“Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even
if they are caught, their punishment will be brief….[B]y leading terrorists to
think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist
blackmail they are supposed to defuse.” – Binyamin Netanyahu, Fighting
“There will be no negotiations to release prisoners. The
government of Israel will not give in to extortion by the Palestinian Authority
and the Hamas government, which are headed by murderous terror organizations. –
Ehud Olmert, official statement (2006)
Here is virtually a whole nation acting
as one irrational parent…[in a way] that transcends reason – David Suissa,
Jewish Journal (2011)
It is now a fait accompli. Gilad Schalit has been freed.
All the Israeli government – and people –can do is wait – and brace themselves
for the consequences.
The preceding citations aptly encapsulate the
dramatic disintegration of national resolve and the ascendency of sentimentality
over rationality that has overtaken the country in the wake of the 2006
Since the announcement of Schalit deal, numerous writers have
observed that lives (and limbs) of many Israelis are likely to be endangered by
the release of over 1000 terrorists as the quid pro quo for his
Given past precedents, there is little reason to believe that
considerable death and injury will not ensue as a result of the government’s
However, how can the risk be quantified? The theory of
The following simple–and wildly optimistic– calculation will
suffice for a rudimentary order-of-magnitude estimate: Suppose 1000 terrorists
are about to be released. Suppose the security services can guarantee that there
is a 99% chance that each individual terrorist will not engage in any lethal
terror-related activities following his/her release.
Then, given the
arguable assumption that each released prisoner’s decision is independent of
that of other released prisoners, the probability that none of them will engage
in lethal terror-related activities is (0.99)1000
– less than one half of one
hundredth of one percent.
In other words, there is over a 99.99% chance
of at least one lethal attack resulting from the release –as close to statistical
certainty as you can get.
Now of course it is possible to critique this
simple–some might say, simplistic–calculation. However, it does provide an idea
of the size of the gamble the government has taken with the security of its
citizens and its willingness to play Russian roulette with their lives. It makes
little difference if different assumptions yield estimates of 98%, or 95% or 90%
chances of a lethal release-related event. Whichever way you cut the
numbers or shuffle the odds, the future prospects seem ominous–even under
extremely benign presumptions.Catastrophic craven capitulation
Schalit decision has been has been lauded as a commendable display of
“courageous leadership.” It is neither.
In fact, quite the converse is
true. It was a craven retreat from positions of moral imperative, because those
charged with their defense had neither the depth of intellect nor strength of
spirit to hold them. This reflects neither courage nor leadership.
a decision that involved little political risk. It, therefore, required little
There was negligible opposition from within the
coalition or from the opposition, so no internal challenge had to be withstood
or overcome. There was no resistance from the professional echelons, since the
newly-appointed heads of the military and security services consented to
The media aggressively promoted it, the bon-ton celebrity
opinion-makers clamored for it, and – if polls are to be believed – the general
public supported it overwhelmingly.
Under such conditions, surely it
would have been more “courageous” to resist than to acquiesce?
“leadership"–as it is commonly understood–involves persuading others to follow
you, not your following others. It involves the “leader” convincing others to
adopt his/her perspectives, not the leader embracing the perspectives of others.
So it hardly seems a demonstration of “leadership” to be swayed from long-held
principles and to abandon them for the antithetical “populistic” positions of
others. That appears more “follow-ship” and “leadership.”
deal will have incalculably grave ramifications for the nation and the
sustainability of Jewish political sovereignty.
While to some this might
sound an overdramatization, it is sadly no exaggeration.
and timely corrective measures are undertaken, its corrosive consequences will
soon be upon us.
It will undermine Israeli endeavor in many fields and on
many fronts–both domestically and internationally. It will go down as one of the
most disastrous miscalculations in the annals of the nation – comparable to the
decision not to mobilize the reserves on the eve of Yom Kippur in
1973.Product of a puerile, perverse and perfidious press
“We reached the
point where we conduct our national affairs like children – without wisdom,
without morality and without mature responsibility” confessed a well-know
Ha’aretz columnist in what seems to be a flush of retroactive remorse, having
just a week previously hailed the exchange as “a victory for old-fashioned
Some have characterized the Schalit episode as a
case of “heart prevailing over head”. It certainly was a triumph of media-mania
over mind, a victory of rating over rationality.
For it could never have
played out as it did without the press–both print and electronic– promoting the
mantra of “no price is too high", with little regard for the
Any thought of wider national issues was subordinated to
the playing up the more newsworthy personal anguish. Any consideration for the
long-term impact was swept away by a puerile – but profit-worthy – penchant for
instant gratification that brooked no delay.
Any regard for national
interests was trumped by the commercial interests of the media corporations and
the career interests of the media personalities. The any vestige of the ethical
was overwhelmed by the avarice of cynical.
Although there are belated
signs of second- thoughts by some commentators, now expressing hesitant ex-post
reservations they lacked the nerve to express exante, the genie is regrettably
out of the bottle.
