Last night Israel’s Cabinet approved the deal with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit by a vote of 26-3. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered some hints about why a deal was finally made.
“With everything that is happening in Egypt and the region, I don’t know if the future would have allowed us to get a better deal — or any deal at all for that matter,” Netanyahu said on Israeli television. “The window appeared following fears that collapsing Mideast regimes and the rise of extremist forces would make Gilad Shalit’s return impossible.”
My friend and teacher Barry Rubin has provided me with more specific information about the deal to release kidnapped Israeli Gilad Shalit.
- The number 1000 is impressive but most will be chosen by Israel, meaning they will be prisoners with the lightest sentences an crimes, in other words, people who would have been released anyway during the next year or two.
- Israel rejected Hamas’s demand to release those being called “arch-terrorists” who were major organizers of attacks or responsible for a larger loss of life.
- Of the most serious terrorist prisoners only a bit over 96 will be released into the West Bank and 14 to east Jerusalem where they could cause direct trouble for Israel The rest will be sent to the Gaza Strip or deported altogether. Those with lighter sentences who live in the West Bank would have been sent there anyway when their sentences were finished.
- Hamas did a politically clever thing by demanding that half of the named prisoners be non-Hamas people. The goal is to make Hamas more popular among Fatah supporters and on the West Bank.
The plan is as follows:
- After a 72 hour wait following the issuing of a list of those to be released–to let families of victims to file petitions against it–the minister of justice will signal readiness to carry out the deal Gilad Shalit will arrive in Cairo. At that point, Israel will release about 450 terrorists under heavy sentence.
Of these 450 prisoners:
- 131 Gaza Strip residents will go there.
- 163 West Bank residents will be expelled from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.
- 40 will be expelled overseas
- 96 will return to their homes in the West Bank
- 14 will return to their homes in east Jerusalem
- 6 Israeli Arabs will be released to their homes.
- At this point Shalit will be released in Cairo and can return to Israel. After Shalit arrives. 550 prisoners with lighter sentences, chosen by Israel, will be released.
Based on the description it does not seem that either Marwan Barghouti or his cousin who combined are responsible for 50+ deaths are included in the deal.
There seems to be divide between Jews in the diaspora and Israelis regarding this deal. As predicted yesterday, many Jews outside of Israel are complaining that Israel gave up too much, but the vast majority of Israelis are supporting the deal. While most Israelis agree that it is a high price, they believe there is a moral imperative to bring Gilad Shalit home.