HAIFA – The celebrations in Israel over the release of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit come after the Israeli government concluded that diplomatic rarity, an agreement with Hamas. It is as if the government had brought back an Israeli who had been sent to Mars.
Of course, other Israeli soldiers and civilians have been held captive in Arab states or abducted by terrorist organizations and other militant groups over the years. And Israel has been willing in the past to barter hundreds or thousands of detainees in exchange for the release of just a few of its citizens. But, for as long as I can remember, popular enthusiasm has never been so overwhelmingly supportive of such a deal as it is now, with the joy virtually exploding across the country after the news of Shalit’s pending release began to circulate.