By Igor Siletsky and Fedoruk Vladimir
On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-mun expressed hope that the release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners will give impetus to the reconciliation process on the Middle East. However, many political analysts would disagree with him. Some analysts believe that this precedent will push radical Palestinian insurgents to start the hunt for Israeli militaries in order to free 7,000 compatriots who remain in prison.
Gilat Shalit was released from the Palestinian prison on Tuesday. The Corporal was brought to the Israeli base Amitai on the border with Egypt where he underwent medical examination and had a phone conversation with his parents. After that he was brought by helicopter to the Tel Nof air force base where he met with his family and Israeli high ranking officials Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and head of the headquarters Benny Ganz. The Israeli authorities delivered dentist and roentgen medical equipment to the military base near Tel Aviv. After all medical procedures the Corporal will be brought by helicopter to his native village.
Soon after the armed vehicle with Shalit crossed the Egyptian-Israel border the first buses with released Palestinian prisoners arrived to the Gaza Strip. In total Israel released 1,027 prisoners in exchange for the corporal. The score is 1027:1 but no one in Ramallah or Tel Aviv can definitely say who won.
Israel conducted two military operations against the Hamas movement and the Gaza Strip trying to return the Corporal without making any concessions. The first operation took place on the third day after Shalit had been taken hostage on June 26 2006. The second operation took place in December 2008.
Neither the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip nor air and tank attacks on the enclave which took the lives of thousands of Palestinians helped Israel bring the soldier back. Though today Israeli people welcome the release of Shalit not many of them regard it as a victory, an Israeli political analyst Alexander Eterman said in an interview with the “Voice of Russia”:
“There are different opinions in our society. Almost half of Israeli people welcome the soldier’s return. The very fact that he was captured revokes sympathy of the whole population. Meanwhile there is also a great number of people who find it unfair to exchange one soldier for more than 1,000 Palestinians who are regarded as terrorists in Israel. Not all of them are terrorists of course but that’s not important. The release of more than 1,000 people in exchange for one person is taken by many Israeli people as a moral insult and as a threat to national security.”
Though in terms of quantity the score is in favor of Ramallah the attitude in Palestine towards the exchange is not homogeneous, Palestinian political analyst Nazar Alian said in an interview with the “Voice of Russia”:
“Of course, the attitude is positive in general. They have been waiting for a long time for the deal to be closed. They regret that 7,000 Palestinians remain in prisons but the release of more than 1,000 is a reason to celebrate. Here these prisoners are viewed as freedom fighters. They fought against the occupation of their land and paid for it with long years in prison.”
Some analysts fear that by yielding to the release of more than 1,000 people in exchange for one person Israel has given the radicals of Hamas a new weapon. On the one hand every Israeli soldier now understands that his country wont leave him in trouble. On the other hand the unequal exchange has created a precedent and now the radical Palestinian insurgents will start a constant hunt for Israeli soldiers demanding the release of the remaining prisoners.
Indeed the deal cost a lot to Israel and its Prime Minister. But the deal was necessary for Benjamin Netanyahu, an expert of the Israel’s department at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian academy of Sciences, Tatyana Nosenko says:
“The release of Gilat Shalit gives Netanyahu additional points ahead of the elections, which is important in situation where there is a huge discontent over the government’s economic policy. This exchange was necessary and well timed.”