A deal has been announced In Israel and confirmed with Hamas that a swap has been made to free Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1000 prisoners. The Five Towns Jewish Times interviewed Malcom Hoenlein, head of the Conference of Jewish Presidents for his insights about the deal. Mr. Hoenlein has been involved in many such behind the scenes negotiations himself.
YH: Mr. Hoenlein, in your opinion, will the Shalit release deal that was just announced come through – can we trust Hamas that they won’t change their minds?
MH: Obviously, we hope that he will be released. It is part of their terror methodology, part of their tactic is to inflict pain and say that they will negotiate, and they do not. In the past, they have reneged and keep raising the price. Obviously this time there is more to it. We have to wait and see – there are a lot of details that still need to emerge. We don’t know yet that they will live up to any commitment.
YH: The price tag of releasing terrorists is steep. What are your thoughts on this?
It is obviously very sensitive when you are releasing terrorists. They have blood on their hands.
YH: The Israelis mentioned that the deal had to be done now because there was a small window of time left. Can you elaborate on this?
MH: Mubarak was an intermediary who tried to assist and he is not on the scene anymore. Egypt, along with the Germans was a major player in these negotiations and elections are to be held soon. If we see that the Muslim Brotherhood gets a large percentage of the vote – it will make it harder and harder to reach a deal. That was the concern – that and along with the pressures of various elements of Hamas not allowing a deal to go through.
YH: Is there a dangerous precedent here? Will there be more Gilad Shalits?
MH: Yes, but that precedent was set long ago even for dead bodies.. they know that Israel will strike a deal and they exploit the fact that Israel is committed to every soldier and every family – even if G-d forbid there is a situation where one would be killed.. They have said publicly that they will kidnap more – but it was a precedent made long ago.
YH: So it doesn’t make it worse?
MH: Not necessarily, but it is hard to know. It is not just the numbers it is the quality of the prisoners we are releasing – or rather the lack of quality of those we are releasing. How much blood on their hands, etc.
YH: Thank you.