s the only way to achieve statehood.

Baird then cemented Canada’s position on Israel.

“We uphold Israel’s right to exist. We uphold its fundamental right, like any member state, to defend innocent civilians against acts of terrorism. Just as fascism and Communism were the great struggles of previous generations, terrorism is the great struggle of ours.

“And far too often, the Jewish state is on the front line of our struggle and its people the victims of terror,” he said.

Baird added: “Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. It was accommodation and appeasement that allowed fascism to gather strength [prior to World War II]. As Winston Churchill said: ‘An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.’”

He then castigated the UN for consistently failing to live up to its founding vision and principles and urged its members to look at the continuing human rights violations worldwide that remain unaddressed and unsolved by the world body.

He cited the plight of women, Christians, Baha’i and other victims of persecution in Iran, as well as Roman Catholics, priests and “other Christian clergy, and their laity, driven to worship underground in China.”

Baird also noted the predicament of Christians being driven out of Iraq by Al Qaeda and Copts who are “being assaulted and killed” in Egypt.

“In Burma, the regime discriminates against several forms of Buddhism and restricts the activities of Muslims. In other places, the Ahmadiyya community faces violence,” Baird said. “Gays and lesbians [are] threatened with criminalization of their sexuality in Uganda.”

All of this, according to Baird, leads Canada to question “the relevance and effectiveness” of the UN at this time in world history.

“The challenges faced by this organization extend beyond financial probity and operational effectiveness,” he said. “This organization is a forum for debate and dialogue, but it must also be a force for positive action to make the world a better place. The UN’s relevance and effectiveness are imperiled when the founding principles are observed in word but not in deed.

“So it is when… Iran, which mocks the values of this organization through outrages such as refusing to allow entry to UN observers on human rights, is permitted to seek leadership roles, such as a vice-presidency of the General Assembly and a spot on the Commission on Population and Development. The greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, those who sit idly, watching its slow decline. We cannot sit idly.”

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said his organization was “impressed and appreciative” of the speech.

“This was an important framing of what the overall Canadian orientation is [to Israel and the UN]. That is, we are going to pursue a transparently principled position on each issue that came up… and not accept complicity,” he said.

Fogel also thanked Baird for putting Canadian support for Israel within a “larger context.”

“We were extremely gratified at [Baird’s] courage and forthrightness. We think that will resonate strongly with likeminded countries within the international community and remind them of the imperative for them to adopt a similar approach.”

Israel Political Brief October 5, 2011: Israel’s Reaction to UNESCO Vote on Palestinian Authority Membership

Israel’s Reaction to UNESCO Vote

Communicated by Foreign Ministry spokesman

“Israel believes that the correct and only way to advance the peace process with the Palestinians is through direct, unconditional  negotiations. In this context Israel welcomed and accepted the Quartet’s declaration of September 23rd 2011.

The Palestinians’ actions at UNESCO negate both the bilateral negotiations route and the Quartet’s proposal for continuing the diplomatic process. Their actions are a negative response to Israel’s and the international community’s efforts to promote the peace process.

UNESCO’s responsibilities address culture, science and education. UNESCO has remained silent in the face of significant change across the Middle East yet has found time during its current meeting to adopt six decisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decision to grant the Palestinians membership of UNESCO will not advance their desire for an independent state whatsoever.

Israel thanks the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania who opposed the decision.”

Israel Political Brief October 5, 2011: Palestinian Authority Pushes for Full UNESCO Membership



PA Pushes for Full UNESCO Membership

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-5-11

The Palestinian Authority is losing no time is pushing its agenda of gaining diplomatic ground as a full member in as many United Nations committees and agencies as possible, in the context of gaining statehood via the international body, rather than negotiations with Israel.

Three diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press Wednesday that the PA plans to request full member status on Wednesday at the executive board meeting of the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

The PA submitted its application to the U.N. Security Council last month, demanding full membership and recognitionsecurity council un as a sovereign nation with its boundaries along the 1949 Armistice Lines, and claiming much of Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, as its own capital.

Currently the PA holds observer status in the U.N. and in UNESCO, but may have a good chance of winning full membership, since the process for doing so is easier than it is in the full U.N.

However, this is not the first time the PA has attempted to gain full membership in UNESCO, and in the past, the attempt has failed. Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, told the Associated Press that he is trying to persuade other members “not to politicize” the agency and to “leave this subject to New York.”

Barkan commented that “The tragedy is that this hampers UNESCO from doing its real job. A relatively small minority is hijacking the organization for other purposes.”

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called on lawmakers to cut off U.S. funds to UNESCO if the PA effort succeeds this time.

The PA won partnership status this week in the European Union’s leading human rights body, the Council of Europe, and also is seeking membership in the World Trade Organization.

PA representatives are hoping in this way to pile up memberships in U.N. agencies as a means of forcing the membership issue in the general worldwide body.

