ISRAELI CABINET APPROVES DEAL: SHALIT TO RETURN HOME—(Jerusalem) Exactly 1,934 days after Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit near Kerem Shalom on the border with Gaza, the Israeli cabinet met in a dramatic meeting Tuesday night, approving a deal for his release. The cabinet vote brings an end to a saga that tortured the Shalit family—and the country—for more than five years, and which made the kidnapped soldier, now 25, a household name in large parts of the world. In return for Shalit, Israel will release 1,027 prisoners, some 400 of them serving long sentences for some of the worst terrorist atrocities in Israel’s history. Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen said that the organization would be able to deal with those terrorists returning to Gaza the West bank. Cohen, as well as the heads of the Mossad and the IDF all expressed support for the prisoner exchange deal. (Jerusalem Post, October 11.)
“Today, the Government [has approved] a deal that will bring Gilad Shalit home alive and well; bring him home to his parents Aviva and Noam, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the entire people of Israel.
Two and a half years ago, when the government was formed, I took upon myself, as my first priority, to bring Gilad home to his people, to his family—to bring him home safe and sound.… To that end we held long and tough negotiations through the German mediator. These negotiations were based on a framework outlined by the previous government. They were long and exhausting and despite all our efforts, a deal was not reached.
I must point out that not a day went by without us trying various ways to bring Gilad home, any way possible, and that didn’t work either. In the last few weeks, the negotiations were renewed in Cairo, this time with the Egyptian government as mediator. My instructions to the team were to adhere to the principles and framework that are important for the security of the State of Israel.… There is an inbuilt tension between the desire to bring back an abducted soldier, or citizen, and the need to maintain the security of the citizens of Israel. This is my dual responsibility as Prime Minister.
The deal…expresses the right balance between all of these considerations. I do not wish to hide the truth from you—it is a very difficult decision. I feel for the families of victims of terror, I appreciate their suffering and distress, I am one of them. But leadership must be examined at moments such as this, being able to make difficult, but right, decisions.
I believe that we have reached the best deal we could have at this time, when storms are sweeping the Middle East. I do not know if in the near future we would have been able to reach a better deal or any deal at all. It is very possible that this window of opportunity, that opened because of the circumstances, would close indefinitely and we would never have been able to bring Gilad home at all. Therefore, for all of these reasons, I instructed the team to put their initials on the deal last Thursday, and today it was finalized and signed by both sides.…
This morning I invited Noam Shalit to my residence, and I spoke on the phone with the mother Aviva and the grandfather Zvi. I told them that I am keeping my promise and I’m bringing their son and grandson home. I told them, ‘I’m bringing your boy back.’ I am happy that I succeeded in fulfilling the Jewish decree of redeeming captives, and if all goes as planned, Gilad will be back in Israel in the next few days with his family and his people.
The Nation of Israel is a unique people. We are all mutually responsible for each other, as our Sages said: ‘He who saves one soul, it is as though he saved an entire world.’ Tonight, I bring the Government a proposal to save Gilad Shalit, to finally bring him home to Israel after five years.”—Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, announcing to the nation of Israel that Gilad Shalit will return home to his people after more than five years of captivity. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, October 11.)
“How fitting it is that a prisoner-exchange deal for the release of Gilad Shalit was announced just before Succot. The succa reminds us of the temporary structures in which the Children of Israel stayed during their 40 years of wandering in the Egyptian desert following the Exodus. Ultimately, they reached the Promised Land, and that is where Gilad must be, the sooner the better.… There are undoubtedly those in Israel, especially some victims of terror, who will strongly oppose the release of Palestinian terrorists, and even murderers. This is understandable, and their voices should be heard and not judged.… Yes, in an ideal world, Israel shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. Yes, the released prisoners could easily return to terror. Yes, there is no justice in freeing murderers instead of forcing them to serve their sentences in full. And yes, exchanging 1,000 prisoners for one Israeli is hardly fair. But the alternatives are even worse. That Gilad Shalit could become another Ron Arad, the navigator who went missing in 1986 and whose fate is still unknown. Or that he could be slain by his captors, as has happened to abducted soldiers in the past.… We can only hope, beyond hope, that during his captivity since June 25, 2006, Gilad has remained sane and will emerge as unscathed as possible.… Despite the sharp differences of opinion in our society over a release of security prisoners, Israelis should join together in their succot this week, pray that Gilad will soon be reunited with his family and celebrate his imminent return home.”—Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief, Steve Linde, in “A Cause for Celebration,” praising “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government…for having the courage to reach an agreement,” and reinforcing an“overriding principle [that] must not be forgotten: Israel and the IDF cannot abandon Israeli soldiers, citizens and prisoners, wherever they are.” (Jerusalem Post, October 12.)
