May 21, 2013
In June 2006 the Palestinian organization, Hamas, abducted Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier. Shalit was held in captivity inside the Gaza Strip for more than five years. During this period of time the Israeli government and Hamas held long and complex negotiations regarding the terms for Shalit’s release.
Throughout Gilad’s captivity, an intense ongoing campaign for his release was waged inside Israel and across the world. The campaign put pressure on the Israeli government to pay a high price, if needed, to bring Gilad Shalit back home. That demand reflects one of the most profound values of Israeli society – Israel’s moral obligation and responsibility to do whatever it may take to bring back home abducted or missing Israeli soldiers.
The campaign generated a painful and tense debate within Israeli society surrounding the question of what price should Israel pay to bring home soldiers who were sent on a mission on behalf of the State of Israel and in the course of that mission were taken into captivity.
On October 18, 2011 Gilad Shalit was released. In exchange, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian imprisoned in Israel for terror activities. Many of them were involved in the murder of Israelis and sentenced to life in prison.
In an article I published on October 30, 2011 entitled ” Israel – Hamas Prisoner Swap Deal: Arab Perspectives” I included the following phrase: “many Arabs express feelings of admiration for Israel because of its commitment to bring its soldiers back home and the willingness of Israeli citizens to pay a painful price to achieve that goal”.
On May 16, 2013 seven Egyptian soldiers and police officers were abducted in the Sinai Peninsula. Apparently the kidnappers belong to one of the militant Islamic groups operating in Sinai. The kidnappers are demanding the release of their militants imprisoned in an Egyptian jail including a senior militant who was sentenced to death by an Egyptian court for his involvement in lethal terror attacks on tourist resorts in Sinai.
A video released by the kidnappers on May 20 introduces the abducted Egyptian soldiers, sitting with their eyes covered and their hands on their heads. After each of the kidnapped introduce themselves, the abducted soldiers’ spokesman appeals to the President and the Minister of Defense of Egypt, urging them to spare no effort and to pay any price needed for their release. He pleads with the Egyptian government to act like Israel did in the case of Gilad Shalit, and pay whatever price is necessary to secure their release. Specifically he says: “The way Gilad Shalit was very dear for the Israeli government, who released a thousand Palestinian prisoners just to bring one Israeli soldier back home – and we are seven Egyptian soldiers – we expect to be as dear to you as well.”
This appeal reflects the unique and meaningful impact of the story of Gilad Shalit – one Israeli soldier – on the entire Arab world.