Monday 23 November 2009

Silence on Shalit is Golden

Speculation has mounted again over the past few days on a possible deal for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Any progress in the negotiations to free Shalit, who has been held by Hamas terrorists in captivity for more than 3 years, is welcome.

There have been many previous occasions when speculation about his possible release has reached fever pitch. The big difference this time is that the Israeli press has been very subdued in its reporting of the developments. Most, if not all, the news items have been initiated by foreign press including newspapers in the Arab world. Israeli newspapers seem to only have carried reports of stories that are repeats of information in the public domain. The only piece of original reporting so far was the details of President Shimon Peres's trip to Egypt yesterday, and his comments regarding the Shalit deal. Nothing more than that.

On this occasion, I think that the Israeli press has got it right. It is probably thanks to the military censor that gory details of this story are being kept off the front pages. I believe that the negotiations for the release of Shalit should be conducted behind the scenes and not through the press. Public reports in the past regarding a possible release have been particularly unhelpful. Perhaps a lesson was learned, and this time the talks have been kept to the negotiating table where they belong. Reports in the press only serve to increase expectations, and could send messages to the other side which may even serve to derail the talks.

For now, the right thing to do is to work towards lowering speculation in the public domain whilst the negotiators do their work behind the scenes. The joy that will be felt by the Shalit family and the Israeli public will not be increased or decreased by significant prior speculation about a deal. There can be no doubt that limiting public gossip on the deal can only ultimately be advantageous.

We continue to hope that a deal can be done as quickly as possible to secure Gilad's release. Despite the obvious attempts by Hamas to keep the negotiations in the public domain, I hope that those with the power to influence public speculation on the deal will exercise as much restraint as possible.

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