-- October 11, 2011-Deal to Release Shalit

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

October 11, 2011-Deal to Release Shalit

Regular TV and Radio programming was superceded tonight in Israel by the announcement that an agreement has been reached between Israel and Hamas to release Gilad Shalit. The agreement was reached after the current head of Israel’s Shin Bet agreed that Israel could make additional concessions to include releasing 315 people sentenced to life in prison, as well as Israeli Arabs and residents of East Jerusalem.

Looking at the pictures from the streets of Gaza and comparing them to walking the streets in Tel Aviv tonight tells the whole story. Clearly to the Gazans, and to Hamas this is a major victory. The people on the streets of Tel Aviv were happy Shalit was going to be returned and resigned to allowing so many murderers go free. One person turned to me when he heard my American accent and asked: "would America ever pay the price?" However, one thing has become more clear to me in the last week-- this is not America, the connections are so much deeper. I remember thinking a few weeks ago, while sitting in synagogue in America hearing a particularly long list of names of soldiers who had died the past week in Afghanistan being read, that if this had been in Israel, the country would be broken in grief. So, tonight with Gilad Shalit, most Israelis have accepted him as almost an adopted son. For a child you do everything possible, even if it is not the rational strategic decision. And so it will be tonight, when the cabinet finally approves the deal in a few hours.

The Netanyahu government felt time was running out. The situation in Egypt is fragile. The future is unknown and the fear was that if an agreement was not reached soon, Shalit would suffer the same fate as the Israeli navigator Ron Arad who has been lost forever. There are certainly opponents, particulary the relatives of the victims of terror, who feel abandoned. They will no doubt sue, to delay the deal. The right wing members of the coalition also oppose the agreement, that includes Avigdor Lieberman, and a number of other Russian immigrant politicians. There is something deeper happening in the Israeli society with the Russians, but that is for another time. At the moment, most Israelis are just looking forward to welcoming Gilad Shalit home.

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