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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Kadima's eleventh hour surprise?

With Israelis going to the polls in less than 48 hours, the increasingly desperate Kadima party is going back to an old staple for gaining votes: Gaining the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Since Saturday night, we have had constant reports that a 'deal' is in the works. The reason that a 'deal' is suddenly possible now where it was not possible for the last two years is that the Israeli government is willing to give up 'more' and 'higher quality' terrorists than was previously the case. Israel Radio reported this morning that the government has agreed to some 350 out of the 370 names on Hamas' wishlist of top murderers. This is from al-Reuters.
Under the proposal, Israel would halt attacks in the Gaza Strip and Hamas would stop cross-border rocket fire for up to 18 months. That would take the place of a shaky January 18 truce that ended Israel's 22-day offensive in which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed. Fourteen Israelis have died since December 27, when the fighting broke out.

In the second phase of the proposal, Israel would agree to swap Palestinian prisoners in its custody for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants in 2006. Palestinian officials have reported progress in those talks.

A deal to free Shalit could boost Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's centrist Kadima party and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's left-wing Labor in a national election on Tuesday that rightist Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is now favored to win.

But the release of Hamas militants involved in attacks against Israelis could prove politically risky. Hamas has demanded 1,400 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, though diplomats said the final number may be closer to 1,000.

As a deal on the prisoners is implemented, Israel would expand the amount of goods entering the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing. It now regularly handles over 100 trucks a day but that number could grow to 250 or more, diplomats said.

A major sticking point in the talks has been Israel's insistence that certain materials be barred from entry because they could be used to make rockets, fortifications and explosives. These include certain types of steel piping and chemicals used in agriculture, Israeli defense officials said.

Hamas members say they have demanded more details about what would be excluded from entering the impoverished enclave, which will require massive amounts of steel, cement and other commercial goods to rebuild after the war.

The Rafah border crossings between Gaza and Egypt would also reopen, with the presence of international monitors and border guards who would report to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas' rival.
JPost adds .
On Saturday, government officials told The Jerusalem Post that a change in the positions of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has created a window of opportunity to strike a deal with Hamas for a prisoner swap that would free Schalit before a new government is established.

Olmert and Livni are now willing to release more and "higher quality" security prisoners in a swap than they were before Operation Cast Lead, according to the officials.


A top government official told the Post on Saturday night that a combination of the change in the stance of Olmert, Livni and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin to back a prisoner swap together with the outcome of last month's Operation Cast Lead had created a "window of opportunity" to reach a deal with Hamas.

According to the official, Barak, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin also supported a prisoner swap with Hamas.

"There now appears to be a greater chance for a deal than before," one official said. "It could work out in the coming weeks but it could also blow up. If it happens it is important to remember that it will come at a heavy price."


Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem were ordered to refrain from talking about a prisoner swap, due to the sensitivity of the subject.

However, a diplomatic source said there had been no change in Israel's position linking a full opening of the border crossings to Gaza to a deal to free Schalit.

The official stressed that Israel hoped that the conditions created by the military campaign in Gaza could make Schalit's release possible.
The government is taking the position that Operation Cast Lead was such a smashing success that we can now 'afford' to release terrorists (what's not mentioned here is that General Security Services chief Avi Dichter conditions his approval on their being released only to the Gaza Strip or outside the region). But the premise that Operation Cast Lead was such a success is questionable at best. In fact, another Kassam rocket has already hit this morning. That seems to me like overconfidence.

The government made a grave mistake by leaving Gaza without Gilad Shalit. It will compound that mistake by releasing another 1,000-1,400 terrorists.

In the past, terrorists who have been released have always returned to terrorism. Should we really be taking that chance again?


At 8:53 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Given what I just said about Kadima, they're cornered and desperate. And they may well do something mindlessly stupid, because like the scorpion, that is in their nature.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

And what's really infuriating is its Israel that is wont to make concessions to Hamas rather than the other way around.

So much for the Kadima-Labor promises that Hamas was taught a lesson. If a terrorists for Shalit is struck, it may be well be Hamas emerging triumphant and Israel winding up humiliated again. Kadima-Labor has become adept at snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

That would be quite an eleventh hour surprise to inflict upon Israel - merely for the sake of a last minute political gain at the polls.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Ashan said...

The political manipulation of the "negotiations" for the release of this poor soul, Shalit, is deeply unethical. I heard on the news on Reshet Bet this morning that one of the murderers of Jews to be released will be the nefarious Marwan Barghouti.

The release of Shalit will ensure a win for "Believni". (I actually saw this lame-o tag on t-shirts worn by volunteers pushing Kadima election stuff.)

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I didn't hear anything about Barghouti, but I believe his release is part of Kadima's and Labor's agenda, because they believe he can 'unify' the 'Palestinians' so there will be someone to whom they can give the country away.

I did hear that they're refusing to release Ahmed Sa'adat.

At 7:09 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its sickening. But I'm resigned to the fact the clowns who run Israel never learn and they always manage to outdo their last mistake. I expect them to do it again because they cannot remember there was a time Israel did not surrender to terrorism.


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