As many readers of my occasional articles will probably know, the Shalit Deal haunts me every day. It constitutes what was probably the worst travesty of justice ever perpetrated by an Israeli leader. And it resulted in the freedom of Ahlam Tamimi, my daughter Malki’s murderer in the Sbarro massacre.
For most Israelis, however, the Shalit Deal is forgotten history.
Nevertheless, for several hours last week, the local press was abuzz with it courtesy of ex- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Speaking publicly for the first time since his release from prison six months ago, Olmert didn’t mince any words lambasting the deal and its orchestrator, Netanyahu. He was addressing a conference at Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatefutsot, organized by the not-for- profit “Arik for Leadership” society, named for the late prime minister Ariel Sharon. The conference marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Latrun.
Olmert’s speech made me yearn for the bad old days when we were led by a man, Olmert, who was subsequently convicted of and imprisoned for the crime of corruption. I know, I know – that sounds absurd. But it’s undeniable: the ex-criminal spoke sanely and rationally about the release of the Shalit Deal’s 1,027 terrorists, among them convicted murderers and mass murderers, in return for one Israeli soldier. His words were such sweet music to my ears that I’m compelled to share some of them.
He revealed that he had rejected far milder demands from Hamas for Gilad Shalit’s release than those to which Netanyahu ultimately submitted in 2011:
“It is difficult to speak about the price we paid. The price that I rejected was lower both in the number of those released and in their characteristics [caliber]”.
He said that as PM he had several conversations with Gilad Shalit’s parents but said he always told them:
“You are the parents, you can ask to release not a thousand, but ten thousand. It’s human and understandable. But I as prime minister won’t do that. From a prime minister’s viewpoint, things must be looked at in a different way.”
Admittedly, Olmert wasn’t subjected to the intense pressure of an unhinged psy-cho-lo-gist/wife intent on pleasing her friends, the Shalits. As we know, Netanyahu had no such luck. In 2012, he openly confessed to the German newspaper, Bild, that his decision to buckle under to Hamas’ demands was influenced by Sara’s pressure to do so.
It is also important to remember that PM Netanayahu failed not only by brokering that egregiously lopsided swap. The very day of the mass release in October 2011, shocking revelations were reported regarding intelligence gathering related to Shalit’s abduction. Their source was a then freshly-retired senior commander in IDF counter-terrorism intelligence, Colonel Ronen Cohen. He had most recently been the intelligence officer of Central Command.
“The IDF never took responsibility for the soldier and did not even set up a team to deal with bringing him back… Intelligence is not passive but must be activated. [In the Shalit case,] it never was.”
And on whose watch did all those blunders occur? On whose watch have at least six more Israelis been murdered by terrorists released in the Shalit Deal?
The same leader who is now entrusted with our welfare in the days ahead; days that don’t augur calm or safety.
[A version of this post was published on the Times of Israel website under the headline "The Shalit deal redux" on February 12, 2018]