Gilad on his way home?

October 12, 2011 by Emily Gian
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“Wake up, Gilad is coming home”, was the SMS I was woken by this morning. Gilad is coming home… four seemingly simple words, and yet, these words have eluded Gilad Shalit’s loving family and the rest of the world for 1,935 days…writes Emily Gian.

Gilad Shalit

But after over five years, this morning has brought us the news that a deal has been made with Hamas to bring kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit home in the coming days in exchange for at least 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. According to sources, 450 prisoners will be released before Gilad is released and another 550 to be released after (see more). No names of Palestinian prisoners have been officially released but it has been said that all women prisoners are being released, and among the others being released, many are serving life sentences. There have been reports that one of the most notorious terrorists, Marwan Barghouti, who is responsible for the murder of scores of Israelis and a Greek Monk, is on the list, but Israel is denying this. For more information on the possible list, click here.

It is being reported that the Israeli Cabinet will vote in favour of the deal, despite members of Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud having voiced their opposition to freeing terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit (see more).

In his speech to the Israeli Cabinet last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched on the difficult choices and decisions facing the nation, “There is an inbuilt tension between the desire to bring back an abducted soldier, or citizen, and the need to maintain the security of the citizens of Israel. This is my dual responsibility as Prime Minister. The deal I am bringing to the Government expresses the right balance between all of these considerations. I do not wish to hide the truth from you – it is a very difficult decision. I feel for the families of victims of terror, I appreciate their suffering and distress, I am one of them. But leadership must be examined at moments such as this, being able to make difficult, but right, decisions. I believe that we have reached the best deal we could have at this time, when storms are sweeping in the Middle East. I do not know if in the near future we would have been able to reach a better deal or any deal at all. It is very possible that this window of opportunity, that opened because of the circumstances, would close indefinitely and we would never have been able to bring Gilad home at all” (see PM Netanyahu’s full statements here).

I can understand the bittersweet feeling this must be for the Israeli people, as it is difficult to come to terms with the idea of releasing terrorists with so much Israeli blood on their hands. I cannot imagine how the families of victims of terror must be feeling. But every time I think of Gilad Shalit, hopefully alive, languishing in a dark dungeon in Gaza, it is hard to believe that the government would not do everything in their power to bring him home.

Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal has also confirmed that a deal has taken place, claiming that it will include a “VIP list” of prisoners Israel was previously reluctant to release. He said, “we wanted to include as many prisoners in the deal as possible but we couldn’t free everyone”. He vowed “to keep fighting for the release of those left in prisoner… We promise you – you will be freed” (see more). At such a heavy price for Israel, there is a very real worry that Hamas and other terror groups will continue to use this tactic of kidnapping Israeli soldiers in order to achieve their aims.

The next few days will be a waiting game for Gilad’s family, for Israel and for the rest of the world, but I, along with so many others, will be hoping and praying that Gilad will be returned home quickly to his loving family. I cannot even begin to imagine how his family must be feeling at this moment.

From the Israeli Government

The Government of Israel embraces the deal that will bring Gilad Shalit home alive and well; returning him home to his parents Aviva and Noam, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the entire people of Israel.

For 1,935 days, more than 5 years, Gilad has been held in captivity, with no visits from the Red Cross; no information about his well-being and no knowledge of his whereabouts.

The State of Israel has made a very difficult decision, but one that stands firmly on our values and beliefs.
The State of Israel is the nation of unique people. We are all mutually responsible for each other, as our Sages said: “He who saves one soul, it is as though he saved the entire world.”

Liberal MP Christopher Pyne told federal Parliament: “I am delighted in this 90-second statement to welcome news that I have just heard, that Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been incarcerated by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2006 is to be released within days. This has been an horrific period for the Shalit family and for the state of Israel. I think it is a shame that in order to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, about whom I have commented before in this place, the Israeli government needed to negotiate with an organisation like Hamas and to release up to 1,000 convicted terrorists and criminals from their jails.

But I do fully understand and accept the importance of the decision that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have made. I think it is a very welcome development for Gilad Shalit’s family: Aviv and Noam, his brother Yoel, sister Hadas and grandfather’s Zvi and for the entire Israeli population. I look forward to watching the coverage of his release, which will be sooner rather than later. I hope that Hamas learns that the path of terror is an infamous path and that instead they should pursue a path of peace.”

The President of the ECAJ Dr Danny Lamm, welcomed the announcement on Tuesday by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, that an agreement has been concluded under which Gilad Shalit will be released after five years in captivity, together with another Israeli held by the Egyptians for alleged espionage.

“We greet this news with great joy for Gilad and the Shalit family, tinged with sadness at the distress which will inevitably be caused to the families of those who were murdered by some of the terrorists who are also to be released under the agreement”, Dr Lamm said.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu was right when he said that there is an inbuilt tension between the desire to bring back an abducted soldier, or citizen, and the need to maintain Israel’s deterrence for the security of all its citizens. People may debate whether the decision he reached achieves the right balance between those competing considerations. But ultimately he was the one elected by Israelis to make that call,” Dr Lamm said.

Dr Lamm noted that the Egyptian government and Egyptian Intelligence Services helped to broker the agreement, stating, “Their willingness to assist is an encouraging development in the post-Mubarak era.”

