Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Wednesday that he has approved the transfer of 100 million shekels to cash-strapped and Hamas-run Gaza. Barak had received a special request to do so by the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Salam Fayad.
MK Aryeh Eldad (HaTikvah) was among several public figures who criticized the decision. He called on the government to prevent the money transfer until IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is released from captivity. Shalit has been in the hands of Gaza-based Hamas terrorist kidnappers for 2.5 years.
“If there is any meaning to the term ‘redemption of captives,’” Eldad said, “it is exactly this: Murderers should not be released, and cash should be allowed into Gaza only on condition that Gilad Shalit is released.”
Forty trucks filled with food, medicines and fuel were allowed to pass into Gaza on Tuesday, despite the ongoing rocket attacks from there.
Food, Yes; Money, No
Yoel Marshak, who chairs the Release Gilad Shalit committee, had sharp words for Barak. “I accept a decision to transfer food, water and fuel to Gaza so as to enable routine life,” Marshak said, “But not money! This money will be for salaries for terrorism, and the transfer of the money will harm the efforts to gain Shalit's freedom."
The cash is to come from Arab banks in Samaria. Marshak notes that Israel Discount Bank and Bank HaPoalim of Israel have agreed not to send money to Gaza, “recognizing the need for economic pressure on Gaza.”
Yisrael Beiteinu Response
The Yisrael Beiteinu party released this response: “Barak’s need to bring back voters from the lost left-wing is evident, but why does it have to be at the expense of Israel’s security? It is obvious that these 100 million shekels that will go to Gaza will soon return in the form of 100,000 Kassam rockets.”
Shas Response: White Flag of Surrender
Eli Yishai, Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor, and Shas party chair, said, “This is surrender and a prize for terrorists.”
Regarding the government summit meeting on Wednesday morning regarding the worsening security situation in the vicinity of Gaza, Yishai said, “Instead of coming out with a decision that would give the residents of Sderot, Ashkelon and environs reason to cheer, a decision is made to cheer up the people of Gaza and those who fire Kassams. This decision has a white flag flying above it. The Kassam launchers have received a shot of encouragement from Israel’s government to keep on firing. I can't figure out the source of this helplessness and paralysis that leads to such bad decisions.”
Ceasefire Did Not Help Shalit
Cabinet Minister Chaim Ramon (Kadima), a political rival of Barak but a good friend of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said this week that “the ceasefire with Hamas did not help Gilad Shalit. Hamas has used this period to add more demands for his release, including the opening of the Rafah crossing into Gaza.” Barak had said that the ceasefire would ease negotiations for Shalit’s release.