The United States, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has already stated bluntly that it will exercise its veto to block the PA from gaining full membership in the U.N. if necessary. But it is not at all clear whether the entity has enough votes to pass such a resolution in any case. Nine votes are needed in the Council to approve the measure.

The Congress of the United States, which warned the PA not to go ahead with its unilateral statehood bid, meanwhile has made good on its threat to cut off funding in response, leaving a number of aid programs scrambling for support and causing concern among government officials from the White House to Ramallah. Promises of aid from Arab nations pledged at donor conferences that never materialized left the PA largely dependent on funding from Western nations — most prominent among them the United States.


Israel Brief October 5, 2011: New “Zionation” Mobile App for iPhone – Android Teaches about Zionism



New app teaches about Zionism

Source: JTA, 10-5-11

A new mobile app provides a database of information about Zionism and Israel.

The free “Zionation” app for iPhone and Android devices, developed by the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Activities, includes a Zionist calendar that marks and provides background information on significant dates in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel.

The app, which supports Hebrew, English and Spanish, also notifies users about conferences and events occurring in their communities or around the world.

Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, the co-chair of the Department for Diaspora Activities, said the app is designed to resonate with a younger Jewish generation.

“We believe that now more than ever, given the alienation among large segments of the Jewish community from the State of Israel, that it is our duty to encourage the younger generation to create their own Zionist Jewish identity based on knowledge and familiarity with major figures and historical events, values and achievements,” he said in a statement.

Israel Advocacy: Steven M. Cohen Study JTS Rabbis’ love for Israel: Is it a generational thing?


Israel & Zionist Education

Rabbis’ love for Israel: Is it a generational thing?

Source: JTA, 10-4-11

Steven M. Cohen. JTS Rabbis and Israel, Then and Now: The 2011 Survey of JTS Ordained Rabbis and Current Students. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, September 2, 2011.

Celebrating Israel Independence Day at the Jewish Theological Seminary, which in its study of JTS-ordained rabbis and rabbinical students showed some evidence of a generational gap on their thoughts about Israel.  (Courtesy The Jewish Theological Seminary)
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Other Media

Celebrating Israel Independence Day at the Jewish Theological Seminary, which in its study of JTS-ordained rabbis and rabbinical students showed some evidence of a generational gap on their thoughts about Israel. (Courtesy The Jewish Theological Seminary)

Do Conservative rabbis become more politically conservative on Israel as they grow older, or are older rabbis simply more right wing than younger rabbis when it comes to Israel?

A new study by the Conservative movement’s flagship institution presents some evidence of a generational gap among rabbis, finding that older ones tend to identify more closely with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, while younger ones also favorably view J Street, the more liberal “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbying group.

The author of the Jewish Theological Seminary survey, sociologist Steven M. Cohen, suggests that it’s a function not of the rabbis’ ages but the era in which they came of age.

“It is a major shift in a Zionist worldview — a movement towards a more progressive Zionist position,” said Cohen, a professor of Jewish social policy research at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a senior adviser to the seminary’s chancellor.

In an interview with JTA, Cohen surmised that younger rabbis identify as more liberal because “they grew up at a time when Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors was more complicated than the binary relationship that the older generation grew up with.” He suggested that because the rabbis are closer and more exposed to “real life” in Israel because their rabbinical programs require that they spend a year there, they are “more willing to adopt views critical of the Israeli government.”

The online survey of 317 JTS-ordained rabbis and 51 JTS rabbinical students, titled “JTS Rabbis and Israel, Then and Now: The 2011 Survey of JTS Ordained Rabbis and Current Students,” found that 58 percent of students and 54 percent of rabbis ordained since 1994 view J Street favorably, while 42 percent of students and 64 percent of rabbis view AIPAC favorably.

In the older cohort — rabbis ordained between 1980 and 1994 — 80 percent of the rabbis responding viewed AIPAC favorably, but only 32 percent had a favorable view of J Street. The survey also found that the students and younger rabbis were more concerned than their elders about social issues in Israel, such as the treatment of Arab citizens, women and Palestinians.

The survey was prompted by a controversial essay in the June issue of Commentary that argued that a growing proportion of non-Orthodox rabbis in training hold alarmingly hostile views toward Israel, and that rabbinical seminaries were refusing to address the issue. The author of the piece, Rabbi Daniel Gordis, vice president of the Shalem Center, a hawkish Israeli think tank, declined to comment for this story.

“We didn’t think it was true,” Cohen said of the Gordis essay, “but felt we needed to check it out.”

The new survey is the latest salvo in the intense debate over Israel among American Jews, and American Jewish groups concerned with Israel already are debating its findings. J Street officials told JTA that the study is indicative of a generational shift among American Jews toward more progressive Zionism.

