As we anxiously await the release of Gilad Schalit, national sentiments are mixed.
Feelings fluctuate from joy at the prospect that Schalit will finally be free after more than five long years of captivity, to trepidation that the release will lead to more terrorism and violence.
There is an irresistible desire to celebrate Gilad’s imminent freedom with the Schalit family, and appreciate their emotional stamina and stubborn refusal to give up, which after so long finally seems to be paying off.
But at the same time, one cannot help but empathize with, for instance, the Roth family, whose daughter Malka was murdered along with 14 others in the August 2001 Sbarro Pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
Arnold and Frimet Roth, Malka’s parents, are understandably outraged by
the planned release of Ahlam Tamimi, 31, who drove the suicide bomber to
Sbarro. Accordingly, they have launched a grassroots campaign to remove
her from the list of prisoners slated to be freed.
Particularly maddening is the fact that Tamimi and many others on the
list not only feel no remorse, they are actually proud of what they did
and would do it again.
Israelis’ mixed feelings over the deal are reflected in recent public
opinion surveys. True, a strong majority of Israelis favor freeing
Schalit, even if it means the release of over a 1,000 terrorists, many
of whom are murderers of Israelis, and alleged Palestinian
The pollster Dahaf found in a survey, with a margin of error of 4.4
percentage points, conducted Sunday for Yediot Aharonot
that 79 percent
of Israelis support the prisoner exchange deal. And tellingly, a higher
percentage of women back the deal – 86% compared to 74% among men.
However, as Dahaf’s Mina Zemach pointed out in an interview with Army
Radio Monday, cognitive dissonance explains at least part of the
Respondents were, after all, asked to give their opinion on a done deal.
Surveys conducted before the cabinet approved the prisoner exchange
deal showed lower levels of support, according to Zemach.
What’s more, while the most common feeling among respondents was joy,
many also reported they were worried, nervous and angry as well as
Half said they are concerned about the security situation after the terrorists are released.
And though Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had hoped for a unanimous
vote in the cabinet, three ministers opposed the deal – Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Still, it is doubtful any of them would have voted against the deal if
doing so would have prevented Schalit’s release. Aware that their vote
would not change the outcome, these ministers were undoubtedly
expressing a real concern over the potential dangers to which all
Israelis will be exposed. This is the price we all will be paying for
This collective willingness to expose ourselves to the risk of a future
terrorist attack, if necessary, to secure Schalit’s release speaks
volumes about Israelis’ strong sense that we are all in this Zionist
project together, in good times and in bad.
It’s not that we are insensitive to the feelings of past terrorist
victims’ families and loved ones. Nor are we unaware that many, even
most, of those who will be released will return to violent terrorism –
and that by paying a ratio of 1 to 1,027 we are encouraging future
It’s just that none of these potential future dangers seems to be able
to trump the fact that right now an IDF soldier’s life is being saved.