Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gilad Shalit: is Netenyahu seriously seeking his release?

Israeli prime minister Binjamin Netenyahu has grabbed headlines again. This time, he announced that new efforts are underway to seek the release Gilad Shalit from his 'Hamas captivity'.
Is Mr. Netenyahu of good faith in reopening negotiations after months of deadlock?
He may be. And then again, he may be up to his old tricks.
The right wing prime minister is in a pickle. He is caught between the rock of peace negotiations which are going nowhere and the hard place of securing the release of a 'Tsahal' soldier captured by Hamas four years ago.
The games Mr. Netenyahu plays have over time become shopworn and easy to spot.
Let's face it, he is in a close fight with his more extreme foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman for the control of ruling Israeli coalition government.
Mr. Netenyahu is struggling from a weak position: he won't freeze unlawful Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank nor in Arab East Jerusalem. If further proof is needed of his giving up more political ground to the more extremist elements in his Likud led coalition, he has come out in full support of a law requiring anyone seeking Israeli citizenship must swear allegiance to Israel as a 'Jewish and democratic state'.
Straightaway, it is clear that the law does not cover Jews. They have immediate right to citizenship under the 'Law of Return'. It is a way to force, for example, a Palestinian Arab who marries an Israeli Arab citizen to recognise Israel as a state for Jews. (Twenty per cent of Israelis are Arab!) It is a crude means of extracting recognition by Arab of the state of Israel, and what's more, to marginalise more Israeli Arab citizens who do not share full rights of citizenship guaranteed under the laws of the Israeli state.
On one hand, we have to say that Mr. Netenyahu is sincere in his pursuit of Gilad Shalit's release. On the other, his sudden announcement leads us to believe that he is playing a cynical game which has no chance of succeeding.
He has come under continual attack by Israelis for the government's inability to free Gilad Shalit by one means or another after four years. And then it is becoming clearer that his hold of power is slipping.
So what is more natural than to outmaneuver his 'nemesis' Avigdor Lieberman by seizing an issue which the foreign minister cannot challenge. And in this way, Mr. Netenyahu has a chance to show strong leadership qualitites as well as ways to shore up his sagging imagine abroad and at home.
According to Gilad's father and Hamas, there is really no movement in negotiations. For Mr. Netenyahu has presented no new offer to give some substance to Gilad Shalit's release in exchange of Palestinians languishing years in Israeli prisons.
He is willing to release a thousand Arab prisoners the majority of whom have almost fully purged their sentence, but are not on the list Hamas has presented for release.
And that's the substance of Mr. Netenyahu's classical tactic to frustrate his 'enemies' by forcing them to reject his proposals. Thus, no one can fault him for his 'good faith', and Hamas once more looks as though it is willing to compromise.
Mr. Netenyahu's ploy fools no one; he is repeating a tactic which Israel has used for the last 62 years to get its way. In brief, Israel won't give an inch that will make it look weak. Thus Gilad Shalit will languish in his 'Hamas capitivity' to satisfy the survival of Mr. Netenyahu's political career. It ain't no profile in courage.

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