A review of statements made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert since kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped thee years ago today reveal that the government eroded its own position. Olmert vowed not to negotiate with Hamas and then gradually offered to free hundreds of terrorists, an action security and military officials prevented by warning that the entire country would be endangered.
Following is a “time line” of the days before the kidnapping and the events and statements that followed.
Click here to hear audio of Shalit after he was kidnapped.
Gaza Withdrawal Influenced Inaction
June 24, 2006: The IDF issued a specific warning of a planned kidnapping, IDF Army Radio reported a year after Shalit was abducted. Two years later, Haaretz disclosed that a military intelligence brief the day before the attack stated, "Terrorist elements intend to carry out a quality operation in the immediate future, most likely in the area of the southern Gaza Strip, with emphasis on the area between Sufa and Kerem Shalom. The nature of the operation is unclear, but it may involve…an assault against a position near the fence or…an attack inside Israel." The newspaper added that no counter-offensive action was taken as a matter of policy following the expulsion of Jews from Gaza and the withdrawal of the IDF from the area in 2005.
June 25, 2006: Hamas and allied forces broke through the separation fence shortly before 5 a.m., fired mortar shells and shot at soldiers manning the Kerem Shalom crossing. They returned to Gaza within a half hour, taking Shalit with them. Two soldiers were killed and a fourth was seriously wounded in the attack.
June 26, 2006: After 24 hours of silence, the terrorist kidnappers demanded that Israel free all Arab terrorists and prisoners under the age of 18, along with all jailed Arab women, in exchange for information about Shalit’s fate.
Olmert: No Negotiations
June 26, 2006: Then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, “This is not a matter of negotiation; this is not a matter of bargaining; Release of prisoners is absolutely not on the agenda of the Israeli government.”
Release of prisoners is absolutely not on the agenda of the Israeli government.
June 26, 2006: Relatives of terrorists jailed in Israel gathered in Gaza and urged the kidnappers to hold Shalit until Israel agreed to a large-scale release. “Kidnap a solider and free 100 in return,” they shouted. “Twist the Zionists’ arms! Hope they can learn!”
June 28, 2006: Israeli forces entered Khan Yunis in Gaza to search for Shalit. Israeli embassy spokesman David Siegel said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who at the time was responsible for Gaza, was given "every opportunity to return the captured Israeli.”
July 1, 2006: The BBC reported that Shalit had been treated by a Gaza doctor for a broken hand and a shoulder wound.
July 2, 2006: Prime Minister Olmert told the Cabinet, “Everyone knows that capitulating to terrorism today means inviting the next act of terrorism. We will not do this.” Then Northern Command chief Major-General Gadi Eisenkot warned the Cabinet that the IDF goal is to prevent future kidnappings and that releasing terrorists for Shalit would be contrary to that goal.
July 3, 2006: Shalit’s kidnappers issued an ultimatum to Israel, saying they would kill Shalit if Israel did not start releasing 1,500 Arab terrorists. "We give the Zionist enemy until 6:00 tomorrow morning, Tuesday, July 4," the Hamas website announced. If Israel would not comply, “We will consider the soldier's case to be closed and then the enemy must bear all the consequences of the future results."
July 5, 2006: Hours before a Hamas ultimatum expired, Olmert said, “Israel will not give in to extortion…. We will not conduct any negotiations on the release of prisoners.”
July 17, 2006: Prime Minister Olmert told the Knesset, “Israel will not be held hostage – not by terror groups or by a terrorist authority or by any sovereign state.”
September 11, 2006: A senior advisor to Olmert said that no meetings with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on a proposed PA state will be held until after Shalit is freed. His spokeswoman Miri Eisin said, "The release of any prisoners is a gesture that the Prime Minister of Israel would be happy to give to a moderate leader and not to the Hamas government.”
September15, 2006: Media reported that Egyptian mediators received a letter from Shalit, who stated he was alive and well.
October 16, 2006: Prime Minister Olmert told the Knesset, where Shalit’s family was present, “From this place, many citizens expect to learn the meaning of supreme responsibility and to know their fate is in the hands of worthy representatives. We have not forgotten our soldier Gilad Shalit for a moment. Gilad will return home.”
October 26, 2006: An Egyptian newspaper published a report that the Damascus-based leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, will travel to Egypt to negotiate the release of Shalit and those talks with Israel “have been going on since shortly after he was kidnapped.”
November 21, 2006: Several days before Olmert ironed out a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, then IDF Chief of Staff told the Cabinet he opposed a truce until Shalit was returned. The Cabinet rejected his position.
December 8, 2006: Reuters quoted Olmert as stating, “A prime minister should not make promises that he cannot keep.”
January 4, 2007: Hamas offered to give Israel a videotape proving that Shalit is still alive if Israel released all Arab women and children from Israeli prisons. Olmert rejected Hamas’s proposal. Shalit's father Noam Shalit said, "I want my son back, not a video or a letter."
January 11. 2007: Hamas deputy minister Abu Marzuk told the London-based Al Hayat Arabic-language newspaper, "Shalit may have been wounded, and he may not have been. The subject no longer interests us. We are not interested in his wellbeing at all, and we are not giving him any special guard since he is as good as a cat or less.”
June 25, 2007: Nearly two years after the kidnapping, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem issued a statement saying, “International humanitarian law absolutely prohibits taking and holding a person by force in order to compel the enemy to meet certain demands, while threatening to harm or kill the person if the demands are not met."
Jan. 7, 2008: A source in Olmert’s office said he wants to speed up negotiations for the release of Shalit and may be more willing to release terrorists after completing a release of other terrorists in exchange for the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped by Hizbullah at the start of the Second Lebanon War in July, 2006
Dec, 28, 2008: Israel launched Operation Cast Lead to end terrorist rocket attacks on Israel.
Jan 18, 2009: Shalit’s father Noam said that Israel should not agree to a truce to end the Cast Lead campaign without securing the return of this son. "Under the circumstances the family views this unequivocal demand as a basic right and duty of any parents of soldiers,” he stated.
Jan. 22, 2009: Israel indicated that it wanted to swap terrorists held in Israeli jails for Shalit as part of a longer-term truce after the Operation Cast Lead operation.
Jan. 26, 2009: It was reported that Israel offered to release 1,000 terrorists in exchange for Shalit but there are disagreements with Hamas over the final number and the fate of those convicted for murders.
Olmert: No More Offers
March 18, 2009: Olmert, addressing the Israeli public on television shortly before leaving office, said negotiations have failed and that Israel could not free terrorists responsible for the murder of more than 100 Israelis. “No other [proposals] will be offered,” he said. Hamas stated the Israeli offer was short of “the bare minimum” and that, "as soon as there is a serious offer from Israel," he added, "we will deal with it."
June 20, 2009: Shalit’s father Noam criticized Olmert and said that “despite repeated declarations that the government of Israel was doing everything for the release of Gilad Shalit, and that his picture sits right opposite him in his office, I know that he didn’t make every effort and I know that from sources who were involved in the matter.”
Olmert’s office responded, “[He] will not respond publicly to claims such as these, or any other, by the Shalit family, however erroneous, harmful and inaccurate they may be.”