Gilad Shalit greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, October 18, 2011
Prisoners’ exchange between Ukraine and occupied Donbas has divided Ukrainian society into two camps. The reason is in the personalities of those whom Ukraine has transferred to uncontrolled territories. So, the list contains the names of Berkut riot police (in 1992-2014) ex-officers, as well as Kharkiv, Odesa and other terrorists. Families of Ukrainian hostages rightly say that we need to pull out our living citizens at all costs. The families of those killed on Maidan and the victims of terrorists justly require punishment for criminals.
Often supporters of the exchange cite the example of Gilad Shalit, former MIA soldier of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who on 25 June 2006, was captured by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid via tunnels near the Israeli border. Hamas held him captive for over five years, until his release on 18 October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal. He was exchanged for 1027 Hamas terrorists. Shalit’s exchange took place after more than five years of captivity and with very great resistance within the country, while the United States is still in dialogue with terrorist organizations, and this is done constantly and non-publicly.
Let's look at the situation with the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit and find differences in the Ukrainian situation. Not in order to persuade a part of the society to some kind of opinion, but to prevent romantic myths on Facebook stating that Israel, without looking, is ready to exchange at least a thousand terrorists for its soldier. Everything is much more complicated.
How was Gilad Shalit captured?
On June 25, 2006, 19-year-old Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants who made their way through a dug tunnel through the Gaza border with Israel and ambushed near the Kerem Shal checkpoint.
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and three were wounded; another two were killed by Palestinian militants. As reported, tanker gunner Shalit, who was at that time in the rank of junior sergeant, received shrapnel wounds.
The militarized wing of the Hamas movement took responsibility for this attack, together with a group calling itself the “Resistance Committees” that includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, as well as the previously unknown Islamic Army.
The abduction of an Israeli soldier was an exceptional occurrence, and Hamas could not count on doing it again and again. Hence the price. In Donbas and Crimea, such phenomena can occur regularly. With all due respect, but our army is far from the army of Israel, and besides, the Donbas hostages are not only military personnel.
What happened right after the kidnapping of Shalit?
Demanding unconditional release of Shalit, Israel launched the first ground invasion of the Gaza Strip three days after the attack, despite the fact that a year earlier it had unilaterally withdrawn its troops.
In the weeks that followed, Israel launched a further offensive and launched airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, dozens of Hamas political wing members have been arrested.
Israel then stated that the purpose of these actions was to achieve the release of Shalit and to prevent rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel, which have continued since the withdrawal of troops in 2005.
During the month of hostilities, more than 100 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier died.
Ukraine, unlike Israel, did not try and could not release the prisoners in other ways. It is one thing to try to free one soldier, and another is dozens of prisoners scattered throughout Donbas. Probably, the escalation of the conflict in Donbas is not in the hands of our country. In addition, we have a factor of Russia.
What was offered in exchange for Sergeant Shalit?
Initially, Israel refused to negotiate at all but later began to contact Hamas through representatives of Egypt with the participation of a mediator from Germany.
After five years of difficult negotiations on October 11, 2011, both Israel and Hamas announced the signing of an agreement according to which Israel will release 477 Palestinian prisoners first, and another 550 people will return upon returning Sergeant Shalit home.
Among those released are Hamas leaders, as well as Palestinians convicted of attacks against Israel. Hamas, however, was unable to secure the release of Marwan Barghouti, a popular member of Fatah. Barghouti was seen as a possible successor to Mahmoud Abbas, capable of building bridges between the main Palestinian political factions - Fatah and Hamas.
An important point - Israel exchanged convicted terrorists and soon passed a law according to which, with the resumption of terrorist activity, terrorists will again ring out for life. And there were many such cases. Other special services of Israel simply eliminated.
In March 2012, an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip killed a commander of a Palestinian group and a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel as part of a deal to free his soldier Gilad Shalit.
At the end of January 2012, 36-year-old Ayman Sharuna was re-arrested, sentenced to 38 years in prison for participating in the 2002 Beersheba attack before being released.
In February 2012, 30-year-old Islamic Jihad activist Hanaa al-Shalbi was re-arrested, prematurely released as part of the deal.
On March 8, 2012, a unit of the Lavi battalion arrested Khaled Mahmar, who was released from an Israeli prison as part of the Shalit deal and pledged to no longer engage in terrorist activities.
In April 2012, the AOI press service announced the arrest of about 10 militants released under the deal on suspicion of resuming terrorist activities. The report also notes that in connection with the mass release of militants, the activities of Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations in Jenin and Hamas have intensified significantly.
In June 2014, another 59 terrorists, previously released, were detained as part of the Come Back Brothers operation, which was launched by security services in conjunction with the IDF after the abduction of Israeli teenagers on the West Bank.
In August 2014, three high-ranking Hamas combat wing commanders, the al-Qassam Brigades, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza. All three of those killed were involved in the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israel makes it clear to terrorists: if something happens, there will be a reckoning. Ukraine simply lets people go, some even without a court sentence. They will generally be considered innocent.
And most importantly, how did Israel accept the exchange of Gilad Shalit?
In Israel, the release of prisoners "whose hands are stained with blood", that is, those responsible for the deaths of Israelis, is extremely controversial. And the case of Gilad Shalit was no exception.
The first thing worth noting is the position of the state. The country's authorities immediately transferred this process to the category of political ones. The Supreme Court refused to intervene. The government approved the transaction and the lists for the exchange of votes (26 votes in favor, 3 against). Everything was transparent. The then President of Israel, Shimon Peres, in his decision on clemency and terrorists separately emphasized that he does not forget their crimes and does not forgive them.
As in Ukraine, in Israel then society also split up on the issue of negotiations for the release of Shalit in exchange for a large number of prisoner-terrorists. Two opposing camps formed in society.
According to a survey by the Dahaf Institute, 69% of Israelis supported the deal on Hamas terms. 22% were against her, stating that Shalit should be released in another way. They doubted that the release of terrorists was the right approach to protecting Israelis. This dilemma was precisely described by the professor of political psychology at Tel Aviv University, Daniel Bar-Tal:
“Here we see the main dilemma between the individual and the collective, and we see how two victims confront each other. Gilad Shalit is a victim who was brutally abducted, which the Israelis do not consider to be a normal means of struggle. Thus, one side says that he should be returned at all costs, but the families of those killed in the attacks and the people who were injured as a result of these attacks are also victims say that there is no forgiveness for the killers. And that’s really a dilemma because there are no right or wrong people here."
But! In Israel, the exchange was preceded by a very long discussion in society, the media, and political circles. The authorities conducted opinion polls and hearings with the participation of relatives of both Shalit and the victims of terrorists. That is, at the time of the exchange, society knew who they would give, on what terms. As the exchange process takes place in Ukraine, you could see the last week.