In 2006 Israel was plunged into a war with Hezbollah (The Party of God) in Southern Lebanon. However, how many people remember why that conflict started? We all remember how it ended. Israel was left with doubts about its military ability to defend itself for the first time in its history. It ended up not going well at all.
The conflict in Southern Lebanon was started when Hezbollah launched a rocket attack on Northern Israel as a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack against two Israeli Humvees patrolling the border. Two soldiers survived the anti-tank missile attack and were taken prisoner and then spirited back into Lebanon. The deceased remains of those two soldiers were returned to Israel as part of a prisoner exchange after the conflict ended.
However, who here remembers what else happened a month earlier with Hamas in the south? Right now if you watch the news reporting, this is the most forgotten aspect of the current conflict in Gaza.
In June 2006, using a tunnel dug from Gaza across the border into Israel, Hamas soldiers came up from behind Israeli positions and captured Gilad Schalit. That was two years ago, and Gilad Schalit is still alive and is still held prisoner by Hamas in Gaza. The International Red Cross has been denied visitation, but an international envoy from Egypt has been able confirm he was still alive and brought him a new pair of eye glasses sent by his parents. Right now that is all that is known about his fate.
Now, why would this man be forgotten, especially by his own government? Yes, he is forgotten by his own government. In an article from the Jerusalem Post the current Israeli government has not even mention Sergeant Schalit in their cease fire terms in this current conflict! What kind of outrage would follow in this country had he been a US Service member who had his status confirmed by an Egyptian envoy as alive and well? There would be an outcry that would be deafening.
So far in Israel, there is a news paper story and a letter to the government pointing out their omission. It is a very big omission too. I think Israel needs to require Sgt Schalit’s return as a non negotiable condition for a cease fire. The opportunity to obtain his release will never be so good again.