“If there had been a better deal or viable military operation we would have chosen it.… It is not simple to release 280 murderers. Hamas will be strengthened by this and Fatah will likely be weakened and this might even increase motivation for more attacks and kidnappings.”—Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yoram Cohen, confirming that Israel made “the best deal possible” given the circumstances, while acknowledging the associated risks. (Jerusalem Post, October 12.)
“We know from our experience that hundreds of people will pay with future terrorist attacks, and that [Hamas will] organize more kidnappings.”—Head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, Meir Indor, slamming the Shalit prisoner-swap deal, and affirming that “The Shalit family wins and the state loses. It’s a victory for terror and Hamas.” According to Almagor, since 2004, 183 Israelis have been killed in attacks carried out by terrorists who were released from prison. (Jerusalem Post, October 12.)
“This [prisoner-swap] deal is a national achievement.”—Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, conveying his “appreciation to Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades and the Palestinian factions which managed to capture the Israeli soldier Shalit,” and giving his “promise [to] the rest of the Palestinian detainees to liberate them soon.” (Independent Media Review and Analysis, October 11.)
“More of Shalit’s kind are coming.”—Senior Hamas lawmaker, Ismail al-Ashqar, vowing that “efforts to kidnap [Israeli] soldiers will continue,” as they are “needed” as bargaining chips “until all Palestinian prisoners are freed.”. (Ynet News, October 4.)
“According to reports, Israel will free up to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return [for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit]—a lopsided arithmetic that finds precedent in similar Arab-Israeli deals in the past. Whatever one may think about the wisdom of dealing with terrorists, this 1,000:1 ratio implicitly lays bare the relative value that the two sides, Israel and Hamas, place on their countrymen’s lives.”—National Post editorial board, in “Freeing Gilad Shalit Shows Israel’s Regard for Life,” highlighting the Jewish state’s supreme belief in the sanctity of human life. (National Post, October 11.)
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently agreed to the initiative to renew talks along the lines proposed by the Quartet, but the problem is the Palestinians refuse to accept the elementary demand to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish State.… The efforts of the international community are focused on the establishment of a Palestinian state and less on ensuring the survival of the State of Israel.… I am sorry to say that despite many long years of struggle, the survival of the State of Israel is not yet assured.”—Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, in an address to the European Parliament in Brussels, explaining that the core element of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Palestinians’ ongoing refusal to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and affirming that Israel “will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state bordering on a ‘state of all citizens’—the Palestinians must declare that if there are two states, one will be Jewish.” (Jerusalem Post, October 11.)
“For those of us who have placed great hopes in your leadership to transform the path of the Palestinians, your words and actions over the past year, culminating in your speech to the United Nations on September 23, have been disillusioning. You miscast Israel’s understandable desire to be recognized as a Jewish state, a recognition which should not be a big matter if the goal is two states living side-by-side in peace and security.…”—Anti Defamation LeagueNational Director, Abraham H. Foxman, in an open letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,accusing Abbas of seeking to deligitimize Israel in his UN speech by using “code words and phrases that provoke Israel’s isolation from the world community.” Foxman also called on the PA president to stop “demonizing” Israel and to resume peace talks without delay so as to prove that the Palestinians have “given up their long-held goal to continue the conflict anyway they can until the Jewish state disappears.” (Jerusalem Post, October 6.)
“The Palestinians’ actions at UNESCO negate both the bilateral negotiations route and the Quartet’s proposal for continuing the diplomatic process. Their actions are a negative response to Israel’s and the international community’s efforts to promote the peace process. UNESCO’s responsibilities address culture, science and education. UNESCO has remained silent in the face of significant change across the Middle East yet has found time during its current meeting to adopt six decisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decision to grant the Palestinians membership of UNESCO will not advance their desire for an independent state whatsoever. Israel thanks the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania who opposed the decision.”—Statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, condemning UNESCO’s decision to hold a vote on the admission of “Palestine” into the UN body. Both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top congressional appropriator, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, warned UNESCO that granting the Palestinians full membership could mean a cut-off in U.S. funding for the body.(Independent Media Review and Analysis, Jerusalem Post & JTA, October 6.)
