Israel has been known for some time as setting the standard for hostage negotiations and counter-terrorism. Therefore, the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (many of whom were convicted of violent crimes) in exchange for one Israeli soldier seems completely contrary to their hardline stance. On the Israeli side, it will be seen by hardliners as appeasement and weakening of their position. To the Palestinians, it has to be a tremendous PR and political game-changer to have won such a large scale release of prisoners for a single Israeli soldier. The article does not make it clear why Israel was so interested in this prisoner or willing to release so many prisoners in exchange for his release. Secretary Clinton gives an oblique comment that she is happy Shalit's ordeal is over which begs the question, she isn't happy for the families of the Palestinians that were returned home?
I usually can come up with some rationale behind foreign policy or military decisions that are left out of the media. In this case, I am at quite a loss for a rational explanation. Sure Israel wants to get back their soldier but at such a steep price? He was only 19 when captured so it is unlikely he possessed some state secret Israel wanted to prevent from being revealed. He has also been in captivity since 2006, meaning he has divulged any secrets by now. It seems beyond reason that the Palestinians could have found some bargaining chip that would allow them to trade one prisoner for 1,000 but it appears that this may have been exactly what occurred.
The only clue may be that this deal was brokered by Egypt, the only Muslim nation to have normal relations with Israel. Israel and Egypt have not been getting along as well since the removal of Mubarak and the Arab Spring. The exchange may been more about appeasing Egypt than Palestine. If so, we may need to be more worried that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad may making a marked return to power in the land of the Pharaohs.