(Banner will apear here)

Beautiful Kabbalah Jewelry Judaicawebstore.com
Font Size:

Barak's New Rules After Gilad Shalit

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: 'A State That Seeks To Survive Cannot Accept Another Gilad Shalit Prisoner Exchange'

'Israel Will Now Adopt New Norms & Principles Similar To U.S., Britain & Australia'

'Palestinian Terrorist Leaders Responsible For Kidnappings Know They May Be Very Close To Having Their Heads Separated from Their Bodies!'

Gilad Shalit calling his mother Aviva

 Israeli leaders are now going back to the drawing board for drafting a new policy for prisoner exchanges. In a media blitz to the Israeli public, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has indicated the government will not carry out another lopsided prisoner swap - 1027 Palestinian terrorists for one kidnapped IDF soldier. After remaining silent during the recent public debate, Opposition leader Tzipi Livni of the Kadima party has now condemned the exchange as a blow to Israel that has strengthened Hamas and weakened the more moderate West Bank President Mahmoud Abbas.

 'Palestinian terrorist leaders who plan the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers to be used as bargaining chips know full well they may be within a hair's breadth of having their heads separated from their bodies!' That was one of Defense Minister Ehud Barak conclusion from Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. In a series of interviews, Barak made cyrstal clear that although he favored the lopsided deal, Israel will not prepared to repeat it in the future. This in light the fact that Halad Meshal and other Hamas leaders, who are now basking in Palestinianian popularity, have openely declared they will launch more kidnapping attempts to free thousands of more terrorists, who are doing time for murdering over a thousand Israeli civilians and maiming thousands of others. The Defense Minister spoke of 'new rules' for a major change in Israel's approach. In his words: 'A state that seeks to survive cannot allow herself to continue down the slippery slope' of the former prisoner swaps. This public debate required a cool, hard look at Israel's interests to gain the release of captured soldiers but coupled with the state's interest in preventing future kidnappings and acts of teororism. Barak referred specifically to the policy of other Western countries such as the U.S., Britain and Australia, who catagorically refuse to negotiate with terrorists over prisoner releases.

Ehud Barak (Photo: Amit Shabi)

The Defense Minister had identified this dilemma several years ago when he appointed former Meir Shamgar, a respected retired supreme court judge, as chair of a commission to study the moral and strategic aspects of prisoner swaps and to draft resolutions. However its findings have been kept under covers in order not to prejudice the effort to secure Shalit's release. But now it would be possible to set principles that the Israeli government would have to abide by despite the family pressures or a massive public campaign, as was the case in the Shalit affair. In Barak's opinion, if legislation was necessary so be it.The mechanics were not important, it was the result that counted.

But how does Barak's position jibe with his support for a Shalit swap that was 'appropriate and possible'? The Defense Minister contended there was a 'window of opportunity'; Hamas had compromised on their list of terrorist killers and the 'Arab Spring' might deteriorate into total anarchy. In such an event, there might be no one to talk to on the other side and Gilad Shalit might disappear forever as had Israeli navigator Ron Arad twenty- five years ago. At the same time, it was impossible to ignore the fact the abduction of one IDF soldier has led to the release of more than 1,000 terrorists. Undoubtedly this would spur Hamas to carry out more such attacks: 'Israel agreed to give 1,000 so they'll give 8,000 if we abduct more'. But here Barak stressed: 'Clearly we will have to check this trend'. He then praised the U.S. and New Zealand for freeing hostages without giving in massively to terrorists. Then again, Barak contended that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had kept his word not to retrieve Gilad Shalit 'at any price', nor had pressure from the street forced the PM's hand. In any event, opinion polls indicate that Netanyahu has now soared to a 51% rating in wake of Shalit's return home.

Tzipi Livni

However Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who was vacationing abroad during the final critical days of the exchange, has sparked fireworks by declaring the swap was a big mistake - it had strengthened Hamas, weaked the more moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and undermined Israel's deterrent capability. In the past, Livni said that IDF soldiers must know there were situations when Israel would not pay any price for their return. In her view, Israel should weaken rather than strengthen Hamas degrade the influence of the extremist groups.

But regardless of the merits of Livni's case, her political timing is atrocious. The latest polls indicate the Israeli public massively supports the prisoner swap. And her Likud crictics have quipped that she should have spoken out more forcefully before and not after the deal was done. For example, Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz , her perennial rival in Kadima has strongly supported the prisoner exchange. Moreover the new Labor Party leader Shelli Yachimovitch, who has overtaken Livni in the polls, has argued: 'Livni's opposition after the fact is astonishing. Real leadership is tested in real time even when it comes to unpopular positions. Opposition expressed after a done deal is worthless'. Oddly enough, Livni negotiated with Abbas in the past and views as a credible partner reveived incidental backing from Moshe Arens, a former defense minister, a Likud hardliner. Writing in Haartez, Arens contended that the priosner swap is 'no reason for celebrating'. In his words: ' When the terror attacks start coming the perception of how this Faustian deal was signed by the government- Gilad Shalit for one thousand terrorists- will change. Until we arrive at reach such a moment. and that moment will come, we will not connect future murderous attacks with the same Tuesday when Shalit was freed and returned home to his celebrating family'. We must make every effort to ensure that terrorists will no longer be able of abducting Israelis and that the Shalit swap was the last of its kind approved by an Israeli government'.

In any event, trial balloons have now been launched, about Israel possibly releasing Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank, Fatah members who do not have 'blood on their hands', in order to boost the sagging popularity of President Mahmoud Abbas.But there is so much 'bad blood' today between Netanyahu and Abbas after Abbas's blanket refusal to even sit at the same table with Netanyahu, that the Israeli leader will be reluctant to propose any good will gestures at this stage.

Muamar Gaddafi

Gadaffi footnote: What impact will the killing of Libyian despot Muamar Gadaffi have on fellow Syria's President Basher Assad? Defense Minister Barak said that in the immediate future, look for Assad to step up his brutal campaign of repression. However, Assad's opponents will also take comfort in the fall of Gadaffi that will motivate them to continue their rebellion. Clearly after Gadaffi's departure, there was no way Assad could return to ruling Syria the way he did in the past.

Quartet: Amid all the cacaphony of current Middle East events, the international 'Quartet' ( U.S., Russia, EU and the UN ) are back on stage trying to orchestrate some diplomatic harmony between Netanyahu and Abbas. However the Palestinian leader's refusal to sit with Israel's PM, unless there is a total freeze on all building in existing settlements is a total non-starter for Netanyahu. One new notion has been aired by Likud cabinet minister Dan Meridor - that Israel build only in communities that will obviously remain inside Israeli borders in any future peace agreement. Meridor is referring to the 'settlements blocs' such as Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, and Ariel where the vast majority of Israeli 'settlers' live today. Meridor is talking common sense and his idea might fly with Netanyahu and a majority of Israel's cabinet ministers. However until now Abbas has set his sights on internationalizing the conflict at the UN and boycotting any direct negotiations with the current Israeli government.

David Essing

Back To The Top