Israelis across the country on Tuesday morning stopped whatever they were doing, even driving on highways or city thoroughfares, and paused for five minutes to demand that the government not forget abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
Outside the official Prime Minister’s Residence, which is just down the street from Israel Today’s offices, thousands gathered to protest what they view as the government’s lack of action to secure Shalit’s freedom.
Gilad Shalit was taken hostage in June 2006 when Gaza-based terrorists infiltrated southern Israel and attacked the Israeli army tank he was helping to crew. The other soldiers in the tank were killed in the attack.
Since then, serious debate over what to do about Shalit has gripped Israel.
Nearly all Israelis agree that a soldier must never be left behind, especially in such a small country where nearly every citizen has served in the army. But that is where the issue stops being simple.
Whether or not the Israeli security forces know exactly where Shalit is being held in Gaza, they have shelved any plans to stage a rescue for fear the terrorists would simply execute Shalit.
There is also concern that he is being purposely held in a location with many civilians to ensure that any rescue attempt would result in major collateral damage, and thereby bring massive international condemnation down on Israel.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers have made a show of negotiating with Israel (via the former Egyptian regime) for Shalit’s release, but every time Israel came close to meeting Hamas demands, they were suddenly increased.
The last known negotiating point was that Hamas would free Shalit in exchange for the release of over 1,000 jailed Palestinian terrorists, including a good many with “blood on their hands.”
Some Israelis argue that Israel should pay any price to bring Shalit home. It is an understandable emotional reaction. But others counter that if Israel pays whatever the terrorists demand, Shalit will only be the first in a long line of abducted Israelis. If it becomes too profitable to nab Israelis, that will become the focus of all anti-Israel efforts.
There is also the fact that Palestinian terrorists released from Israeli jails in the past have gone on to kill hundreds of additional Israeli Jews. Many argue that as much as they want Shalit freed, his life should not be more important that those that could be targeted by the released terrorists.
It is a very difficult situation for Israel, and one in which it is receiving very little, if any help from the international community. World leaders occasionally call for Shalit’s release, but they do not back up their words with actions. They do not increase pressure on the Palestinians, and in fact do the opposite by pressuring Israel to stop its embargo against Hamas-ruled Gaza.