The main conclusion of Israeli experts who viewed the video of Gilad Shalit is that Hamas is eager to reach a deal on a prisoner exchange.
The two-and-a-half minute tape handed by Hamas to the German negotiator last week, and broadcast on Israeli television last Friday, confirmed the intelligence assessments regarding Shalit’s condition.
“Nothing we saw there on the tape caused us to fall off our chairs,” said one senior defence official, following detailed analysis of Shalit’s appearance on camera.
“We believed that he was in a good physical and mental condition and from the way he appeared and spoke on the screen, that seems to be the case.”
From the way Shalit’s eyes moved and the hesitation in his voice, it was obvious to the analysts that there were other people in the room from whom he was seeking affirmation and that he was not even sure that the tape would actually ever be seen by his family.
The official said that while Shalit was reading the Hamas newspaper that he was holding on the screen, he mispronounced the name of the group holding him, showing that he had not learnt Arabic during his incarceration and that his captors are speaking to him in Hebrew.
The other valuable confirmation was of the willingness of Hamas to comply with the demands of the German negotiator.
“You could see in the tape that he had told them exactly what was required to provide us with what is called in these situations, Proof of Life,” explained one Israeli expert on hostage situations, who cannot be named.
“The way Gilad moved, the newspaper he held, and especially the inclusion in his words of a personal story, of how his family visited him on base on the Golan Heights, a detail that only he could know — all these are crucial details for us to know that he is OK and has not been brainwashed and that they are not using any of this to manipulate us.”
The fact that the German negotiator succeeded in getting Hamas to answer these demands and that the Palestinian organisation even complied with the demand not to broadcast the tape themselves, proved also that the Hamas representatives involved in the talks are the ones who hold sway.
“Hamas is like a hydra,” said a senior defence advisor. “There is the leadership in Damascus and then there is the political leadership in Gaza and the military wing. You never really know who is in control of a specific situation.
“The fact that the Hamas leaders who the negotiator has been speaking to could deliver that tape means we are dealing with the right Hamasniks.”