Gilad Shalit has been home for a week now, and Israelis – led by the media – seem unable to detach themselves from the story. We are all being fed a lot of information from various “reliable sources”, but it will take some time until the real truths about this story become public knowledge.
I would like to make a few guesses about what we will find out when these truths emerge (I realise this can take years, but I’m patient):
“Shalit was kept in a dark cellar”. A major part of the effective campaign for the release of Shalit has been that he’s being kept in unbearable conditions. The terms most frequently used were “dark cellar”, “Hamas dungeons” and “windowless pit”. We all remember the shameless display of celebrities spending an hour each in a make-believe dungeon in order to “identify” with Shalit.
My guess is we will find out that for most of his time in captivity (except for the first few months), Shalit was kept in pretty normal conditions: sleeping on a bed, eating regular meals, having access to media, and even exposed to a small group of people he could communicate with. He did not languish in a medieval prison, chained to the wall and being bitten by rats.
“Shalit’s fate would have been that of Ron Arad’s”. Ron Arad, who disappeared in captivity, was used as an example for what will happen to Shalit if he is not released. We all remember the ads showing Shalit’s face morphing into Arad’s face, and the blue-white banners displaying them together.
My guess is we will find out that, unlike in Arad’s case, Israel knew all along Shalit was in no real danger of disappearing. His captors were well known and held responsible for his capture by most of the world. More importantly, they had a supreme interest to keep him alive.
“There was no military option to release Shalit”. Until this very day, the defence establishment swears it had “no clue” as to Shalit’s whereabouts and there was no military option to release him.
My guess is we will find out that the intelligence community knew exactly where Shalit was kept captive (if not all the time, then most of the time) and that a military option was there all along, even if chances of success were very slim. The Nachshon Wachsman failure prevented the military from recommending a rescue operation.
“I had to make a courageous decision”. True to form, Netanyahu praised himself for taking a tough decision and agreeing to the steep, unprecedented price of freeing 1,027 terrorists.
My guess is that we will find out that the decision process was such that Netanyahu took easy way out, succumbing to popular pressure and making the obvious choice. To order a military rescue with high chances of failure requires the kind of courage a leader like Rabin had; Netanyahu took the easy way out.
“The window of opportunity was closing”. Netanyahu said that he had to close the deal now, as time was not in Israel’s favour. He hinted to, yet avoided to mention explicitly, the “Ron Arad fate” argument (see above).
My guess is that we will find out that timing was dictated mostly by the interests of both parties, especially Hamas. The Hamas leadership was keen to take steps against the weakening of its supporters due to the Arab Spring (mostly Syria) and to counteract Abu Mazen’s strengthened position as a result of the “independent Palestine” initiative. It was only after Hamas budged that there was a deal; Netanyahu did not determine the tempo or the details of the deal.
It’s good to have Shalit back home. I just wish our government would have the courage to say the truth instead of feeding the national psychosis with more lies and spins. I know it’s a naïve wish.