Hamas Rejects German Swap Proposal for Schalit
The plight of Gilad Schalit, the French-Israeli soldier kidnapped just 5 years ago by Hamas terrorists who tunneled into an IDF post, has escalated into a battle of wills. That is to say, how determined and emboldened will Hamas leaders continue to be under pressure from growing international sentiment to release Schalit, and how conciliatory Netanyahu's government will be under their growing public stance favoring the release of 1,000 convicted terrorist-prisoners as a swap.
Last week, the Germans sent a mediator to broker an agreement with Hamas leadership, in good faith, which was then accepted by the Israeli Government.
In a statement released on Sunday, June 26, Netanyahu said: "This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel.... However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad's release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people. The terms of the German proposal have not been made public, but Netanyahu claims: "The State of Israel is ready to go far, more than any other country, in order to secure Gilad's release, but it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of those who are sitting here, to see to the security and lives of the Israeli people.... As of now, we have yet to receive Hamas's official answer to the German mediator's proposal."
Yesterday we heard that Hamas has turned down the proposal. But it goes further than that. Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk, Hamas political bureau deputy chief, accuses the German mediator of being guilty of "unjustly endorsing the unfair and unjust positions of the Zionist government." Marzouk punctuated his remarks by adding that the German Mediator's services will never be called upon again.
"There is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission. We all expected that he would present a fair and not extreme position. But instead of trying to reduce the demands of the Israeli government, he accepted its terms," Marzouk said.
It is interesting to see that neither Israel or Hamas chooses to reveal the terms of the German proposal that Israel is accepting and Hamas is rejecting, which makes it difficult to ascertain what is "unjust and unfair" for the release of one soldier. From Marzouk's comments one can logically take the position that the German Mediator believed that the Israeli Government had compromised as far as he thought necessary to bring the deal to Hamas. Obviously, Hamas felt differently and believes they can hold out for more.
What we already know from past swaps is that female and low-profile inmates have been more easily agreed upon for swapping than convicted murderers and leaders of various terrorist groups. There had been word that Hamas was looking for 1,000 prisoners to be traded for Gilad from a list of about 1,300, but many were hi-profile murders that Hamas is demanding as part of the swap.
A joint statement by twelve Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations called on Hamas to end its "illegal" and "inhumane" treatment of Schalit, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The International Federation for Human Rights and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The International Middle East Media Center called this joint statement "unprecedented" as some of these groups had never spoken out on Schalit's behalf.
Adding to this, a petition calling upon Hamas to ease the suffering of Schalit and his family is being circulated by Amnesty International, and they will present it to Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza's Prime Minister. I hope that the continued pressure from the Schalit family, increasing public sentiment, and calls from more international human rights organizations and international governments will add pressure to the Hamas organization to act in a 'humane' manner and let Galid Schalit go home.