No Way Home for Gilad Shalit
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In Palestinian Hero Gilad Shalit Freed I analyzed some of the reasons for the much delayed deal on Gilad Shalit, which was reached between Hamas and Israel on October 11, 2011. The deal was welcomed by the Palestinians, but received differently by Israelis. Some of the first reactions were reported there and actually led to Gilad being defined as a Palestinian hero in the article's title. It doesn't take peeling much of this onion to see the remarkable amount of financial gains – and media quiet – achieved in this agreement. That's why Netanyahu signed it after being blessed by Shimon Peres (who is closely related to the Shin Beth and very ironically called Netanyahu a "brave man") and Yoram Cohen, the head of the Shin Beth. Violent reactions began shortly afterwards and from some unexpected directions.
Netanyahu attempted being sly by using an important date for the signature of the deal. It was signed the day before Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a week-long Biblical holiday commemorating the forty years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. As such, it is a celebration of freedom. Netanyahu knew nationalist, religious Jews would be the harshest critiques of the Shalit deal; by making this connection with the freedom festival, he hoped softening their hearts. "But, I brought the kid home for Sukkoth!" he planned saying the rabbis criticizing the event. It is hard to see a grown-up man - as Netanyahu is - making errors a 4-year old attempting to get forbidden candies will easily avoid. Something is truly wrong in Netanyahu's bureau. Every single religious Jew in Israel would have recognized the move of Netanyahu as intentionally manipulative. The deal's general outline had been published by the Hebrew media since 2009. Everybody knew it was just a matter of a political decision; that's why Gilad's parents began public protests last year. Then, the decision was taken the day before the freedom festival. The stench of political manipulation was to reach the outer corners of the solar system; few would accept the decision as correct and free of ulterior reasons. Yet, Netanyahu failed to understand that
The most shocking reaction until now took place in the early hours of October 14, when a man called Shvuel Sahiwaschorder (the spelling in Roman characters may vary) vandalized Rabin's Monument next to Tel Aviv Municipality, at the exact spot where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated with the cooperation of the Shin Beth. The event was filmed by a security camera; he was detained shortly after while attempting to run away with the help of a taxi (taxi drivers always double as police informants). Shvuel admitted this was done as an answer to the Shalit's Deal. His parents had died during the attack at the Sbarro shop in Jerusalem in 2001 and the assassin is scheduled to be freed in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Immediately after the details of the future Shalit Deal were published in 2009, he said in an interview to Yedihot Aharonot – Israel's largest newspaper – that "he and his brothers will chase down every terrorist with blood on his hands that would be freed in exchange for Shalit." "We will perform a 'field-trial'," he added. A "field-trial" in Hebrew (mishpat sade) is a clear euphemism for a lynch. As a first-approximation (nobody has been released yet), he chose to vandalize a symbol of the state.
One of the first to react was Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv's the city's mayor. Main Israeli cities are administered by former high ranking military officers. Many of them occupy – "occupy" in the military sense, it is difficult to regard them as properly "elected" - the municipalities and often they become mayors. Whenever they reach this post, they keep it for eons. In Tel Aviv, two generals enter into this category: Shlomo "Chich" Lahat (1974-1993) and Ron Huldai (1998-present). The latter is closely related to Aviem Sella, who recruited Jonathan Pollard to spy for Israel. Following the recent vandalism, he said: "there is need to cut the hands of those who hurt the most important and sacred symbol of the nation." The word he used for "nation" was "umma" – identical to the Arabic term – which transcends the Western understanding the word meaning; it goes beyond the formal institutions of the state. This string of events looks awry, unless we realize we are seeing a struggle between religion and state. Netanyahu miscalculated and angered the religious Jews. A man in anguish for the death of his parents vandalized a symbol of the state, which means nothing to religious Jews. Then, the secular mayor defined this as "the most important symbol!" This is clearly not over yet; few people in Israel would accept a bunch of rocks as sacred. God is a God of Life, and those seeking for bargaining chips and cheap manipulations have forgotten that.
The struggle went far beyond childish clashes in Tel Aviv. Lieutenant General Avihay Ronetzky, former IDF Chief Rabbi, gave Yedihot Aharonot an awesome interview on the day the deal was signed. He said the only way to free Shalit properly was through a military action (an event that failed in 2006, it is known as Operation "Summer Rains," "Mivtza Gishmei Kaitz" in Hebrew). "Otherwise, Ronetzky added, Shalit is to be considered as a dead man."
This position may seem difficult to understand coming from a religious leader. Yet, it has its moral justifications. Elhanan Tannenbaum, an IDF colonel, who turned later in his trouble life into a Mossad agent, was captured in year 2000 by Hezbollah during a drugs deal in Lebanon (drug-trafficking is a Mossad major source of income). He was released in 2004 in exchange for 435 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, including Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Abdul-Karim Obeid who had been criminally kidnapped years before by Israel as bargaining chips for future negotiations. Israel claims 231 Israeli citizens have been directly killed since then by those freed in that deal. Considering this, the Shalit Deal looks even stranger; all of the sudden the explanation offered in Palestinian Hero Gilad Shalit Freed (financial gains for the Israeli military oligarchy) emerges as the most probable one. Especially since Netanyahu himself was the harshest critique of such a deal while he was still in the opposition.
Shalit would be freed in the following days. Probably on the final day of Sukkoth, a day known as Hoshana Rabbah and that is celebrated as a very special occasion. Or maybe it would be linked to the celebration of Simchat Torah ("The Joy of the Pentateuch" in Hebrew), just after Hoshana Rabbah. Lame Netanyahu would make an alliteration of his error. What awaits Gilad Shalit at home? Some Israelis would consider him a hero, others a Palestinian hero; the only sure thing is that there is no way home for Shalit. The home he knew doesn't exist anymore. He had become a bunch of symbols and bargaining chips.
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