By the time this page is read, Gilad Shalit may be in his parents’ arms – or he may not be. (See page 21.)
Since the then 19-year-old was captured by Hamas on June 25, 2006, his plight and how to resolve it have caught the imagination of Jews the world over – and particularly, of course, in Israel. His parents, Noam and Aviva Shalit, have been doing what parents must do, campaigning on their son’s behalf, keeping his face and his story in the news and in the public consciousness. Earlier this fall, Hamas released a video of the slender young sergeant (promoted from corporal in absentia) holding that day’s newspaper, clearly establishing that – at least by that date – he was still alive.
A deal seemed in the offing by Tuesday, a swap of one Israeli soldier for perhaps as many as 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails – including many who have been responsible for deadly attacks against Israelis.
As the day wore on, the swap seemed less likely, and there was no way of predicting whether it would actually take place.
Israel has long been reluctant to release those “with blood on their hands.” Yediot Aharonot, in fact, warned, “This is not a deal for the release of prisoners with blood on their handsâ€¦. This is the release of prisoners in blood up to their ears.”
The Jerusalem Post wrote, in a similar vein, “As much as we Israelis ache to see Gilad Shalit home with his family, the emotional blackmail of campaigners who say the country should do ‘anything’ to achieve his release could unleash on our home front the very same sociopathic killers Israel’s security forces worked so hard to capture in the first place.”
Meanwhile, a group of fathers whose children were killed by terrorists has petitioned for transparency and is clearly against any deal that would free murderers. And a similar group of mothers – including Miki Goldwasser, the mother of murdered hostage Ehud Goldwasser – has written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “Some of us lost many family members in deadly attacks, and we still find the courage to ask for the releases of those who planned those attacks in order to save Gilad.”
It is hard to say who is right, as is so often the case. There are political and philosophical questions that could be endlessly debated. But the fact remains that Shalit is (apparently) still alive, and the longer he is in Hamas hands, the less certain his survival becomes.