Schalit protesters 248.88.
(photo credit: )
In politics having the initiative is often desired, but when dealing with political problem stemming from national-security issues, initiative becomes all-important. Israel, over the past two decades, has lost the initiative when it comes to its prisoner exchange policy, to the point that terror organizations have direct access to the levers of the Israeli national dialogue. Now, with the Schalit deal in center stage, how is it possible for a right-wing government to save face by negotiating with terrorists, bring its soldier-son home, while regaining the initiative? It was said by someone that a good steward "make us realize the insignificance of circumstance."
Though a seemingly impossible task, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could turn this pernicious Catch-22 into an act that would bring national healing. An act that will allow for future political guidance, setting a new path after Israel bring its last soldier home, somberly closing the door behind him for any future soldiers that are to fall into the enemies hands.
Netanyahu has already had to face tough decisions and will probably face even tougher ones in the near future. But the allegedly imminent prisoner exchange for Shalit is undoubtedly one of the hardest he will have to make. The soldier-son is sacrosanct in Israel because it sits at the intersection of so many cultural values and political norms, and brings to the fore the real-life implications of one man's decision. Netanyahu is under immense pressure to make a decision fraught with heavy moral and security implications. No matter what position one takes on the matter, the fact that there are compelling reasons for both sides means that it is a lose-lose situation to some extent.
AND, OF course, this is what Netanyahu faces: retrieve Gilad Shalit from his living nightmare and relieve the nation, while risking national and civilian security and any remaining deterrent power; or stand firm against Hamas unconscionable blackmail and perversion of justice. We wouldn't want to be making that decision.
We believe the pressure and sense of personal responsibility will lead Netanyahu to sign off on the exchange in the end. But though it's a lose-lose situation, he can still minimize his losses, and salvage some gains. He can use the moment to strengthen the country, and assuage the sense of powerlessness.
If Netanyahu is indeed going to agree to Hamas' demands, he must concurrently unveil an uncompromising and comprehensive policy on prisoner exchanges, the outlines of which are reportedly being worked on.
Among some of the proposals one can agree with: if Israel sees fit to do an exchange, it will be on the basis of 1:1, and failure to respond in timely fashion to such terms will serve as a warrant to pursue and bring to justice those deemed responsible for the kidnapping; failure of the enemy to accord its prisoners the rights due to him will result in a commensurate downgrade in Israel's treatment of the enemy's prisoners, to the minimal requirements under law; any soldier serving near border regions will be administered a soluble chip, so that his immediate whereabouts can be located (this technology exists); any terrorist released who carries out a terror attack and is caught will receive the death penalty, this applies retrospectively, not only for the current exchange.
No more back-channels, no intermediaries, no more legitimization, but unhesitant rejection of posturing within such an insidious and barbarous negotiation.
THE EFFECT of introducing a new policy concurrent with the exchange is not only normative but declaratory - letting the enemy know that this exchange was the last such extortion, because the rules of the game have changed. It also lets the Israeli people know that though this was a painful decision, the new policy means that Netanyahu or any future head of state will never have to make one like that again.
All this will allow for welcoming home our not forgotten soldier-son, Gilad Schalit, while regaining the initiative in this ongoing struggle against a cowardly organization that fights in the shadows, and in the light of day barters in blood.
A future national policy directive that sets a new path for current and future governments to follow is the only cogent response at this point.
If Israel does bring its last soldier home, it must also close the door behind him for such outrageous deals on any future prisoner exchanges.
The writers are co-founders of the Jewish National Initiative, a political action forum dedicated to the ideas of Jewish rejuvenation being forged by young thinkers and leaders worldwide.