The London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported on September 5th that the kidnapped Israeli hostage, Gilad Shalit is now in Egypt as part of a deal to release him. The paper reported that Shalit was brought to Egypt a short while ago in return for guarantees that Israel would release 800 Palestinian prisoners in three stages.

Al-Hayat also reported that Hamas retracted its demand that Shalit be released at the same time as the prisoners.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen said that a prisoner exchange agreement has been reached in which Gilad Shalit will be returned to Israel. In an interview with a Bahraini newspaper, Abu Mazen said Shalit will be transferred to Egypt and held there until Israel carries out its part of the deal.

No Israeli government official would comment on this report.

However, if it is true that Shalit is in Egypt, there will be far reaching legal implications

Egypt, as a sovereign nation state, with a peace treaty with Israel, would have trouble explaining how it is that their government would not hand over a citizen from a neighboring state who had been abducted by a terrorist organization.

Israeli legal authorities are now conferring on the implications what it would mean if, indeed, an abducted Israeli citizen is in the custody of the Egyptian government.

Such a situation would transform Egypt into a state which collaborates in kidnapping.

International law would require Egypt to hand over the hostage, regardless of any commitment given to the terror organization that had kidnapped the hostage.

A leading international lawyer in Jerusalem gave his perspective:

We have a peace treaty with Egypt. We have formal diplomatic relations with Egypt. If the Egyptian government takes possession of our soldier and refuses to release him on our demand, then Egypt will be in violation of customary international law. States at peace do not hold each other’s soldiers against their will.

HOWEVER… Israel has to demand his release. If Israel says it’s OK for Egypt to hold Shalit for some duration, then Egypt is not violating international law. In essence, Egypt will be holding Shalit in escrow: Egypt as a third party demonstrating that Shalit is alive and can be released, but holding him until the agreed upon terms have been fulfilled — until however many prisoners Israel has agreed to let go prior to his release have been let go.

The key here, then, once Egypt has Shalit, is GETTING THE ISRAELI GOV’T TO DEMAND HIS RELEASE. Egypt is under absolutely no obligation under international law to honor the demands of the kidnappers, who have released Shalit to Egypt’s possession. Israel can say, “You’ve got him, now give him to us, without stipulations or delay.” Then if Egypt balks it’s time to put pressure on Egypt. Egypt — which may well say things about how it has to act as an honest broker and this will ruin trust — would have no legal grounds to stand on if it tried to keep Shalit following an Israeli demand for his release and there could be threats of international repercussions.

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.