Gilad Schalit cutout seen through yellow ribons 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
If everything goes as planned on Tuesday morning, Gilad Schalit will return home
and Israel will once again prove that it is different from the rest of the
countries that surround it in the Middle East.
RELATED:High Court decides not to intervene in Schalit swap Security prisoners hold off on celebrating early releases
On the one hand, there is
no question that for Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel’s decision to release 1,027
convicted terrorists will motivate them to try and kidnap more Israeli soldiers
in the future. Some in Israel are calling this move national suicide.
fact that 450 of the terrorists are responsible for the deaths – directly and
indirectly – of over 500 Israelis, just adds to the encouragement.
other hand, the exchange of so many prisoners for just one Israeli soldier can
also be hailed as the exact difference between Israel and its
While its enemies praise death, Israel sanctifies life, and for
that reason it is willing to pay such a heavy price to retrieve one Israeli
soldier and bring him home to his family after more than five years in
The day after Schalit is released will be possibly the most
While it will take the media some time to back off from the
story – Schalit will likely be hounded by photographers wherever he goes – the
focus will shift, either back to the social protests, that until recently were
at the top of the papers, or to the next crisis in waiting.
For the IDF
this will also be a time of introspection.
On the one hand, there is more
than a measure of truth to the claim that by releasing Schalit, Israel sends a
message throughout its military and to all of its soldiers that, as a country,
it does not leave a soldier behind.
On the other hand, if tomorrow,
soldiers from the Golani Brigade, or any other random unit, are sent to arrest a
Palestinian terror suspect in Gaza or the West Bank they will likely wonder what
the point is of risking their lives if the same man they arrest could be
released in the next prisoner swap.
There is also the question of
Israeli-government policy. What will it do the next time a soldier is kidnapped?
When Schalit was first abducted by Hamas in June, 2006, then-prime minister Ehud
Olmert announced that Israel would not negotiate his release. This quickly
changed when, as prime minister, Olmert successfully negotiated one prisoner
swap with Hezbollah for the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, and
started the negotiations with Hamas that are to culminate in Schalit’s release
The Winograd Commission, which investigated the failures of
the Second Lebanon War, called on the government to set a clear policy for how
it will deal with future kidnappings.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak then
appointed former Supreme Court justice Meir Shamgar to issue recommendations,
which have not yet been made.
Israel could potentially declare that from
now on, there will be no more negotiations. The problem is that this is easier
said than done, and the government will have difficulty explaining to the family
of the next soldier why it is not willing to negotiate the release of their
There is no easy answer, but with Israeli intelligence warning of
increased motivation among terrorist groups to kidnap soldiers, a clear policy
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