One concerned neighbour in Mitzpe Hila commented that Gilad Shalit, newly-released from five years in captivity in Gaza after Bibi Netanyahu agreed to swap 1027 Palestinian prisoners for him, now resembles a concentration camp victim. But though startlingly scrawny and pale, the IDF tank crewman is out at last and the nation is caught up with tears and fears and euphoria. Shalit's father told the press: "He came out of some dark pit or dark cellar and encountered such commotion out here." Presumably his Arabic language skills had improved, too. An interview with Egyptian anchorwoman Shahira Amin appeared to be opportunistic propaganda that left the confused former prisoner gasping for breath. In response to a prod about the remaining 5500 Palestinian prisoners who were not included in the trade, Shalit said he would be happy to see them released, as long as they no longer attack Israel.
The first Israeli soldier taken captive and returned alive in 26 years has made headlines worldwide. Lawrence Wright blogged on the New Yorker webpage:
In the five years since the abduction, there has been another exchange going on, not of the living but of the dead. Four hundred Gazans were killed by Israeli forces in the first few months after he was taken. Six Israeli soldiers and four civilians also died during that period. The exchange of one living Israeli for a thousand and twenty-seven living Palestinians is certainly a comment on the disparity of the value of life in each society. As long as Shalit was being held, the exchange of the dead would also continue at the same disproportionate rate. It certainly made sense for Hamas to make the deal. Whether it makes sense for Israel will not be known for decades. If the trade opens up an avenue for real peace negotiations, one that would include Hamas, then it will be a deal worth making for both sides.But if Netanyahu reneges on his promise to free all the named Palestinians [477 were released today], there may be hell to pay. Using IDF soldiers as currency has little to recommend it as a strategy, and this seems to be a politician's gambit.