“American diplomats who arrived in Ramallah this week were greeted by angry Palestinian protesters who shouted anti-US slogans and hurled shoes…at their armored vehicles. The message that the Palestinian Authority is hoping to [convey to]…the Americans and others: If you do not endorse our position and if you cut off financial aid, we will turn against you. In one word, it is called extortion.… Apparently, [Western governments] like being blackmailed. Instead of demanding changes in [Palestinian] behavior, then paying only after the changes have been successfully completed, governments always seem to pay up front with no demands, and then look surprised when there are no changes and each time the ransom goes up.…”—Khaled Abu Toameh, describing a Palestinian assault on US diplomats during a visit to Ramallah, and asserting that the “incident [should] come as no surprise in wake of the Palestinian Authority’s increased condemnation of President Barack Obama” and the PA’s propensity to “encourage Palestinians to stage anti-US demonstrations and rallies to condemn Washington’s ‘bias’ in favor of Israel.” (Hudson Institute, October 7.)
“An Italian-Libyan Jew, by his mere presence in Libya, has provoked an outburst of latent anti-Semitism, cultivated for over 40 years by the Gaddafi regime. David Gerbi’s simple act of devotion in cleaning out the filth of an abandoned, decaying synagogue in Tripoli and asserting his right as a Jew to pray there for the High Holy Days, is being used to justify an angry protest rally that will take place in Tripoli’s main square Friday evening, coinciding with the onset of Yom Kippur. It has been announced as a threefold protest against Gerbi’s very presence as a Jew, against the reopening of a closed synagogue, and against the return of Jews to Libya.”—Lisa Palmieri-Billig, in “Libyans Protest Jew Attempting To Reopen Synagogue,” describing the latent anti-Semitism prevalent throughout Libyan society, which has induced widespread protests against the re-opening of a synagogue in Tripoli. David Gerbi, who was exiled with his family to Rome in 1967 at the age of 12, returned to Libya last month to join the rebels in overthrowing the Gaddafi dictatorship. He affirmed that “Respect for religious liberty and human rights in general is an essential basis for democracy. Many Libyans are ready for a new society, but if they permit anti-Semitism to rear its ugly head again, all will be lost.” (Jerusalem Post, October 7.)
“Egypt is currently passing through a critical period and on the brink of bankruptcy. [Egypt’s] losses are growing day by day. Either we band together and change the current situation, or let Egypt be destroyed.”—Egypt’s Minister of Manpower and Immigration, Ahmed al-Borai, at a business symposium titled “Problems Faced by [Egypt’s] Private Sector,” describing Egypt’s intensifying financial crisis. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, October 6.)
“I am telling this to Europe and the United States: We will set up suicide attackers who now live on your land in case you bomb Syria or Lebanon.”—Syria’s highest Sunni Muslim clergyman, Mufti Ahmed Badereddine Hassoun, threatening to order suicide attacks in the United States and Europe if NATO should intervene in Syria as it did in Libya. Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad said he would “transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv” if foreign forces attacked the protest-ridden country. (Haaretz, October 10.)
“Any country seeking to launch a military aggression against Iran would see Turkey in front of itself.No one can make a move against Iran from the Turkish soil and no one can defend Israel from this country’s soil either.”—Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in a meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Fathollahi, stressing that Turkey would side with Iran against any future attacks, and reinforcing Turkey’s growing disdain for Israel. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, October 8.)
PRISON SERVICE PREPARING RELEASE OF PALESTINIAN PRISONERS—(Jerusalem) Israel’s Prison Service has started preparing for the release of Palestinian criminals as part of a prisoner-exchange deal for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. A total of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will be released in the deal, in two stages. In the first stage, 477 prisoners will be released, 280 of whom are serving life sentences. According to the agreement, Shalit will then be sent home to Israel, at which point a further 550 Palestinians will be released. (Jerusalem Post, October 12.)
IRAN “DIRECTED” WASHINGTON, D.C., TERROR PLOT, U.S. SAYS—(New York) According to US officials, FBI and DEA agents have disrupted an attempt to commit a “significant terrorist act in the United States” tied to Iran. The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the plan was “conceived, sponsored and was directed from Iran” and called it a “flagrant” violation of U.S. and international law. An Iranian representative in Washington, D.C., said the U.S. government’s story was “fake.” (ABC News, October 11.)
MAN INDICTED FOR ALLEGEDLY PLOTTING ATTACK ON PENTAGON, U.S. CAPITOL—(Boston) A federal grand jury in Boston has indicted a 26-year-old man for allegedly plotting to use model airplanes filled with C-4 plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol. According to authorities, Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Massachusetts, began planning a violent “jihad” against America in early 2010, supplying FBI undercover agents with explosive materials intended to kill U.S. soldiers overseas. Government officials believe he was radicalized by watching videos on the internet. (CNN, September 29.)
