The Gilad Schalit deal has generated tremendous quantities of heat in the Israeli media and public. I want to try to generate some light. First, while Israel freed terrorists at a ratio of over 1,000 to one, the Hamas did not get everything they wanted, not even everything they insisted on for most of the five years. Thus the final result was not 100% Hamas: 0 Israel, but 100% minus something – Hamas, and O plus something for Israel.
The crunch came when Hamas realized that they could not rely on the Gilad Schalit lobby to force the government to give them everyone and everything on their wish list, no matter how many former heads of the Shabak, Mosad and IDF pressed for that. At that point Hamas began to compromise on some terrorist names and destinations.
Thus it is not true to say this is the same deal which could have been had five years ago. There was some movement, very little, but important nevertheless.
I find it hard to believe that in over five years the IDF and Shabak could not find any chance to rescue Schalit by a military operation. I think it is more likely they determined that he would probably be killed in such an operation as would an unacceptable number of the rescuers, and therefore decided not to attempt it.
However, all of this is crying over spilt milk. It is more useful to look ahead and consider how Israel should react when the next person is kidnapped and held incommunicado by Hamas, which demands thousands of imprisoned terrorists for his/her release.
In such event Israel should refuse to enter into any negotiations or even to acknowledge officially that anyone has been kidnapped until the Red cross visits him and makes a report on his condition. We learned from Regev and Goldwasser that the terrorists concealed their deaths for years and returned coffins instead of live soldiers.
On the other hand if Hamas publishes a list of terrorists whose release they demand, all those on the list should immediately be denied all privileges usually granted to terrorists in Israeli prisons.
Furthermore Bin Laden treatment should be meted out to one Hamas leader a week, the higher the better, until the person being held is released.
An Israeli media feeding frenzy should be avoided by use of Court Orders banning publication of details. These have proved very effective, more so than military censorship. They cannot prevent publication abroad, but nothing is perfect.
Several years ago a commission was established, chaired by Meir Shamgar, Retired President of the Israel Supreme Court (and a veteran of the Irgun, who was exiled to Africa by the British mandatory authorities), to devise a plan for Israel in the event of a kidnapping after Gilad Schalit. The commission prepared such a plan, which, considering the quality of its chairman, is probably a good one, but has not been published for obvious reasons.
Therefore, I feel free to chime in with my modest proposals.