Wednesday, November 19, 2008

“Goodwill” gestures? Tell that to Gilad Schalit

Question: when was the last time an Arab country did anything to demonstrate “goodwill” towards Israel?

Just ponder that question a while.

This week it was announced that Israel plans to release 250 Palestinian prisoners in a “goodwill” gesture toward Fatah leader and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas prior to next month’s Muslim celebration of the Eid al-Adha feast.

Israel last freed Palestinian prisoners on Aug. 25, 2008, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice was visiting to help push peace talks along between the two sides. At the time, the release of the 198 prisoners was billed as a way to bolster Abbas, whom the U.S. and Israel see as the best chance for a peaceful solution from the Palestinian side.

Prior to that, Israel freed five Hezbollah militants and 200 bodies of terrorists on July 16th, 2008 as part of a deal in which they received the bodies of two soldiers, Sgt. First Class Ehud Goldwasser and Staff Sgt. Eldad Regev, captured and killed by Hezbollah in 2006. One of the five militants released was Samir Kantar, who had been serving multiple life terms in Israel for a grisly 1979 attack in which, among other atrocities, he executed 28-year-old Danny Haran in front of his 4-year-old daughter just before smashing her skull in with the butt of his gun.

Through all this, Staff Sargent Gilad Schalit has remained a prisoner within the Gaza Strip. Since June 25th, 2006 Gilad has been used by the Palestinians as a negotiating piece. They’ve gone as far as agreeing to a prisoner swap in October of 2006 as mediated by Egypt, but then reneged without explanation. It is speculated that Iran applied pressure to prevent the release of Shalit.

"Since Gilad was captured, more than two years ago, Israel has released approximately one thousand Palestinian prisoners, in several goodwill gestures. But these gestures have not pushed Gilad's release even by a millimeter, and have even increased the appetite of Hamas and its demands," Noam Schalit, Gilad’s father, said.

During his entire captivity, Gilad has been refused even basic rights provided by the Geneva Convention and other such treaties. He’s even been denied access to the Red Cross or any other human rights organization.
To see a full timeline of Gilad’s kidnapping and imprisonment go to:

So I ask you again, when was the last “goodwill” gesture from the Arab world towards Israel? I can’t come up with one and I question Israel’s constant appeal to these types of gestures as a naïve way forward in peace talks. It’s clear Israelis place a higher value on the dead bodies of their fallen comrades than Arabs do of their living ones. So why does Israel keep trying to offer something of clearly little value to them for something we hold dearly?

The time is up and we must get serious about securing Gilad Shalit’s release. In addition, we can no longer afford, nor tollorate these one-sided trades or “goodwill” gestures. It’s time the other side bellies up to the table and gets serious about the peace process. Releasing Gilad would be a step in the right direction.

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