I told you so.


A short while after finishing my note on politics (Every day you may have to eat --), Israel''s leadership proved it was up to the task.


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In a dramatic announcement timed for the evening news, including an on-camera announcement by the prime minister, we heard the details of an agreement between Israel and Hamas, via Egypt with help from Germany, France, and others, concerning the exchange of Gilad Shalit for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.


Both sides showed flexibility from their earlier positions. Israel is releasing some prisoners with Israeli blood on their hands, but not those ranked most extreme by various criteria and security personnel. Hamas accepted the deal even though some of its high profile demands will stay in Israeli prisons. There was also compromise on the number to be released in Gaza or elsewhere, rather than to their homes in the West Bank (considered more dangerous by virtue of its access to Israel''s population).


No doubt the numbers are imbalanced, but Hamas has only one Israeli prisoner and Israel may hold 11,000 or more prisoners who can serve as resources in such deals. Most of those being released are said to be individuals, not ranked highly on the criteria of being dangerous, who have served most of their sentences.


Why now, and not sometimes earlier in the five years of Shalit''s imprisonment?


Both sides may have come to the decision that this is the best deal likely.


Instability in the region is said to have contributed. Both sides are concerned that things may get more chaotic, not necessarily in a way to benefit their position. Hamas will score some points among Palestinians, by being able to release more than one thousand prisoners. It will pay some costs with the families of those left behind. However, it is looking better than Fatah.


Israeli officials are sending a message to Mahmoud Abbas on the value of negotiations and compromise.


Negotiating with terrorists?


Of course. It is better than going to war, and it does not mean giving in to terrorists. This does not end the conflict between Hamas and Israel, from either side. Peace is not here.


Three Israeli ministers voted against the government majority supporting the deal. Before it can go into effect, there is a two day period in which individuals can petition the Supreme Court to reject the release of individual prisoners and thereby endanger this agreement.


Not everyone is happy. No surprise. But difficult and lengthy, off again, on again negotiations demonstrated the efforts of both sides to adhere to their important goals.


Is there is message in this for social justice?


It adds to the prime minister''s stature, and whatever that means for his assertions that he is doing what is appropriate by way of social change and the benefits available to various sectors of the society, including Yuppie protesters and angry medical residents.


Politics will continue. Why couldn''t you do this sooner? will be one theme. Now show your courage to do something for us will be another theme.


Who is this Gilad Shalit? The same young man captured, but not exactly. What has happened to him and how it will affect his future is still to be determined.


Next up, maybe, Jonathan Pollard. But that is a different story.


Lessons for the IDF. Some of its leaders will celebrate Israel''s commitment to its soldiers. Some will lament the price paid. The lessons taught soldiers are to do everything possible to avoid capture, and to keep your comrades from being captured. Just what that means is something of a mystery. Life is tough. No perfect and simple answers.



 

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