What has happened to Gilad Shalit is outrageous. He is the Israeli soldier who was snatched by Hamas terrorists and held in Gaza for five years. During that time, he was denied communication with the outside world, and there was every likelihood that Hamas killers had murdered him. Hamas denied the Red Cross access to him, which was a defiance of all international practice as well as unprecedented cruelty. The Israeli government handled his case ineptly. The Israeli army entered Gaza in force in 2008 to put an end to the ceaseless firing of rockets into Israel. The release of Shalit should have been made a condition of withdrawal. In the absence of means of compulsion, the Israeli governments of Ehud Olmert and Bibi Netanyahu could do nothing except bleat. For five long years Hamas has laughed in their face.
Shalit’s case presents a horrible moral dilemma. On the one hand, his release is imperative, and it is right to pay a high price for it, even though the Hamas brutes gain by it. On the other hand, this price rewards terrorism and inhuman cruelty. Worse still, kidnapping Israelis and holding them to ransom is evidently a paying proposition. The incentive to repeat the operation could hardly be clearer. One would expect Hamas to try to do so immediately.
Hamas have obtained the exchange of 1,000 Palestinians against a single Israeli, and their spokesmen are claiming this as a great victory. They are mistaken. The 1,000 Palestinians are all terrorists caught in the act and convicted in court, while the Israeli was doing his duty only to become the victim of subterfuge and violence to his person. There is no moral equivalence between the parties. Treating Shalit as they have, Hamas reveal their viciousness in full view of the watching world. We understand whom we have to deal with. However apprehensive I am about this exchange, I find I shall be glad when Shalit is finally out of their hands, and also full of pity for the unfortunate Gazans who voted Hamas into power, only to discover that they have put themselves at the mercy of these violent and lawless men, and can do nothing about it.