He concluded: “As we enter Succot we can give thanks that after five long years of being held incommunicado in violation of the laws and customs of war, Gilad will at long last be returned to the arms of his family. Each of us has family and we can all relate to the joy that will be felt by Gilad’s parents Aviva and Noam, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the entire people of Israel”.

Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello MP and Gabrielle Upton MP, Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Israeli Friendship Group, have today welcomed the announcement of the agreement to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

“The NSW Government welcomes the announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Gilad Shalit will be released as part of a prisoner exchange initiative,” Minister Dominello said.

“We understand that negotiations regarding Mr Shalit have been ongoing and complex, and the news that agreement has been reached will bring great relief to Mr Shalit’s family, the people of Israel and the Jewish community here in NSW.

“We look forward to hearing of Mr Shalit’s safe arrival home, his reunion with his family and friends in the coming days, and word that he has endured his ordeal with as few personal consequences as possible,” Minister Dominello said.

Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Israeli Friendship Group, Gabrielle Upton said the capture of Gilad Shalit and the subsequent negotiations to secure his release has been an issue of significant concern for the Jewish community in New South Wales.

“This news is particularly heartening on the eve of Yom Kippur,” Ms Upton said.

“NSW is home to many residents with Jewish heritage and the public support extended by the Jewish community to the Shalit family and the Israeli Government has been strong and enduring, and its advocacy is to be congratulated.

“The news of Mr Shalit’s release will bring great comfort to the Jewish community and we send our best wishes and goodwill to Mr Shalit and his family,” Ms Upton said.

The executive director of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council Colin Rubenstein told J-Wire: “This is a very hopeful announcement, given the many years of effort by successive Israeli governments, with the full support of the Israeli people and all with a genuine concern for morality. If Gilad Shalit is released this will indeed be a joyful end to a terrible violation of basic human rights. Of course, as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has noted, there is an inherent tension between the obligations of Israel to redeem captives and the need to maintain the security of all Israeli citizens by punishing and deterring terrorists who seek reward for acts of kidnapping and terrorism.

The Israeli Government has come to the conclusion that now is the opportune time to make the difficult trade-offs needed to gain Shalit’s release. Despite the high price that Israel has been forced to pay for Gilad Shalit’s safe return , it is a tribute to the supreme value, based on Jewish tradition, that Israeli society places on individual human life – including that of its soldiers.”

Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia added: “We awoke this morning to the news of Gilad Shalit’s imminent return, after the Israeli cabinet agreed to the terms of a prisoner exchange with Hamas.

“We greet this development with cautious excitement. Whilst we don’t know the details of the agreement, we do know that what it reflects is Israel’s commitment to bringing her soldiers home, to bringing Gilad back to his family and his home.

Just as we could only imagine the Shalit family’s torment during these past 1935 days since Gilad was abducted, today we can only imagine their relief and excitement.

Amongst the excitement however, we acknolwedge the price that Israel will have to pay for Gilad’s release, with the release of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom will likely have blood on their hands, and we note that PM Netanyahu has referred to this difficult decision and the impact on families of victims of terror.

The Zionist movement has led the Australian campaign to raise awareness and pressure for his release since 2006 when we established the “blue ribbon for Gilad” campaign. We thank all those who have assisted- from members of current and previous parliaments to community members and even young students who maintained focus, concern and pressure to support the efforts for his release.

We eagerly await the day very soon when Gilad will be back in Israel, in health, in the arms of his family.”


5 Responses to “Gilad on his way home?”
  1. David Samson says:

    I’m very happy to hear Sky News making reference to Israel as the “Jewish State” and Hamas as “Islamists”.

  2. ben says:

    NGO watch is not a human rights watchdog. It has absolutely no record of campaigning or investigating human rights abuses. It is an ofshoot of the Jerusalem Centre for Public affairs, a rightwing hasbara gorup which finds specious arguments in support of Golda Meir’s denial of Palestinian existance, among other things.

  3. Rita says:

    The NGO Monitor writes in their press release today that the “Shalit Agreement Shows Moral Failure of International Human Rights Frameworks”.

    “JERUSALEM – While welcoming the agreement to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as an important humanitarian act, Professor Gerald M. Steinberg, president of human rights watchdog NGO Monitor, noted that this episode further exposes the moral bankruptcy of international human rights mechanisms.

    “Throughout the five years of Shalit’s captivity in Gaza, during which every human rights obligation was blatantly violated, organizations such as the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), Gisha, and the International Red Cross demonstrated very little interest,” Steinberg stated. “Similarly, the report of the UN Fact-Finding Commission on the Gaza War, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, downplayed Shalit’s captivity in blatant violation of international law. This moral stain will never be erased.”

    In addition, NGO Monitor noted that the agreement to release hundreds of terrorists, responsible for heinous crimes, and tried and convicted according to due process of law, highlights the continued erosion of international legal principles. Instead of serving their time for these convictions, the murderers have been freed under extreme duress and compulsion, adding to the incentives for similar actions in the future. Organizations dedicated to human rights have an obligation to condemn such immoral extortion. ”

    I fully agree with them !

  4. matt says:

    This is great news. Sorry about those scumbuckets getting set free, but its worth it. This whole story encapsulates the difference between Israel and the pally’s. I have been praying for him and his family and its great to see this happen!

  5. ben says:

    The figure is 6000 Palestinian prisoners, not 600.

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