The problem of Shalit's freedom

Right or wrong, the decision to "swap" Gilad Shalit for a thousand-plus imprisoned Palestinian terrorists is so characteristically Israeli that it almost feels like it had been a fait accompli. We could talk about this in terms of the Jewish tradition of ransoming captives at almost any cost, or we could talk about it in terms of Israel''s feeling of collective parenthood for the soldier-symbol that Shalit came to represent.


Emotionally, both representations are valid. Politically, however, there is another, more apt metaphor for Israel''s role in the Shalit affair. Ironically, its best expression comes from a pop song by the late American singer, Elliot Smith. In a song called "Baby Britain," Smith sang about a troubled young woman who "fights problems with bigger problems."


It''s hard to not heed the message and all of its import, as the pathology of fighting problems with bigger problems is the very essence of dysfunction.


As good as it feels to see Shalit released, and as tempting as it is to rejoice, there remains the notion -- though it might lie closer to fact than notion --  that Israel has, once again, fought a problem with a bigger problem.


As much as we could again think back to our great if painful tradition of ransoming prisoners, we can -- and must -- think about the reality that many of the released terrorists were captured at the expense of some other young soldier who lost his life. Each prisoner, we know but would like to forget, represents a perversion of justice, and his or her release offers a validation of that perversion and fuel for the international conflagration of Islamist terror.


Benjamin Netanyahu warns that those prisoners who choose to return to terror do so at their own risk. But what''s the risk? That they will be laundered through Israel''s prison system, only to come out clean heroes with hefty Saudi-financed terror pensions and an Israeli-prison-earned high school or even college diploma to boot? Really, what''s the chance that, given all this, a former prisoner won''t return to one of Palestine''s most financially lucrative and socially lauded trades?


Israel has indeed ransomed a prisoner -- just not with money, but blood. We have flooded the terror market with a fresh supply of labor. We have strengthened Hamas.  We have given killers and would-be killers no reason to fear; we have unburdened them of any remaining reason to reject the option of murdering civilians.


We had one problem: the agony of knowing that one of our sons was locked away in a Hamas dungeon. And now we have another one: the inevitability of more civilian deaths, more tears which, falling into open graves, will not have the chance to be redeemed.