“It’s very encouraging that rabbinical students are finding ways to bring their Jewish values with them when they talk about Israel,” said Rachel Lerner, vice president of the J Street Education Fund.

But a former AIPAC official dismissed the idea that the findings reflect a generational shift in the rabbinate.

“A lot of 22-year-olds say things they don’t believe when they’re 30,” said AIPAC’s former spokesman, Josh Block, who is now a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. “Thirty-year-olds change by the time when they’re 40. By the time they’re at a place where they’re joining positions of leadership, they will have matured, and know more about what these groups really do and work to achieve.”

Block also said the survey questions sounded biased, as they characterized AIPAC as “the Israel lobby” and J Street as “the ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ group.”

AIPAC declined to comment for this story.

Cohen said the survey’s results suggest that JTS rabbis across the generations have similarly high levels of attachment to Israel but expressed the attachments differently.

Asked how concerned they are about security threats toward Israel, 83 percent of the rabbis ordained between 1980 and 1994 said they were very concerned, compared to 80 percent of those ordained between 1995 and 2011, and 78 percent of current students.

Choosing among AIPAC, J Street, StandWithUs, Rabbis for Human Rights and the New Israel Fund, the rabbis said they viewed AIPAC most favorably, while the students were most favorable to the New Israel Fund.

Israel Political Brief October 3, 2011: Israel accepts Middle East Quartet’s peace process proposal



Israel accepts Quartet’s peace process proposal

Source: JTA, 10-3-11

Israel has accepted the Mideast Quartet’s proposal to renew peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The plan accepted Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his eight senior Cabinet members would restart negotiations within a month without preconditions.

“Israel welcomes the Quartet’s call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions, as called for by both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu,” read a statement issued Sunday by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“While Israel has some concerns, it will raise them at the appropriate time. Israel calls on the Palestinian Authority to do the same and to enter into direct negotiations without delay,” the short statement concluded.

The concerns included the short timetable for negotiations on border and security issues, and the issues of Palestinian refugees and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Haaretz reported.

The inner Cabinet met last week for five hours and failed to agree to support the plan at that time.

The PA has balked at the Quartet plan, saying it will not return to talks until Israel freezes settlement building. The Palestinians recently submitted a bid for statehood in the United Nations Security Council, which the council is now considering. The United States has said it will veto the bid.

A U.S. State Department statement welcomed the Cabinet’s decision, but called on both sides to fully embrace the Quartet proposal. The State Department missive alluded both to Israel’s reluctance to accept the timetable and the Palestinian refusal to talk until settlement stops.

“The U.S. once again calls on both parties to resume negotiations without preconditions, on the timetable proposed by the Quartet, as the best means to advance their interests, resolve their differences, and fulfill the President’s two-state vision,” it said.

Israel Political Brief October 3, 2011: US House committee chair places hold on Palestinian aid



House committee chair places hold on Palestinian aid

Source: JTA, 10-3-11

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is holding back nearly $200 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is keeping her House of Representatives committee from considering approval of $192 million in humanitarian program assistance, two Capitol Hill sources said.

The money is separate from assistance to the Palestinian Authority, $200 million of which has already been distributed, and instead is earmarked for nongovernmental groups.

Such holds on NGO money have been held in the past pending oversight to show that the NGOs are not working with terrorist groups. Ros-Lehtinen in recent weeks has expressed concern that a tentative agreement to unite the Palestinian Authority with Hamas is already in effect. Hamas is the U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

The Americans for Peace Now website is reporting that other House Republicans also are holding the money, and that Republicans in the House and Senate are holding $150 million in security assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Republicans and Democrats have warned that such money may be withheld if the Palestinians do not pull back from their attempt to gain statehood recognition through the United Nations and absent peace talks with Israel.

The Arab League on Sunday called on the Arab states in the region to replace that missing aid with their own donations.

“The Arabs will assist the Palestinian Authority,” Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi said Sunday in Cairo after a meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “This will be the strongest answer” to the U.S. cuts.

Erekat said that “The Palestinian people refuse to allow economic aid to become an instrument of blackmail regarding its rights to membership of the United Nations.”

The U.N.’s Security Council is now considering the PA’s statehood bid, which the United States has said it will veto.

Israel Brief October 3, 2011: Last Tel Aviv’s social justice protests tent cities evacuated



Tel Aviv tent cities evacuated

Source: JTA, 10-3-11

The tent cities remaining in Tel Aviv from this summer’s social justice protests were evacuated.

Police and Tel Aviv city inspectors evacuated at least three tent city sites on Monday, as well as empty tents on the main Rothschild Boulevard site. A court injunction prevented a full evacuation of that site.

Those who were evicted from the sites are mostly homeless, according to reports. City social workers have spent several days trying to find places for the homeless tent city dwellers, according to the municipality.

The municipality said it would establish “dialogue centers” on the sites.

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