A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
June 24, 2007 Gilad Shalit Held One Year-
Today marks the one year anniversary since the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. His family held a rally in front of the Knesset to keep the pressure for his release steady. Unfortunately, his freedom seems further away than ever. There is at the moment no one to talk to. In addition, today, after Hamas has taken over Gaza it would probably be very counterproductive for Israel to give Hamas any sort of victory by releasing prisoners.
Tomorrow is the summit in Sharm el-Sheik. In today's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Olmert stated that Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas is the only one that Israel can talk to, but Israel is not going to fool itself into believing that he is strong enough to hold off Hamas. The head of the Shabak reported at the meeting that anyone who says that Fatah is strong on the West Bank is wrong, and they are weak both politically, and militarily. He also stated that Hamas is going to try to pull off a major terror attack in order to sabotage any agreement between PA and Israel. Based on this assessment, Olmert is going to only offer Abbas limited concessions, releasing some of the money that Israel holds and removing some of the roadblocks. Olmert is going to demand that Abbas show what he can do before he makes additional concessions. At the same cabinet meeting, the chief of Military Intelligence warned that Israel needs to be worried not only from Hamas but development on the Northern border, where either Syria, or Al Qaeda or someone else could push things toward war.
To underscore that possibility, tonight 6 Spanish UNIFIL peace keepers were killed in southern Lebanon by a roadside bomb. The bombing was apparently the work of the same Palestinian Al-Qaeda affiliate that fired rockets at Kiryat Shmona last week.
Tzvi Yechezkeli, the head of the Arab department of Israeli Television Channel 10 has a slightly different take on Abbas' chance to succeed. He spent the day in Jenin with member of Gdudai al-Aksa, the militia affiliated with Abbas. His interview with the leader of the brigade showed someone who had spent years in Israeli prison, but was ready to fight Hamas for the future of the Palestinian people. He believes that Hamas' actions brought to the end the second Intifadah, and it is now necessary for Abbas to work with Olmert to both gain Palestinian independence, and to ensure that Palestinian nationalism does not become a casualty of religious extremism.
Yechezkeli's opinion is that if Israel can find the right touch in helping Abbas without turning him into quisling then he might actually pull it off. Yechezkeli stated that Abbas is rounding up members of Hamas. If they do not renounce political activity they are staying in jail. Abbas is trying to take religion out of Palestinian politics and Yechezkeli believes he might just succeed. Does anyone have a better idea? Those like Avigdor Lieberman who oppose making any concession have persuasive arguments but they do not have an alternative policy to offer.
Ma’ariv reported that before the withdrawal from Gaza Prime Minister Sharon wanted to release Barghouti from jail in return for the release of Jonathan Pollard from a US jail. The Bush administration turned it down. I do not begin to understand the US Government's obsession with keeping Pollard in jail for the rest of his life. If had been a spy for Russia or China he would have long ago been set free.