A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
October 2, 2009 Shalit Tape Released- Iran Talks
Israelis were glued to their television screens today watching a 2-minute video of Gilad Shalit. Before the receipt of the recording, it was not expected the government or the family would release it. However, once it was received, both the government and the family agreed to release the tape. The video shows Shalit to be in good health and seemed mentally alert. Hamas had him tell a story of a visit his parents paid him in his early in his army service. The story was detailed and clearly could only be told by someone in possession of his mental faculties. Hamas used the standard method of proving the video was recent by showing him holding a Palestinian paper from the day the interview, done on September 14th, 2009.
Israeli observers were pleasantly surprised by the lack of propaganda in the tape. Many felt it was an indication Hamas was now serious about reaching a deal. Clearly, Hamas would like to reach such a deal to strengthen its political standing. The question remains whether Hamas will be willing to climb down from the tree they created, which stated there was no flexibility in the list of prisoners. There are a number of prisoners on the list Israel will clearly find impossible to release, including the terrorist responsible for the Passover attack on the Park Hotel in Netanya.
Prior to the release of the tape there was some concern the recording would increase the political pressure on the Israeli government to reach an agreement at any price. Ironically, this may not be the case. Although the constant showing of the tape on Israeli TV will no doubt create an even higher sense of identification with Gilad Shalit than existed until now, his relatively good condition will allow the government to negotiate at a reasonable pace.
It’s hard to really know what to understand from yesterday's meeting with the US and other western representatives. The Iranians seemed to have made significant concessions, specifically their willingness to have some of their low enriched Uranium transported to be enriched and converted to fuel rods in Russia. However, much of this has to be taken with a very healthy dose of skepticism. It is clear that one of the overriding strategic goals of the current Iranian government is to develop nuclear weapons. Therefore, any tactical announcement to avoid sanction is just that, a tactical move to delay, while Iran no doubt moves forward. Which of course is the dilemmas. What can the west reasonably expect from Iran, and how can it know if it gets it? I am not sure there really is an answer to that question, and the only real answer will, I am afraid, be a regime change.