It is a genie that will wreak havoc on both morality
and morale, both in principle and in practice. And rebottling genies is a
hazardous, costly and largely unproven disciple.
Despite mighty media endeavors to portray the decision as a reflection
of respect for life–it is if anything, precisely the opposite. For unless we
attribute immature denial and gross ignorance to the nation’s decision-makers,
their working assumption must have been that it will precipitate greater loss of
life than it prevents. Yet this did not deter them.
As such, it is a
decision that can make no claim to the moral high ground. For unless there is
some intrinsic reason why Schalit’s fate is significantly more important than
that of the yet-to-determined victim(s) of his release, the deal is little more
than a surrender to sentimentality that ill-befits those charged with task
charting the course of a nation.
After all, if securing the fate of a
single combatant can justify imperiling the lives of numerous civilians, the
entire purpose of the military – and the very rationale for service in the IDF –
is in effect voided.
Indeed, this grossly perverts – even inverts – the
fundamental logic underpinning the relationship between the martial and civilian
sectors of society.
This is not a matter of mere philosophical
significance. In the post-Schalit era, every Israeli citizen is in greater
danger, every Israeli tourist (especially those in cities with terror-complicit
embassies) in greater jeopardy.
Assurances by senior security officials –
the very individuals unable to devise a military option to rescue a single
abductee, adjacent to the country’s borders – that the released prisoners will
not constitute a future threat, are neither comforting nor
Risible protestations that the deal will not exacerbate
terror, because terrorists will perpetrate the nefarious deeds anyway, should be
dismissed out of hand. Conventional theory on counter-terrorism holds
that terror is a function of motivation and operational
Only the blind or the blatantly biased would contest that
Israeli compliance in Schlalit deal comprises a gigantic fillip for the morale
of the terrorists. Such resounding success will necessarily not only enhance
their motivation to duplicate it, but will probably enhance their operational
capabilities through greater largesse of benefactors impressed with their
Shattered international credibility and moral authority
But the Schalit debacle will not only undermine the security of Israel/Israelis
at home and aboard. It will also impair the conduct the country’s foreign policy
and its international stature.
Once international astonishment and
disbelief at the staggering disproportionality of the deal subsides, and
awareness of its significance begins to sink in, the consequences will soon
follow. Israel will find that:
• Its capitulation has shattered its
credibility in any future negotiations with its adversaries. For them the
plausible working assumption must now be that if they hold fast long enough,
Israel will yield–no matter how resolute it appears at the outset.
has thus virtually guaranteed that it will now be faced with ever-increasing
demands, made with ever increasing intransigence, with ever increasing
expectation for capitulation.
• It has lost any moral authority it may
have had in demanding that other countries resist extortion–whether by state or
non-state actors. After all, Israel itself has now supplied them with the
archetypical example of surrender to such extortion.
• It can now expect
intensified international pressure to make further far-reaching concessions to
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to help resurrect his status that
has been so dramatically undermined by the Schalit deal.
Clearly, Schalit should not have been abandoned to rot in captivity.
Yes, the IDF and the other security services must maintain an organizational
esprit de corps which instills the belief in all combatants that, should they
taken by the enemy, extraordinary efforts will be made to secure their release.
And indeed extraordinary efforts ought to have been made to extricate Schalit
from his captors.
But his liberation should have been achieved by
coercive means, not consensual ones. It should have be imposed on his abductors
because his continued incarceration involved penalties too onerous to bear; not
agreed to because his release involved rewards too tempting to pass up.
clear message must now be conveyed: Any future abduction will bring unbearable
In this regard the aversion to “collective punishment” must
be overcome. In collective conflicts, collective punishments are entirely
appropriate, unavoidably necessary, and frequently imposed.
UN-sanctioned embargo against Iraq reportedly led to more infant deaths than in
Hiroshima. Doesn’t get much more collectively punitive than that!
Then there are
the tens of thousands of NATO-inflicted civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the
NATO high-altitude bombing raids in the Balkans, hitting hospitals, old-age
homes, buses, trains, refugee columns fleeing the fighting.
leadership has a duty not to shrink from the pot calling the kettle
Submission and surrender of sovereignty
The Schalit debacle is yet
another example of the ongoing erosion of national sovereignty.
Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008/9, Israel demonstrated it did not have the
resolve to impose its will on small lightly-armed militias. In 2011, it
demonstrated that it did not have the resolve to prevent lightly-armed militias
imposing their will on it.
In its ignominious submission, it is clearly
failing to demonstrate that it can operate as a sovereign entity. As such it is
beginning to lose the very point of its existence: The expression of Jewish
This is a process that must be reversed with out
delay–with uncompromising resolve. Anything less would be a dereliction of
The Israeli leadership must resign itself to the unpalatable fact
that Israel is unlikely to win international affection. The most it can
realistically hope for is to be grudgingly respected, the least it must
unequivocally ensure is to be greatly feared.
Those who cannot grasp this
are unsuited to lead.