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Israeli media lauds Shalit deal, with reservations

(AFP) / 12 October 2011

JERUSALEM — Israeli newspapers on Wednesday hailed a deal that will see a captured Israeli soldier freed, but some commentators warned the agreement made Israel look weak and would lead to increased militant attacks.

News of the deal to free Gilad Shalit, held since his 2006 capture by Gaza militants, dominated Israel’s newspapers, with the top-selling Yediot Aharonot splashing a picture of Shalit’s smiling mother Aviva across its front page.

‘Gilad is returning home,’ the newspaper headline, in jubilant blue lettering, read, over the picture of Aviva Shalit.

Maariv carried a similar picture with the headline: ‘Gilad is on the way home.’

The right-leaning Jerusalem Post used the words that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in announcing the deal to the nation in a televised address on Tuesday night: ‘Gilad Shalit to finally return home.’

And the Israel Hayom daily, which is close to Netanyahu, splashed its front page with the simple announcement: ‘Homeward Bound,’ over a picture of Shalit.

Inside the newspapers, commentators offered a more nuanced take on the deal, which will see Israel free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for its captured soldiers.

Some called the deal the best that Israel could have secured, and praised political leaders for their decision to take it. But others warned the agreement could encourage the future capture of soldiers and made Israel look weak.

Yediot Aharonot’s Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s most influential commentators, said Netanyahu deserved gratitude for agreeing the deal.

‘There are decisions that are unavoidable,’ he wrote. ‘The decision to sign the Shalit deal is one of them: The price is excessive, the risks are great and the precedent is displeasing, but a state that for five years was unable to rescue a soldier from captivity by other means has no choice but to pay the price.

‘The alternative — to let him die in captivity — is unacceptable. It does not meet the minimum conditions of the Israeli tribe.’

Haaretz’s Yossi Verter, normally critical of Netanyahu, praised the premier for making ‘the most important deal of his life.’

‘Netanyahu didn’t start a war. Nor did he sign a peace treaty. And meanwhile he hasn’t found a way to calm and pacify the social protest movement,’ Verter wrote.

‘But he will forever be remembered as the man who brought back Gilad Shalit after more than five years of cruel imprisonment.’

But other commentators were less enthusiastic, with Maariv’s Ben Caspit tempering his praise for Netanyahu with a warning the deal would contribute to a rise in militant attacks against Israelis.

Hamas will be able to show the Palestinian public that its path, of terror, is preferable,’ he wrote.

‘Every young Palestinian man will know that there is no problem, one can go and kill Jews and ultimately be freed in a deal. And this is before we have started to count the victims who will be killed in the future in the wake of these releases.’

Ben Dror Yemini, also writing in Maariv, called the deal ‘a prize for terrorism.’

‘This deal is a terrific victory for Hamas,’ he wrote.

‘It isn’t a deal. It is capitulation. After all, we’ve seen this movie before. There have been similar deals in the past. We know, with painful exactness, what the results will be. Some of the terrorist infrastructure will return to their crimes very soon.’


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