Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why Israel Should Conclude the Prisoner Swap for Gilad Shalit

There is one thing for certain in the negotiations over Gilad Shalit. If Israel does not return him in this round of negotiations, he is likely to die in captivity.

Prime Minister Netanyahu faces a difficult political and moral decision in accepting or rejecting Hamas' terms for the deal. Khaled Meshal, Hamas' leader, has signed off on these demands meaning that they are being taken seriously by senior levels in the Hamas chain of command. But for Netanyahu, the decision is between saving one soldier and putting others at risk. It is between bowing to the demands of a terrorist group responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Israelis, and taking a necessary step to bringing this horrible saga to a conclusion.

President Netanyahu, I urge you to accept the deal with Hamas. Israel has already demonstrated that it will release prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two soldiers. The line of deterrence is already crossed. It was crossed in the early days of the war when negotiations were driven by the myopia of leaders who thought that Israel would always prevail over a smaller sub-state adversary. It was crossed when Samar Kuntar, a vicious terrorist who once smashed a baby girl's head against a rock, was freed in exchange for coffins containing two bodies less than 30 years old.

You did not make these mistakes, yet you have a historic opportunity to begin to heal the damage done to the people of Israel by enforcing the policy of "no soldier left behind." The Shalit family and the people of Israel are counting on you to not make a decision which will appease the far right. This is not the time for political games. If you refuse to make the deal, or intervene to assure its failure, you will be seen as a puppet of the far right in Israel, and your government will suffer a major political setback.

Bringing back Gilad Shalit will solidify your place in Israeli history as a hawk who knows when to be pragmatic. Your conservative views make you the ideal Prime Minister to conclude a deal with Hamas. There is an understanding between you. You have the ability to see this deal through, and bring an Israeli soldier back to his parents.

The eyes of a country are on you Mr. Prime Minister.

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