The Day In Israel: Tuesday Dec 22nd, 2009

After marathon talks last night, Gilad Shalit’s fate seems no clearer, with the Prime Minister’s Offices stating that the negotiation “have instructed the negotiation team regarding the continuation of the effort for returning Gilad Shalit home safe and sound.” In other words, the ministers have decided to..continue deciding.

Or have they? Ha’aretz reported that Israel has given a German mediator its response to Hamas. The question is: what was the response? Yes, no, or still thinking about it?

Meanwhile, I will keep my poll active to gauge your opinion on the matter.

Should Israel release hundreds of palestinian prisoners and terrorists for Gilad Shalit?

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Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

9:42PM: Quote of the day:

“I’m faced with two vital principles: the desire to redeem captives and the desire to defend Israeli citizens from future attacks.”

“I have listened with great attentiveness to your personal and difficult stories, and have noted all the important points you have raised.”

– Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after meeting with representatives of the Almagor terror victims organization, which opposes any prisoner swap deal.

5:22PM: Reuters has published a number of photos, such as the following, showing a palestinian boy who lost his leg during Operation Cast Lead.

Palestinians with lost legs - Reuters

Moathe Abu Rabeeh (R), a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who lost his leg during the three-week offensive Israel launched last year, attends a physiotherapy session at al-Salama Association in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip December 22, 2009. December 27 marks one year since the start of a three-week offensive Israel launched in Gaza during which more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Israel launched the offensive with the declared aim of stopping Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel (Reuters)

Leaving aside the accuracy of the figure of 1,400 palestinians killed (which seems to be based on a B’Tselem estimate, even though the IDF found 1166 were killed, including  709 “terror operatives”), why are we also not seeing from Reuters photos of crippled palestinians such as this man?

4:35PM: The Guardian has admitted it erred in using the headline “Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs” on the story about an admission by the former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute that organs were harvested from bodies without permission from the families of the deceased, since “That headline did not match the article, which made clear that the organs were not taken only from Palestinians.”

guardian retraction

3:42PM: A few months ago, Head Hamashole Khaled Meshaal claimed:

“Hamas does not aim to kill civilians. Hamas does not want to target the civilians. Hamas defends itself, but because it has simple abilities and its rockets are inaccurate in targeting, so it reaches the civilians, but we do not intend to do that.”

With that in mind, here’s an animated video released by Hamas.

3:12PM: It’s that time of the year again: Dishonest Reporter Award 2009

This year’s winners list is packed full of nutty goodness, including Ken Livingstone, Ha’aretz, The Guardian and Donald Bostrom.

9:24AM: Israel’s response to Hamas regarding the Gilad Shalit-terrorist exchange deal is reportedly “Yes, but…”

Israel gave a positive response to the general outline of the deal presented by the German mediator last week. The condition placed by Israel in its response refers to the names of “heavy prisoners” Israel demands are expelled to Gaza or abroad. According to Israel, these prisoners will not be allowed to return to the West Bank.

This stance, which is backed by a number of ministers and the head of the Shin Bet, stems from a serious concern that these “heavy prisoners” may revive Hamas’ terror infrastructure in the West Bank and resume the armed conflict as well as terror attacks against Israeli citizens, settlers and the Palestinian Authority.

The response which was transferred to the German mediator gives him enough pull to continue pushing to close the gaps between Hamas and Israel on the matter of expelling prisoners to Gaza.

Hamas is unlikely to drop out of negotiations, as it also has much interest in the execution of the deal. The moment of truth has yet to arrive, but can be expected in the near future.

6:06AM: Now for a change of pace: a joke about the Israeli rowing team told by an “old Jew.” (hat tip: Noah on Twitter)

6:04AM: A group of leading Zionist rabbis have drafted clear guidelines for prisoner swaps.

The guidelines in the document include the need to take future risk into consideration. Other principles include a call to engage in more moderate efforts in cases where abductees risk themselves needlessly, and a ban on releasing live detainees in exchange for bodies.

The rabbis who signed the document include Shlomo Aviner, Yaakov Ariel, Haim Druckman, and Dov Lior. The guidelines state that previous swaps completed by Israel were characterized by the “absence of clear criteria” and by a “dangerous preference for the welfare of the individual captive (or casualty) over the public’s wellbeing.”

The document includes a total of six brief clauses and is backed up with Jewish law sources for the various rulings.

The rabbis begin with an uncompromising rule of thumb: “Despite the importance of the mitzvah of prisoner redemption, any deal for the exchange of terrorist prisoners must be weighed with the public’s best interest in mind, as well as its effect on national security in the short and long term”.

“National security is affected, among other things, by the deterrence of enemies and their debilitation, as well as the willingness of soldiers to risk themselves knowing that a great effort will be made to release them if they are captured,” the rabbis say.

“A decision on a deal should consider intelligence agencies’ assessments of the future risk that it carries.”

Three basic principles

The rabbis call for a policy of negotiations based on three basic principles, each one derived from scenarios experienced by Israel over the years.

Hinting at the Tannenbaum deal, the document says that “the level of effort invested in releasing a man who unlawfully endangered himself should be lower.”

Regarding the return of corpses, such as deals made for IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the document says that “despite the mitzvah of bringing a fallen soldier to burial in Israel, it is prohibited to release live terrorists in exchange for corpses”.

Regarding cases such as that of Shalit, the rabbis say that “a special effort must be invested in releasing security personnel who served the country”.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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