Friday, February 20, 2009

Hamas refuses to free Israeli soldier in return for lifting Gaza blockade.

Young Gilad Shalit was an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Palestinian militants in 2006. The demand was that Israel release Palestinian prisoners for his return. Olmert refused and invaded Gaza. Shortly after this, Hizbollah seized a further two Israeli soldiers near the Lebanon border and, rather than take part in a prisoner exchange, Olmert then went on to start the 2006 Lebanon war.

It was an act of madness and certainly the oddest action I have ever seen taken in an attempt to free people who have been kidnapped. Indeed, Olmert's actions were so crazed that they looked to me at the time more likely to result in the soldiers being killed than in their being freed.

After the Lebanon war Olmert actually found himself releasing a Hizbullah spy in order to obtain the corpses of the two Israeli soldiers who were snatched from the Lebanese border. One wonders whether he could have got them alive had he not engaged in such an act of madness as the invasion of Lebanon.

Well, Egypt is now attempting to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and Olmert has suddenly started linking the release of Gilad Shalit to the lifting of the siege of Gaza. These things have never previously been linked and Hamas have rejected outright Israel's attempt to make Gilad Shalit's release separate from the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy leader of Hamas, accused Israel of backtracking over a truce agreement and warned that Corporal Gilad Shalit would only be released in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. "We will not change our position," he told the Guardian in Damascus yesterday.

"Israel and Egypt and Hamas have known for two years that the Shalit file is completely separate from other issues," protested Abu Marzook, just back in the Syrian capital from the truce talks in Cairo. "We are ready to start negotiating about Shalit, but the issue is not linked to any other as far as we are concerned. This is not acceptable to us."

The soldier is believed to be alive but his whereabouts are unknown and he has not been seen by the International Red Cross. "It's good that they [the Israelis] don't know where he is, otherwise they would have killed him," he claimed.
Perhaps, in his final days in office, Olmert is finally starting to feel guilty about poor Gilad. After all, Olmert refused to accept his return in exchange for a stop to the bombing of Gaza two years ago. At the time Olmert appeared to have no interest in young Gilad Shalit who, as I argued then, seemed to have dropped completely out of the wars narrative.

Now, Olmert has finally returned his attention to this young Israeli. But, he appears to be interested in using him as a way of avoiding ending the siege rather than genuinely attempting to secure his release. The way to secure the release of young Gilad is to release Palestinian prisoners. Israel has even been rumoured to be willing to release Marwan Barghouti in exchange.

So, it is very odd for Olmert now to begin attempting to link the release of Shalit to the ending of the siege. And it makes me wonder if Olmert is actually serious about ending the siege at all.

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2 comments:

Lex Fear said...

Truly sickening how this poor man is being used once again by this vile war-mongerer.

Yet he continues to rot in captivity- let's hope he does find his way to freedom and brings to light the whole shallow political staging taking place.

What kind of world are we living in that people like Bush and Bliar are still walking around, haven't faced one bit of scrutiny since leaving power and Olmert will surely escape it too.

Do you think Obama is going to do anything about this?

Kel said...

I find Olmert's behaviour inexplicable, other than the fact that he's perhaps adding Shalit to the debate about ending the siege because he knows Hamas can't accept it. So he can claim he wanted to end the siege but that Hamas refused to release Gilad Shalit. Despite the fact that the two issues have never ever been related.

And I don't think Obama will get involved in this because he has bigger problems once Netanyahu comes to town.