Even before his political debut last week, Noam Schalit had already begun
pontificating. In an address to a Knesset conference in early January, Schalit
offered some puzzling advice. The conference, organized by the National Union
party, focused on a bill sponsored by MK Uri Ariel that would prohibit the
release of more than one prisoner for any future Israeli
Schalit declared that “the fight against kidnappings should be
won by restoring our deterrence and not via legislation... The terrorist
organizations need to know that kidnappings don’t pay off for them.”
course, the major lesson the terrorists learned from the deal to free Noam’s
son, Gilad Schalit, is that kidnappings not only pay – they’re the
jackpot. The deterrence of which Schalit spoke was virtually demolished
by Israel’s release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in that
Perhaps consumed with his brewing political launch, Schalit was
too busy to pay attention to Col. Tal Hermoni’s warning, uttered just a few days
before the Knesset event. Apparently, the motivation to kidnap a soldier has
increased since the Schalit swap and Hermoni, commander of the Gaza Division’s
Southern Brigade, said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups in the
Gaza Strip were working “on a daily basis” to abduct Israeli
Hermoni added that terror groups have been hard at work digging
tunnels for such an attack similar to the one that allowed Hamas to nab Gilad
Schalit near the Kerem Shalom crossing in June, 2006. Israel is currently
gathering intelligence to assist it in locating those tunnels.
OTHER speakers at the conference criticized the Schalit swap. MK Ariel, former
defense minister Moshe Arens, Nobel Prize winner Prof. Robert Yisrael Aumann and
terrorism expert Dr. Boaz Ganor all highlighted the failures that led to the
swap and the huge blow it had dealt to Israel’s security.
alternatives for handling any future kidnappings, ranging from total refusal to
negotiate (Arens) to offering to release only enemies captured in combat with
the IDF and never terrorist murderers of civilians (Ganor).
opposed Ariel’s bill, saying, “We can’t tell our soldiers that they are worth
only one Palestinian prisoner.”
But the real flaw in the proposed
legislation is its impotence.
In hearings of eleventh-hour petitions to
block the release of terrorists, the High Court has repeatedly determined that
it lacks the standing to second- guess such political decisions. Several weeks
ago, it gave that same ruling as Israel stood poised to release 550 Palestinian
prisoners in the second stage of the Schalit swap.
Since no Israeli lives
were endangered, the release of hundreds of would-be murderers could have been
postponed to enable a thorough adjudication of the issues. Instead, within
hours, and true to form, the judges ruled that the release was a political
matter and could proceed.
The military courts have expressed clear
viewpoints in at least some of the terrorism cases brought before them. But they
have been ignored.
My daughter’s murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, was sentenced to
16 consecutive life sentences for the deaths of 15 Israeli civilians in the
Jerusalem Sbarro restaurant terror bombing. At her sentencing, the court
recommended that she never be eligible for pardon or early parole. Nevertheless,
she is a free woman today, living in her homeland, Jordan, with her family. She
has already traveled to Lebanon and Algeria and frequently addresses her
admirers at public rallies.
Our legislators are as ineffective as our
judges. Thus the only way to prevent a repeat of the disastrous Schalit
swap is via action by the Israeli public.
Noam Schalit is aware that this
was his most effective weapon.
“You can’t replace the public,” he told
the conference. “I say [the swap] was a victory of the spirit of
And at last week’s press conference with Labor Party chair
Shelly Yacimovich where he morphed from pained father to politico, he said:
“Israeli society recruited itself for Gilad in our times of trouble and we
managed to recruit Israeli society.”
Many of the 80 percent of Israelis
whom the Schalits “recruited” knew Hamas would be strengthened by the swap and
spurred to kidnap again, and that many of the freed prisoners would return to
terrorism. Yet they threw logic and good sense to the winds.
cannot afford another such “victory.” To prevent one, it is imperative that
those 80% recover from the inexplicable mass hysteria that gripped them last
year. Perhaps then, the warnings of the marginalized terror victims will be
The push for change received additional impetus when Defense
Minister Ehud Barak announced last week that the recommendations of the Shamgar
Committee, which he appointed in 2008, had been released. Led by a former
Supreme Court justice, the committee was instructed to examine the issue of
abductions but to deliver its findings only after the return of Gilad
The 100-page report is classified, but Barak hinted that it
urges an overhaul of government policy. He said that Israel would find it
difficult to protect itself “unless we change the rules, the reality and the
results of deals like those we have witnessed.”
But if the Israeli public
embraces such change, it will first need to reject the politicians – both
veteran and new – who oppose it.The author is a freelance writer based
in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the
Sbarro restaurant bombing (2001). She and her husband founded the Malki
Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org) to provide concrete support for Israeli families
of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.