Candidly Speaking: Gilad Schalit – the bitter and the sweet
By ISI LEIBLER
The ‘pay any price’ model for hostages is simply unsustainable, capitulating to disproportionate demands will inevitably culminate in greater disasters.
The liberation of Gilad Schalit on the holiday of Succot after five cruel years
of incarceration is the outcome of a major conflict between the heart and the
mind in which turbulent emotions triumphed. That the nightmare was ending sent
waves of euphoria and relief throughout the nation. Each of us, including
those bitterly opposed to the agreement consummated with Hamas, identifies with
Schalit, not so much as a hero but as though he were our own son.
deal epitomizes the mitzva of pidyon shvuim – the obligation we have to ransom
captives – that was traditionally regarded by Jews as a priority. It reflects
the humanity and concern for one another that has personified the Jewish people
over years of persecution and isolation. No other country would conceivably act
in this manner and it reveals the compassion Israelis share and the lengths they
will go to not to forsake their sons on the battlefield.
of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – in the short term – will undoubtedly rise
dramatically. Despite vociferous critics, the deal was enthusiastically endorsed
by the vast majority of Israelis, whose emotional frailties had been incessantly
laid bare by our irresponsible media.
Netanyahu inherited the problem
from Ehud Olmert, who at one stage had conceded most of the ground to Hamas but
ultimately got cold feet and backed out. Thus the task fell to Netanyahu, who
had to cross the very red lines he himself had drawn and vowed never to breach.
Nobody can envy the agonizing ordeal Netanyahu must have undergone before making
such a fateful judgment that ran diametrically counter to his basic
Although we universally rejoice and celebrate the end of this
long and painful national trauma, as with so many aspects of life in Israel
there are bitter as well as sweet aspects to the outcome. Not the least of which
is the unbearable agony inflicted on the families of those murdered as they
witness the vile, unrepentant butchers of their loved ones being “liberated” and
hailed as heroes.
If we are to undertake remedial steps to avert similar
situations from arising in the future, which could inflict even more severe
dilemmas of this nature, we must first be willing to face up to the consequences
of this capitulation to Hamas.
The exchange of 1,027 terrorists,
including the most cruel and barbaric mass-murderers and masterminds of major
terrorist attacks plus six Israeli Arab terrorists, in return for one Israeli
soldier, is not merely a stunning victory for Hamas and global terrorism. It
also conveys a number of other disconcerting messages that will undoubtedly
return to haunt us.
First, Hamas can now show conclusively that murder
and terror are infinitely more effective than negotiation. The exchange will
embolden terrorists throughout the world and encourage them to intensify their
efforts. Indeed, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has repeatedly stated that past
precedents demonstrate that the release of these killers will have deadly future
consequences and undoubtedly facilitate the murder of many other Israelis. In
fact, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal explicitly boasted that “those released will
return to armed struggle. It is a great national achievement.”
full impact will only become apparent to us in the weeks to come, when the world
is subjected to Hamas-sponsored victory celebrations in which the murderers will
be paraded in the streets as heroes.
Second, by exposing the “soft” side
or “Achilles’ heel” of an otherwise tough Israeli adversary, Hamas (and Fatah)
share a clear incentive to exert every effort and make every sacrifice to kidnap
additional Israeli hostages in order to impose new demands.
will be much easier to recruit terrorists who believe that no matter how many
Israelis they kill, if apprehended there is every likelihood that they will be
Fourth, Hamas has undoubtedly displaced the PA and demonstrated
that it was able to force Israel and other states to negotiate and thus provide
itself with legitimacy. Indeed, Hamas, which remains adamantly committed to
terrorism and the total destruction of Israel, has now emerged as the dominant
face of a future Palestinian state.
Fifth, this is also a victory for the
Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organization, which is emerging as the
principal power broker in Egypt. The new Egyptian government will therefore
impose far greater pressure on Israel in relation to Hamas than was the case
during the Mubarak era. Israel must also factor in Turkey, which in addition to
Iran has now emerged as a vociferous supporter of Hamas.
IDF has sufficient deterrent power to discourage direct hostilities. But
there will be greater diplomatic pressure, and a rejuvenated Hamas as well as
other terrorist groups can be expected to invest enormous efforts in
intensifying their war against us at all levels.
In such an environment
the government must gird itself for the future. We must never again permit the
deliverance of one Israeli – either soldier or citizen – to jeopardize our
national security. We must revisit the judicial committee initiated by former
Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar in mid-2009, which called for regulations
designed to ensure that future hostage deals do not become prey to the passions
and media frenzy that drove this deal. The findings had been shelved because of
the emotions surrounding Schalit. Now would be an appropriate time to try to
formulate these principles in a more objective and rational environment and if
possible have them written into law by the Knesset.
We must recognize
that the concept that “we must pay any price” is unsustainable. A state under
siege must not allow itself to be subjected to blackmail and extortion by
There is simply no end to such behavior. These barbarians’
lust for blood is insatiable. Continuing to capitulate to their excessively
disproportionate demands will inevitably culminate in greater
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