“Leave no man behind” is a motto adopted by many armies around the world, but in Israel it has an emotional and political influence that often reaches unique extremes. Over the past month or so, while the establishment that refers to itself as the international community has gone on yet another of its regular episodes of anti-Israel psychosis, most of the world has forgotten that Gilad Shalit exists. Israel, however, most certainly has not. And the country remains painfully aware that the young soldier, who was kidnapped in 2006 and has been held illegally by Hamas ever since, remains somewhere in the Gaza strip, no closer, apparently, to release.
Over the four years that Shalit has been held, rumors of his impending release have swept Israel with unfortunate regularity. The anniversary of his kidnapping on June 25 occasioned new rumors, new complaints, and new demands; most especially on the part of Gilad’s parents, who are quite understandably determined not to allow their son’s plight to slip below the radar. Over the past few days, Shalit’s father, Noam, has led a march across Israel to the border with Gaza, the purpose of which is both to keep Gilad’s name on all our minds and to put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas.
The problem, of course, is that Netanyahu has no particular wish to pay the price Hamas is demanding. It will require the release of approximately a thousand prisoners being held in Israeli jails, many of them for very serious crimes, including terrorism.