Ilan Grapel

Ilan Grapel is not Gilad Shalit.
Grapel is an immigrant from the United States who served in the IDF, and was wounded during the Second Lebanese War of 2006. Egyptian authorities seized him in June of this year during the protests in Tahrir Square, and accused him of spying for Israel.


Descriptions of Grapel use terms like innocent (in the sense of simple rather than not guilty) and naive. A right wing Knesset Member called him an anarchist who had demonstrated against the IDF, for whom Israel should not pay the Egyptians with any prisoners
He is bright enough to have studied in institutions as distinguished as Johns Hopkins and Emory, but seems to be short on good sense. He hardly seems to be the kind of individual Israel recruits and trains as a spy.

According to reports, be was describing himself as an Israeli while urging on the demonstrations in Tahrir Square. One picture on the internet shows him in an IDF uniform, and another in Arab dress.

Perhaps his parents forgot the lesson about not playing in traffic.

While Israel eventually will pay more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Shalit, many of them prominent terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands, the price paid for Grapel is 25 Egyptians. Israel media described them as another country''s criminals, the kind no country wants to keep in its jails. Most are Beduin from the Sinai, seized while smuggling drugs or prostitutes.
There was little else beside Shalit on Israeli media from a week before his release, when the deal was announced, until a few days after his release. From the announcement of the deal for Grapel until the actual exchange, Grapel received little more attention than a major traffic accident.
On the day of his release, the first 10 minutes of the popular discussion show London and Kirschenbaum was a comic routine dealing with Grapel''s name, the folly of thinking of him as an Israeli spy, and the nature of the prisoners released in exchange for him. The program''s military commentator ridiculed a report in the Palestinian news service that the Americans would give Egypt an F-16 as part of the deal
After his landing at the Ben Gurion airport, Grapel met with his mother and had a brief snack, said to be hamburger and chips, appropriate for an American. Then there was a modest convoy to Jerusalem where he met briefly with the Prime Minister. Part of the London and Kirschenbaum exchange:  "Would Netanyahu hug him? . . . Why is Netanyahu interested? . . . Could it be to improve his standing with the Americans?"
Within a day or two, Grapel is scheduled to fly home to New York, along with his mother.
Grapel had worked as a campaign volunteer for New York Congressman Gary Ackerman, and Ackerman urged a deal on Americans, Egyptians, and Israelis. Ackerman accompanied Grapel and his mother to the Prime Minister''s Office. While Grapel received a brief handshake from the Prime Minister, it was Ackerman who got the hug.

Not included in this deal was Ouda Tarabin, also accused of spying for Israel, and so far languishing for more than 11 years in Egyptian custody. Tarabin has the disadvantage of not being an American. He is one of the countless Beduin who go back and forth from one country to another, without worrying about formal procedures or travel documents. According to his attorney, Tarabin was on his way to visit a sister in El Arish when picked up by authorities.

Israeli media have been active in Tarabin''s case, perhaps even more active than in Grapel''s, although far from the activity invested in Shalit.

In connection with Tarabin, an Israeli government spokesman emphasized the delicate relations between Israel and Egypt, and said that there was only so much that Israel could expect from Egypt at this time.
Officials and the media are saying that an Israeli must be wary when contemplating a visit to Egypt or other Muslim countries, where activity anything like Grapel''s may render them a target for officials wanting to make a point about Israel, and where judicial procedures bare little resemblance to those in western democracies.

Here and there in the talk about Grapel and Tarabin have been questions about Jonathan Pollard.