The Israeli government led by Ehud Olmert has failed in its efforts to free Gilad Shalit, the soldier captured by Hamas. Almost three years ago Hamas kidnapped Shalit and has been holding him in terrifying conditions ever since. Hamas has not allowed the International Red Cross or any other humanitarian agency to visit Gilad, who was apparently wounded while being captured.
Over the many years of fighting terror, Israel has captured many extreme terrorists, who all received medical attention and where visited by the Red Cross, according to the Geneva Convention principles. In contrast, Gilad Shalit is held by an extreme militant group, in a dark location with no access to proper care. His very basic needs are not met, and the world doesn't care. A young man forcefully taken from his familiar routine into the most desperate place of all, captivity. The world doesn't care. Imagine your son, your brother, your nephew, gasping for light, for air, injured seeking help, meeting torture and hate. In his captivity, not a single ray of sun met his eyes, not a single gesture to fill his heart with hope.
One look at Gilad's parents tells the unfortunate story, the nightmare that they cannot wake-up from for the past 1000 days. Their gloomy faces reflect the disappointment they suffer every time a televised negotiation fails. How can a mother sleep at night when she knows her son suffers? How can she eat when she knows he is not getting sufficient food? How can she live when he is tormented?
Gilad's parents are fighting for his return, meeting politicians who are filling the air with promises as empty as bubbles, followed by the merciless reality that pops those bubbles.
A new approach is needed in dealing with militant groups such as Hamas -- the world needs to engage them constantly, challenge their ways. Over two-thousand years ago, Sun-Tzu said "keep your friends close and your enemies closer". Those wise words are still valid today. Keeping an open communication channel with Hamas might help break through the evil and potentially reason with a few of them. Cynics might consider this approach overly hopeful, but all other political tricks have miserably failed the reality test.
In the case of Gilad Shalit, Hamas asked for the release of several hundred terrorists, including ones who orchestrated some of the bloodiest terror attacks ever seen, and some that physically participated -- 'terrorists with blood on their hands'. Israel agreed to the list of demands, but asked to exile several terror masterminds to prevent them from training new terrorists in Gaza. Unfortunately, once again the negotiation failed, as this condition was rejected by Hamas, who refused to send "released prisoners" abroad.
Israel should have surprised Hamas by offering to release all prisoners captured in Israeli detention facilities. This might sound radical, but could change the rules of engagement in the region -- a step like that might end Hamas' efforts to free their prisoners by counter kidnapping Israeli soldiers. Another political effect might be an opportunity to accelerate the peace negotiations towards a 'two states for two nations' solution.
Israel has nothing to lose by choosing to take an 'all or nothing' gamble. Gaza strip is nearby and the Israeli Air Force is ready and able. The only thing we can lose is another day without Gilad.