'Palestinians held hostage by Gilad'

In opinion peace to Al-Quds daily, Noam Schalit says Hamas stubbornness hurting Palestinians.

Is Hamas holding Gilad Schalit hostage, or is the Schalit issue holding Palestinian prisoners hostage? That is the question posed by father Noam Schalit in an opinion piece published Tuesday in the East Jerusalem Al-Quds newspaper, the largest Palestinian daily. "For 25 months, Hamas has held the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit captive in the Gaza Strip...purportedly as a hostage to demands that Palestinian prisoners in Israel be released," Schalit wrote. "But is Gilad really being used as a hostage [for this purpose]? The state of things on the ground demonstrates a different reality altogether: In practice it is apparent that [the issue of] Gilad Schalit has for over two years been holding hundreds and thousands of Palestinian prisoners hostage, and hundreds of thousands of Gaza citizens under siege, in unbearable shortage and poverty. "As time passes, it becomes clearer that Hamas - with its insistence on a very specific list of names...that probably contains Hamas officials, and prisoners who are close to Hamas leaders, and relatives, and relatives of relatives - has for two years been preventing the release of hundreds and thousands of prisoners. Prisoners who could have been home long ago - both through [an exchange deal] and through peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority." Schalit argued that the release of any prisoners as part of such negotiations would be impossible as long as his son remains is captivity, writing that the issue was effectively a "cork" in the bottle labeled "Palestinian prisoners." "Until he is released, nothing else can flow out," he stated. "Until Hamas so kindly decides...to conclude the negotiations...and complete the basic prisoner exchange," Schalit contended, the Palestinian public will continue to be held hostage by his son's captivity.