Censored details of Shalit talks prevent proper public debate on swap deal
What’s happening in Israel in recent weeks over the efforts to secure Gilad Shalit’s release is blatant interference by the military censor in a political debate whose details should not be hidden from the public.
The censor prevents such debate from taking place and by doing so is in fact adopting a position in respect to this controversial issue.
On August 26, Yedioth Ahronoth submitted for the censor’s approval a report about an assessment that a swap can be finalized by December. This assessment is still valid. The German mediator secured a major achievement back then already: The signing of the outline for a deal between Israel and Hamas.
This accomplishment facilitated the significant progress we have seen in recent weeks; the kind of advancement that would probably prompt the upcoming finalization of the swap and Gilad Shalit’s release.
Yet in the case of the August report and many other cases in its wake, the censor prevented the publication of details of the negotiations. Should the details be published, the talks and the prospects of securing Shalit’s release would suffer an immense blow, they told us. Yet on Sunday it was proven that these claims were baseless, as the State itself openly presented the details to the High Court of Justice.
Debate premised on foreign reports
Mediator Hagai Hadas managed to prompt the heads of the military censor’s office to share his excitement and praiseworthy desire to return Gilad Shalit back home. He also promised the German mediator that no details of the negotiations will be published. These are legitimate arguments, yet the need to engage in an open public debate before the deal is signed is no less justified, especially when the State itself admitted Sunday there was no point in dismissing this debate to begin with.
When the censor prevents us from publishing the details of the negotiations, we see an emotional public debate that is entirely premised on disinformation published by the international media. This kind of debate deals with the less significant aspects of the painful deal that is about to be finalized.
Under such delusional circumstances, relatives of terror victims backed by rightist activists can claim that Netanyahu gave in to Hamas, while senior officials speaking on behalf of Netanyahu can claim that he has given much less than Olmert agreed to give. We could have known which side is right only if the censor would have stepped back and relaxed its chokehold on the information.
The State’s response to the High Court Sunday and the report in Der Spiegel regarding the disagreement over the identity of 70 prisoners to be released grant us a picture of the situation. PM Netanyahu wants to go for a deal and so does Hamas, and both sides hold great respect for the German mediator. Hamas preferred to first agree on the general outline and the logistics and to keep the incisive argument over the names – the prisoners with blood up to their ears – to the end.
The German mediator, who has been traveling around here with a driver and with a personal assistant, will now need to masterfully come up with a formula that would resolve the name problem in a manner that would enable both sides to claim that they did not give in.
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