Hamas' torture of Gilad Schalit - and a nation

As we mark the fourth anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit, whose life continues to be used as a pawn in the hands of his Hamas tormentors, we cannot let the importance of the struggle for his freedom be forgotten.

After four years, there is still no end in sight to his terrible ordeal.
At this point, there''s a lot of blame going around, both in Israel and abroad. The family has embarked on a new campaign to pressure the government and Knesset members to make concessions necessary to give Hamas a reason to finally relent and guarantee Schalit''s return. On the anniversary of his capture they will take to the streets with supporters to once again raise their voices on behalf of their son. Polls have shown that a solid majority of the Israeli public is now in favor of exchanging as many as 450 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit''s freedom. The debate in Israeli society, over how far is too far when it comes to dealing with Hamas intransigence, continues apace.
Schalit''s four-year period of captivity has brutalized not only a young soldier, but his family, who agonizes over the captivity of their loved one, and an entire nation.
For four years, Hamas leaders have not allowed him to speak with his family. For four years, they have skirted the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war, barring visits from independent observers from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
For four years, they have clung to unrealistic demands and ultimatums that Israel release hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails, some of them terrorists in their own right with blood on their hands, before this man can again enjoy his freedom again.
In October 2009, Schalit was shown in a video both alive and in apparent good health. Yet, Israel has still not received a response from Hamas to a proposal to bring Schalit home. That proposal, made by Germany and Egyptian mediators, was responded to positively by Israel in December 2009, and nothing has happened since.
The Prime Minister''s office has said Israel is making every effort to secure Schalit''s release, and that the security and defense authorities have been tasked to "make every effort to return Gilad to his family and his nation as soon as possible."
So, in the end, really there''s no one to blame but Hamas for the lack of progress in securing a deal for his release. Despite all of the promises from Hamas leaders, despite all of the efforts to secure his freedom through third-party mediators, this young man''s life still hangs preciously in the balance.
It is time for the international community to step up and demand his freedom, not just in words, but in deeds and action. It is time for Hamas to take seriously the imperative of securing his immediate freedom. And it is time that the world sees and understands the fundamental injustice of keeping this innocent man from being freed.
If Hamas now wants to the show the world that it is serious about entering into a more peaceful period with Israel, perhaps no step would be more symbolically or strategically important than the immediate release of Israel''s captured soldier.