Blood on their Hands II (Extract)

Extract from an opinion piece in Issue 21, February 4, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. As negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas since June 2006, progress, two questions arise: Should Israel free terrorists with blood on their hands? Should it ease the definition of blood on the hands to close a deal? My answer to both questions is a categorical no. The aim of terror is not only to kill people, but ultimately to destroy the machinery of statehood. And when, through extortion, terrorists succeed in freeing hundreds of people convicted of murder, they render the state's judicial system meaningless. If Israel were to free someone like Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment, the message would be that there is no longer a system of justice in the country. The main American argument in the Jonathan Pollard espionage case is that he was convicted by an American court and there is no way a court's decision can be summarily overturned. Pollard is not a murderer or anything like it, but the United States insists on the integrity of its court rulings above any other consideration. And if we don't, what is there to stop common criminals from kidnapping people and demanding that jailed gang members be released? There is no end to it. Instead of justice, we would have anarchy. Worse: If the government were to change the "blood on the hands" definition, in other words give formal imprimatur to the assertion that murder is not murder but something else, it would eat away not only at the system of justice, but at the country's moral core. We would not only be freeing murderers, which is bad enough, but the murderers would no longer be murderers. And that kind of ethical haziness constitutes an even higher degree of moral corruption. If this is indeed what happens, there could be immediate consequences in the field. Many of the soldiers sent to capture terrorist killers won't be prepared to take the risks involved. They will say to themselves, "If those murderers are going to be freed anyway, why should we endanger our lives to capture them?" The result will be a significant erosion of morale. What is the significance of all these arguments when weighed against the life of Gilad Shalit? We have great respect for Gilad Shalit and his life. But in a very profound way, the moral issues involved are more important. That does not mean that we abandon soldiers in the field. On the contrary. But instead of negotiating with the other side and bowing to its dictates, we should be doing all we can to pressure Hamas to release our soldier. For example, we should warn Hamas that unless they release Shalit, we will kill Ismail Haniyeh and the rest of the Hamas leadership and turn off the supply of water and electricity to Gaza, not for eight hours, but for good. Then perhaps they would come to their senses and free Shalit. Knesset Member Effie Eitam, of the hawkish National Union party, is a reserves brigadier and former commander of the Givati infantry brigade. Extract from an opinion piece in Issue 21, February 4, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.