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For much of the Israeli public, my presence at Sunday’s rally for Gilad Shalit at the Erez Crossing near the Gaza border was a surprise because the struggle tends to be associated only with those who support the prisoner-exchange deal currently in question. So first off, it is important for me to clarify: I went to the rally because I was invited by the people at the protest headquarters, who asked me to make my position heard over the pressures our government can potentially exercise on Hamas to release Shalit. I wanted to honor the Shalit family by expressing true support for their struggle to release their son and, of course, I did not intend to convey any opposition. Before I took the stage, it was important for me to ask Noam Shalit’s permission to present my position, which he obviously already knew.

Over the course of the last five years, the public struggle over the Shalit issue has been absent of opposition, especially from the right-wing, at protest rallies. The media has excluded from the struggle anyone who opposed the prisoner-swap deal. But the time has come for the one-dimensional dialogue on this topic, which revolves completely around who is for and who is against this deal, to change and include another strong voice that speaks in favor of economic and military pressure on Hamas. I came to the rally in order to say that my opposition to the deal does not mean that I am sitting on the side, twiddling my thumbs with apathy for Gilad’s fate.

The time has come for another opinion to enter the public discourse over how to bring Gilad home. The importance of the struggle lies not just in saving captives, but in the bigger picture of our relations with Hamas, which threaten our entire southern border. Therefore I decided to attend the rally, despite the fact that I oppose the deal, because I thought it was necessary to say what I think we should do.

On the economic front, Israel’s government should stop transferring money to Gaza. Funds transferred each month in the framework of agreements with the Palestinian Authority also reach Hamas. By taking advantage of the fact that Fatah has signed a unity deal with Hamas, a terrorist organization, we could improve our image in the international arena and justify the blocking of funds to the Gaza Strip. Additionally, Israel has the power to prevent UNRWA trucks, which bring in $13.5 million in cash monthly, from entering Gaza. These funds are used to support unhindered terrorism and smuggling efforts. Israel also has military options at its disposal: In the past, Mustafa Dirani, a former leader of the Lebanese Shiite militia group Amal, and Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, a former Hezbollah leader, were kidnapped as bargaining chips for the return of Ron Arad. Even a policy of targeted killings could be a deterrent. As long as the leadership in Hamas feels confident and does not fear for its life, they will perceive Gilad as an asset, not a burden.

I also demand a significant downgrade in prison conditions for Hamas prisoners, who currently enjoy family visits in a summer camp-like setting in Israeli prisons, while Gilad is not allowed even a single visit from the Red Cross. Unfortunately, legislation on this subject was frozen by the government, even after I personally approached the prime minister on the issue.

A few months ago, I met Noam and Aviva Shalit at the Knesset. This noble couple, who are leading an uncompromising campaign for the release of their son, agreed with me that the government needs to toughen its stance towards Hamas and that there were actions the government could have taken the moment Shalit was abducted which have still not been explored. Because their struggle has not born fruit over the years, the Shalits have been losing confidence in the government’s ability to bring their son home. No doubt the Shalit family is justified. This is precisely why the prime minister’s stance vis-à-vis public pressure for a prisoner deal requires him to act more forcefully and truly utilize all the tools that he has at his disposal.

There is public consensus with respect to Gilad Shalit: a desire to see him return home. But there are also deep divisions on how to make this happen. The divisions are not between people from the right and the left, however, but between those who think we have to agree to the prisoner swap at any price and those who think that the deal, with its current parameters, is disastrous because it can strengthen Hamas’s status in the eyes of the Palestinian people or because there will be serious security consequences if we allow the massive release of despicable murderers.

We must, therefore, return to the worldview that guided Israel in years past: We will not succumb to blackmail by terrorist organizations.

By Tzipi Hotovely, Member Knesset – Israel HaYom

Remarque Ftouh Souhail /

Je suis d’accord avec le fond de l’article , depuis ce triste mois d’août 2006, on ne compte plus les centaines de déclarations faites par les dirigeants israéliens. Les expressions « nous faisons tout », « il est de notre responsabilité » ou « il faut libérer à tout prix », qui sont assénées à tout bout de champ, sont devenues des ritournelles vides de sens, et donnent l’impression que les autorités se moquent de la population. Il y a trente ans, un gouvernement israélien a été capable d’organiser un raid au-delà de 4000 km afin de libérer des dizaines d’otages aux mains de terroristes. Aujourd’hui, il n’est plus hélas capables de faire sortir un seul soldat qui se trouve aux portes d’Israël.

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