Israeli News: A Daily Analysis
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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

June 25, 2007 Olmert Offers Prisoner Release Speaks Eloquently -

The Sharm el-Shiek summit took place today, but it seems to have taken place in the shadow of the release of an audio recording of Gilad Shalit.  The tapes release was obviously timed to undermine the summit, its effect may have been the opposite.  Prime Minister Olmert gave an excellent speech at the end of the meeting.  Trying address Palestinian people directly, Olmert stated that Israel recognizes the pain of the Palestinian people, especially the pain of losing children.  He went further, recognizing the Palestinians pain at losing their property, and mentioned the pain of being refugees. 
I have never heard an Israeli Prime Minister state these things, and I thought it was powerful.  Olmert then went on and called on the Palestinians to choose the path of peace, and stated he would work to make the vision of a two state solution a reality.  Olmert went ahead and then announced something of substance: the release of 250 Fatah prisoners.  This was a serious gesture to Abbas, who can prove real accomplishment. 
Olmert also made a plea to the greater Arab world, accepting indirectly the Arab League's plan, and asking all the Arab states to enter into negotiations to move the process.  He begged them not wait for the circumstances to be right, but instead to make the circumstance right. 
Can this be the beginning of a new serious peace process?  All the negative reasons are obvious: Abbas is too weak, Olmert is too weak and of course the argument that nothing can stop the Hamas from taking over the West Bank.  The other side of the coin is that this may be Israel's last chance to reach an agreement with the Palestinian people and never before has the larger Arab world had a greater incentive to help the Palestinians reach an agreement.  Now that the Palestinian extremists, led by Hamas, are seen as representatives of Iran and Al Qaeda, the powerful nations in the Arab world have every interest in finding a moderate solution to the conflict.  Long gone are the days when the Arab nations wanted to keep the Palestinian issue (with the exception of Syria) boiling to achieve their own domestic agenda.
The Israeli news all day has repeatedly played the tape of Gilead Shalit instead of leading with Olmert's words at Sharm el-Sheik. Obviously Hamas achieved its goal. Jews have a religious obligation to free prisoners, and no one can question why Shalit's parents work tiressly for his release. Anyone in their case would be concerned about one thing: the freedom of their child. The state, however, must look at the bigger situation and refrain from doing something that can strengthen Hamas. The very future of Israel is at stake.