EGYPT CLASHES WIDEN DIVISIONS AHEAD OF ELECTIONS—(Cairo) At least 26 Christians have been killed in Egypt during the country’s worst outbreak of sectarian violence since the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February. The clashes raged over a large section of downtown Cairo, where Christians had been staging a peaceful protest over the military’s reluctance to prosecute Islamists who attacked two churches in Upper Egypt. The chaotic scene included armored military cars ramming groups of protesters, and security forces firing live ammunition at activists. The violence in Egypt came just days after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta traveled to Cairo to press Egyptian officials to lift the state of emergency ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, and after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she expected the military rulers “to fulfill the promises” they made to Egyptians. (Wall Street Journal, October 11.)
AFGHANISTAN MAKES ARRESTS IN ALLEGED PLOT TO KILL KARZAI—(Kabul) Afghanistan’s intelligence service has reportedly foiled a plot by the Pakistan-based Haqqani network and al Qaeda to assassinate President Hamid Karzai. A presidential bodyguard and five other men trained in Pakistan were arrested in Kabul, according to Lutfullah Meshaal, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. Two Arab nationals based in Pakistan had recruited the six alleged conspirators, who included college students and a university professor. The arrests come after U.S. and Afghan officials accused Pakistan in recent weeks of supporting the Haqqanis, blaming the group for last month’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and a spate of high-level assassinations. Pakistan has denied the claims. (Wall Street Journal, October 6.)
UN RAISES DEATH TOLL IN SYRIA UNREST—(Jerusalem) The UN’s human rights office has raised its tally of people killed during seven months of unrest in Syria to over 2,900, an increase of at least 200 since the beginning of September. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, confirmed the figure is based on “reliable sources” inside and outside the country. Last week, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria if it didn’t immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians. (Ynet News, October 6.)
BID TO ARREST TZIPI LIVNI BLOCKED—(London) Britain has blocked an attempt by a Palestinian civilian to arrest visiting Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni for alleged war crimes. Livni, foreign minister during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008, is the first senior Israeli figure to visit the UK since the government changed its controversial universal jurisdiction law, that had allowed private complaints of war crimes to be lodged against Israeli military personnel and other officials.Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said prosecutors had not taken a decision on the most recent request when the government intervened, informing them that Ms. Livni was on a “special mission” to Britain, effectively granting her diplomatic immunity. (National Post, October 7.)
LIEBERMAN: “ARBEL LEAK WAS SERIOUS BLOW TO STATE SECURITY”—(Jerusalem) Israel’s deputy ambassador to Washington, Dan Arbel, has been suspended for allegedly leaking sensitive information to a Haaretz reporter in 2009. According to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Arbel confessed to the leak during an investigation and accepted responsibility. Lieberman said the suspension was the result of a “serious blow to state security” and that it will take a lot of effort to repair damage done by the leak. The foreign minister explained that there are legal restrictions on government workers speaking to the media and that some people in sensitive positions are not allowed to speak to journalists at all. (Jerusalem Post, October 6.)
TWO ARRESTED FOR THROWING STONE THAT KILLED ASHER PALMER—(Jerusalem) The IDF and Israel Police have arrested two Palestinians from the village of Halhul near Hebron, who allegedly threw the stone or rock that hit Asher Palmer last month, killing him and his son as they drove near Kiryat Arba. According to officials, the two Palestinians confessed to throwing the rock toward Palmer’s car on September 23, which caused Palmer to run off the road and flip over. During the investigation, three additional Palestinians were arrested, who admitted to passing by the car and stealing Palmer’s sidearm after the fatal crash. Initially, the IDF denied that stones had been thrown at the scene of the accident, but after an investigation, the Defense Ministry recognized Palmer and his son as terror victims. (Jerusalem Post, October 6.)
FRENCH SUBURBS BECOMING ‘SEPARATE ISLAMIC SOCIETIES’—(New York) According to a major new study that examines the spread of Islam in France, the country’s suburbs are becoming “separate Islamic societies” cut off from the state. The 2,200-page report, “Banlieue de la République” (Suburbs of the Republic), commissioned by the influential French think tank L’Institut Montaigne, shows that France, which has between five and six million Muslims, is on the brink of a major social explosion because of the failure of Muslims to integrate into French society. The report also found that Muslim immigrants are increasingly rejecting French values, and warns that Islamic Sharia law is rapidly displacing French civil law in many parts of suburban Paris. (Hudson Institute, October 10.)