Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations published a new book in Arabic entitled “The Road to the “Devotion of the Free” Deal: The Shalit Deal 2006–2011, by Mohammed Abed Rabbo Matar.
The capture of soldier Gilad Shalit was one of the most outstanding operations of the Palestinian resistance aiming to liberate Palestinian prisoners. For it is the first military operation to capture an Israeli soldier in Palestine. It was a milestone for the resistance, due to its style and speed, the complex security measures that accompanied the concealment operation by al-Qassam Shadow Unit, and the kind of deal reached.
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The 166-page book discusses the stages of the negotiations of Devotion of the Free deal since the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006, until the completion of the exchange process in October 2011, leading to the liberation of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from the Israeli prisons. It discusses the difficult political and military circumstances that had an impact on negotiations, in addition to the obstacles, as well as the efforts made by various mediators to complete the deal.
Due to the lack of references covering the details of the negotiations of this deal, the author relied heavily on events and statements documented by international and local news agencies and newspapers, as well as on documentaries and interviews broadcasted by several satellite channels. Matar had personally conducted several interviews with Hamas leaders, who participated in the negotiations or were briefed about them, in addition to interviews with released prisoners, academics, political analysts and specialists in Israeli affairs.
The book consists of three main chapters, photos and appendices. The first chapter examines the issue of prisoners in Islamic law as well as in peace agreements. It discusses previous operations of captivity and exchange, the capture of Shalit in 2006 and the subsequent military aggression and political activity.
The second chapter addresses the three stages of negotiations of the Shalit deal, the role of international mediation, the decisive last moments of the deal and the signing of the agreement, in addition to the most prominent positions and responses on the Palestinian, Israeli, Arab and international levels.
The third chapter explains the stages and conditions of the negotiations, the obstacles, the strategic objectives and the implications. It shows how skilled was the Palestinian negotiator in managing the negotiations, his sophistication, steadfastness and patience.
The negotiations of Devotion of the Free deal lasted five years, three months and nine days. They included negotiations, mediation, secret and overt channels, pressure and intimidation. Israel used all its military and intelligence capabilities, employed all its negotiating and previous experiences in exchange deals, mobilized its international and diplomatic relations and tried to exploit the humanitarian dimension of the captured soldier. This was the case, although Hamas had never conducted before any direct or indirect negotiations with Israel of such kind, except when it was forced to hold talks through mediators, to stop Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip. So far, Hamas refuses to negotiate directly with Israel, and all the stages of negotiations with it in this deal were indirect and through mediators despite the movement’s need to complete the deal.
Israel exercised various means of pressure to liberate Shalit at minimum price and it made all kinds of offers and bargains, however, after each round, the Palestinian resistance came out firmer, due to its clear objectives and firm conditions, thus forcing Israel to accept most of the conditions.
Double standards have prevailed when presidents, ministers, ambassadors and parliamentarians of various countries dealt with the issue of prisoners and detainees. For they raised the issue of soldier Shalit, or offered to mediate and pressure for his release, without mentioning the release of thousands of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.
Many prominent figures and countries tried to have a role in this deal, but Egypt was the most prominent one. Its mediation bore fruit when others had failed. Thus, it assumed the political, legal and moral responsibility for this file and had to follow up on Israel’s implementation of the terms of the deal, by providing protection to the liberated prisoners, who must not be arrested again outside the framework of international and humanitarian law.
It is worth noting that the author, Mohammad Abd Rabbo Matar, is a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip. He holds a master’s degree in diplomacy and international relations from the Management and Politics Academy in Gaza in 2018. He is a writer and political researcher, who has worked as a producer and presenter for local radio and television programs. He has published many articles related to negotiations in news agencies, newspapers and websites and has presented many studies and papers at different conferences and seminars.