Saturday, June 25 marked the fifth anniversary of the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist forces.
Shalit was captured during a daring cross-border raid by the terrorists into southern Israel. Two other young soldiers were killed and five more were wounded.
That attack, and many others like it, were perpetrated by Palestinian groups despite the fact that just one year earlier, Israel had fully surrendered Gaza to the Palestinians.
During his captivity, the Hamas-aligned terrorists holding him have denied Gilad Shalit the most basic rights guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions.
The heart-wrenching scenario has been a point of bitter political debate within Israel, and the five year anniversary only exacerbated the situation.
Shalit's understandably frustrated family on Saturday chained themselves to the fence outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem.
Despite the fact that Shalit was abducted during former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's tenure, the Shalit's blame Netanyahu's refusal to meet terrorist demands for their son's continued captivity.
"The weakness and stubbornness that Netanyahu has shown in this process is a danger to Gilad's life and it's a danger to the values of Israel," Gilad's father, Noam Shalit, told those who had come out to support the family.
Netanyahu told Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting that he has accepted a German prisoner exchange proposal, and is waiting to see if it is accepted by Hamas. But chances are slim.
Hamas has demanded that Israel free thousands of jailed terrorists in exchange for Shalit. Many of those terrorists have murdered Israeli Jews, and would certainly try to do so again if they won their freedom.
There is precedence behind Netanyahu's concerns.
Over the past decade-and-a-half Israel has freed thousands of jailed Palestinian terrorists in goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority and in other prisoner exchanges. Those freed terrorists have gone on to kill no fewer than 177 Israelis, according to a survey by the Almagor Terror Victims Association.
While every Israeli wants to see Gilad Shalit freed, and none can imagine having to live through the nightmare that the Shalit family is enduring, many Israelis do not believe it is fair to risk the lives of many to save one.
And, there is no guarantee that even if Israel met Hamas' demands in full that Gilad would be returned alive.
Three years ago, Israel freed many Lebanese and Palestinian terrorists, including the notorious Samir Kuntar, in exchange for IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were abducted along Israel's northern border by Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia.
But the joy most Israelis felt over their boys finally coming home turned to horror and sorrow when they realized Ehud and Eldad were returning in coffins.
Careful to maintain the ploy used to effectively by Hizballah (pretending that its dead Israeli captives are still alive), Hamas at the weekend rejected a demand by the International Red Cross for a sign of life from Gilad Shalit.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials last week announced that they will be downgrading conditions jailed Palestinian terrorists currently enjoy.
Lt.-Gen. Aharon Franco, head of the Israel Prisons Service, told the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv that Israel will continue to abide by international humanitarian law regarding prisoners. But will start to remove all services and luxuries that are not required by law.
Currently, Palestinian prisoners in Israel receive about $350 a month with which to buy food, candy, cigarettes and other goods at the prison canteen; are very well fed in general; are allowed many hours of television and recreation time every day; and are permitted to take high school and college courses.
These terrorists live in "one big summer camp" courtesy of the Israeli taxpayer, one prison official told the newspaper.
In tremendously hypocritical fashion, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar blasted Israel for its decision to remove some of these perks, calling the move a "brutal breach of international and humanitarian law."
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