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The Deal to Release Gilad Shalit

By: Barry Rubin  |  Contributor: Scott Allswang  

After years of negotiations, Israel and Hamas have reached a deal for the release of Gilad Shalit. Information is still coming in but the outline of the deal includes the release of 1000 Palestinian prisoners by Israel, 300 of them are serving life sentences for terrorist attacks.

The prisoners can only be released, however, after a 72-hour waiting period when families of victims can file with the high court to request that terrorists who killed or injured their relatives should not be let go.

Most Israelis feel two deeply conflicting emotions in regard to this deal. On one hand, they are joyous if Shalit returns home alive and well after five years of terrible suffering. Every soldier and everyone in the reserves or who knows soldiers–which means all Jewish Israelis–imagine what it would be like if they or one of their loved ones was Shalit.

On the other hand, they know that released murderers and terrorists will in many–probably most–cases try to kill again. The release of so many militants and terrorists, many who will return to the West Bank, could even be the spark that will set off a third intifada now or later. How many Israelis might die in attacks launched or led by these released prisoners?

One can debate whether or not this deal is a good idea but it is a reality and the debate is not going to change anything. Ideally, this should prove that Israel is a humanitarian country but, of course, those who don’t want to hear–or report–that theme will not do so.

An interesting aspect of this development is the revelation that a key factor in the decision to end the counterattack on the Gaza Strip in early 2009, when Israel retaliated to Hamas breaking the ceasefire and launching an all-out attack, was a Hamas threat to kill Shalit if the offensive continued.

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