Analysis: A message from the past

The Arad video is a warning from the kidnappers to Israel: We can make your soldiers disappear forever.

arad tv 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
arad tv 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The psychological damage to Israelis of having the traumatic Ron Arad case hovering over our heads for decades far outweighs the price of releasing Arab prisoners. There is no new information regarding the whereabouts of Ron Arad in the video aired by LBC Tuesday night, which, for the first time, shows Arad speaking. The broadcast of this "documentary" is aimed at increasing that trauma, at making Israelis suffer, and to suffer again. The timing and content of the video is also a warning from the kidnappers to Israel: "Negotiate now for the return of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, because, just in case you have forgotten, we can make your soldiers disappear forever. Ron Arad is with us and he will not come back, and this can be the fate of your two recently captured soldiers." Can Israelis stomach four Ron Arads? Last week, at a rally for the kidnapped soldiers, Uzi Dayan told The Jerusalem Post that every day that passes, Goldwasser, Regev and Gilad Shalit become "more and more Ron Arad." This government's formal refusal to negotiate the release of kidnapped soldiers and civilians for jailed terrorists is based on the assumption that it will encourage terrorist groups to kidnap more soldiers, civilians and even innocent Jewish citizens of other countries. This assumption seems totally logical, rational, and makes common sense. But it is fundamentally wrong. We live in a region inhabited by many fundamentalists who often turn logic on its head. Those people who plan and carry out kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and civilians will continue to plan and carry out kidnappings of Israelis, regardless of whether we negotiate for our brethren's release or not. Kidnap attempts, like terrorist attacks, are planned and attempted constantly. Often the security forces manage to disrupt these plans and kill or capture their planners. Sometimes the security forces fail and soldiers are kidnapped. We Israelis have experienced dozens of cases in which soldiers and civilians were kidnapped. The insurgents who executed these operations have in the past, as they have now, demanded the release of huge number of terrorists held in Israeli jails. Israeli governments have historically reacted, at the beginning, with a definite refusal to negotiate. But sooner or later they agreed to the kidnappers' demands. Without a doubt, one of our top national traumas is the Ron Arad case. At least once, within the first two years of his capture, we could have freed the brave navigator in exchange for dozens or maybe hundreds of Palestinian terrorists and other prisoners. The Israeli government at that time decided the price was too high, the deal was delayed and the opportunity passed. Everybody regrets that decision now. Both Israel and Hizbullah have a mutual interest in a prisoner deal now - for domestic reasons. The Olmert government needs a victory symbol, and Hizbullah needs to show it achieved something for all the destruction it brought on Lebanon. We cannot afford another such failure. In most kidnap cases in our nation's short and tumultuous history, our governments have ended up negotiating with terrorists, after a playing it tough in the beginning to lower their asking price. Events like the Entebbe rescue are the exception, not the rule. A military option should always be examined, but if it is not practical, negotiations must be held. The only way to decrease and hopefully nullify kidnapping attempts is by prevention and not by refusing to negotiate. Speaking for current and former IAF pilots, I can say we are always crossing our fingers for Ron Arad, and hope to somehow get him back. Dr. Shmuel L. Gordon, a colonel (res.) in the IAF, is head of the Technology and National Security program at the Holon Institute of Technology, and an expert in national security, air warfare and counterterrorism. He is also the author of The Vulture and the Snake: Counter-Guerrilla Air Warfare: The War in Southern Lebanon.