None of this has been confirmed yet — the word is coming via reports from Arab papers. In one version PA President Mahmoud Abbas provided details for a newspaper in Bahrain, El-Halij. Another version came from a usually reliable Arabic paper in London, Al-Hayat.

What is being said is that IDF soldier Gilad Shalit — who was kidnapped by Hamas on June 25 and has been held in Gaza until now — is being transferred, or has already been transferred, to Egypt. Egypt, serving as a third party, will hold Shalit in what amounts to an escrow situation, until Israel makes good on its part of the bargain. The bargain? The release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners, the precise number varying with the report. 800? 1,200?

According to the Jerusalem Post, Egyptian intelligence personnel were in Gaza days ago and in touch with the kidnappers, who had conveyed their demands, which were passed to Israel and then awaited a final decision by Olmert. Reportedly the kidnappers had originally insisted that all prisoners be released at the same time that Shalit was to be returned, but that now the deal is for release of prisoners over a period of months, with the first group to be released when Shalit is returned.

Apparently, as well, Israel insisted on not releasing anyone with blood on his hands, nor Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, nor Ahmad Sadat, who was involved in the assassination of Rehavam Ze’evi. These stipulations are all well and good on the surface of it. But I hasten to point out that the distinction of having or not having “blood on the hands” is artificial, as often those with “blood-free” hands were caught planning and simply hadn’t had a chance yet to spill blood even though they had hoped to do so. These guys are not in prison for crossing against the light, or shoplifting. Past experience has shown that when prisoners are released, a good percentage of them turn (or return) to terrorist acts.

Olmert government spokespersons are saying they cannot “verify” the information, and will, I suspect, continue to say this until the moment the deal is officially announced.

None of it is an enormous surprise. There have been rumors for many days. But it is an enormous outrage. Enormous. We can begin with the fact that the released prisoners will foment terrorist acts and that other innocent Israelis will die so that Shalit can be brought home. Can you imagine? Eight-hundred prisoners? More? What will be the cost of this? How many will suffer or die?

And then there is the precedent set, so that there is more likelihood of other Israelis being kidnapped so more prisoners can be released. Hey! It works, doesn’t it? We still have two kidnapped soldiers to free from Hezbollah captors. Are they going to settle for less?

So much is this the case that Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily reports that Palestinians are training to capture more Israeli soldiers. “We are now planning and training for the next kidnappings. Even if [Israel] releases hundreds of prisoners in exchange for Shalit, we still have thousands more to liberate. More Israeli soldiers must be abducted.”

Yes, there is a principle in Judaism regarding the ransoming of captives — pidyon shvuyim — that is taken with utmost seriousness. But there is a limit placed on this. Excessive ransom that damages the whole community is forbidden.


As to the two soldiers in the hands of Hezbollah: Kofi Annan said yesterday that Israel has agreed to his office providing mediation services between Israel and Hezbollah for the soldiers’ release. But government sources here are saying there is no mediation with Hezbollah, and nothing to negotiate, as their unconditional release is demanded. It is this — their unconditional release, say Israeli officials, that Annan was supposed to be working on.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, reported that the issue of the kidnapped soldiers was raised in every meeting with Annan when he was here last week. Regev said that Annan was told that as long as Hezbollah continued to hold the soldiers, this “was a direct violation of Security Council Resolution 1701, upon which the ceasefire is based.” Israel’s position was that the UN was responsible for implementing the terms of the resolution, and that Annan, as the UN’s chief officer, was being called on to handle this.

Now, Mark Regev is a good guy. But I beg to differ with him here. And, by extension, with the Foreign Ministry officials for whom he speaks. The resolution does not call for the return of the soldiers. That shortcoming was one of the reasons Israel’s signing off on it was distressing. The prisoners are mentioned only in the preface of the resolution, thus: “… emphasizing the need to address urgently the causes that have given rise to the current crisis, including by the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers… ” There is nothing in the body of the resolution itself demanding the soldiers’ release, nothing that is binding.

Israel went to war declaring that fighting wouldn’t cease until the soldiers’ release was secured. Israel stopped fighting without securing their release, and agreed to a resolution that didn’t demand it. Now Hezbollah is saying that only a prisoner exchange will secure their release (see above), and Annan, in talking about “mediation” is suggesting that some deal will be arranged with regard to this.


Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily ran another article worth mention this past week. Says Klein, top members of Syria’s Baath party are being privately advised by Assad to buy up property in the Golan Heights because this area is going to return to Syrian control very soon. Apparently there is a new group called Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights that formed in June and is training to use guerilla techniques against Israel for securing the Heights. While any group advocating violence against Israel has to be watched, this does not appear to be a major effort. What I am, frankly, more concerned with watching is the movement, inside of Israel and internationally, for offering to return the Heights as part of a peace deal. I am adamantly opposed to this and will have much more to say shortly.


It’s official. For now, anyway. PM Olmert has told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “realignment” is irrelevant at the moment and the government will be giving priority to other matters. A major criticism now leveled against the Kadima-led government is that “realignment” was its keystone and it has no political agenda, no direction.

Something that will require watching: international “peace initiatives” to take the place of the unilateral withdrawal that “realignment” advocated. These lethal initiatives are based, for the most part, on the Saudi plan that called for withdrawal to the pre-67 lines plus “right of return.”

[The Saudi Plan also endorses the “right of return” to Arab villages lost in 1948 – db]

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