The right thing to do for Schalit

This post is not going to make me any friends. So be it; but I feel the need to explain that I am qualified to write it. My two daughters and son all served in the IDF. My son was in what is always referred to as “an elite combat unit” and came under enemy fire in southern Lebanon before the 2000 withdrawal. He is still a reserve soldier in that unit. I haven’t experienced what the Shalit family has, of course, and I am not criticizing them for doing whatever they can to get their son back. I might do the same in their circumstances.

One would think that Israel’s Prime Minister had kidnapped Gilad Schalit himself:

Demonstrators in the protest tent in Jerusalem where the Schalit family is staying to call for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit blocked the road to the Prime Minister’s Residence on Friday.

The demonstrators yelled slogans such as “Olmert, you made a promise — now keep it!” and “We want him home, we want him now.” Many carried banners and some used whistles, hoping the sounds will reach the prime minister’s living room…

“Anything that could be done to save his life is the right thing to do,” Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor) told the [Jerusalem Post] last Thursday.

She spoke on the fifth day of an intensive campaign launched by Schalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, who on Sunday pitched a tent outside the prime minister’s residence in a last-ditch effort to sway Olmert to finalize a prisoner exchange before he leaves office…

Hamas has demanded the release of 1,400 prisoners, including 450 who were involved in terrorist attacks that killed Israelis, but Israel has balked, reportedly offering to free half of the 450. — Jerusalem Post, Mar. 12 (my emphasis)

Today, I read that

Hamas toughened its stance during Egyptian-mediated negotiations for Gilad Schalit’s release, went back on understandings that were agreed upon during the past year and raised extreme demands, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement released late Monday night, following the return of Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin and senior negotiator Ofer Dekel from marathon talks in Cairo over the kidnapped soldier…

According to the various accounts Monday night, Israel had agreed to release most of the prisoners on the Hamas list, with Channel 2 reporting 400 out of the 450, and the main point of contention was Israel’s demand to expel several of the prisoners to foreign countries. — Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16

Of course, even when (not ‘if’) Israel agrees to the latest demands, negotiators will find that the goalposts have moved yet again. The process seems to be as much the point as the ultimate outcome for Hamas, which enjoys twisting the knife in  countless Israelis and Jews, not least the Schalit family.

But MK Yuli Tamir is wrong. “Anything” is not the “right thing to do”.  Agreeing to the Hamas demands will

  • Surely result in the death and injury of additional Israelis who will be targeted by the murderers who will be freed
  • Be followed by additional kidnappings
  • Establish for once and for all that Hamas, not Israel, won the war and is in control
  • Open the door to international recognition of Hamas, opening the crossings, etc.

Operation Cast Lead was terminated early out of fear: fear of the Obama Administration, fear of additional IDF casualties and fear of world opinion. As a result, Hamas jumped in legitimacy, popularity and influence.

Well, world opinion could not possibly have been worse if Israel had used nuclear bombs (indeed, she was falsely accused of using depleted uranium ammunition in Gaza), and the Obama Administration will do what it thinks best for the US regardless of what Israel does. And if that is to force Israel into an agreement with the Palestinians, so much the better if this happens without Hamas!

Casualties are a true concern. But I think the question is not how high a price Israel will have to pay, but rather whether it will need to paid now or later. I believe that the area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean is not big enough for Israel and Hamas. Hamas will not go away without a confrontation, so the question is “when will it occur and on whose terms”.

It is still possible for Israel to rectify the error of the present government, to go back into Gaza and try to rescue Schalit, and this time destroy the Hamas leadership and its war-making capability.

Another advantage to finishing Hamas now will be to reduce the number of fronts on which Israel will have to fight after the inevitable Iran operation.

I’m sure Yuli Tamir doesn’t think so, but this is the ‘anything’ that should be tried for the sake of Schalit — and for the sake of the Jewish state.

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4 Responses to “The right thing to do for Schalit”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I am appalled at the shallow- mindedness of so many people in regard to the ransoming of Gilad Schalit. I am appalled at their total disregard for the feeling of those people who will be pained at the release of the murderers of their loved ones. I am appalled at the thought that the terrorists will go back to their terror, and as a result we will have more victims. I am appalled at no one considering the price of giving the Hamas terrorists a victory. I am appalled by no one considering the way we have put ourselves in a position where the Justice system of our entire nation is hostage to the possible kidnapping of one soldier.
    Vic Rosenthal is certainly correct in saying the Schalit family is entitled to do all they can to secure the release of their son. Their actions are understandable.
    The actions of the Israeli media and of Israeli politicians in falling into the ‘ at any price’ line are deplorable.

  2. ME says:

    Utilitarian approaches advocating against Gilad Schalit’s release are not without merit.

    Do you think it is possible that the symbolism attached to the captive soldier and his release has taken on great meaning in Israel and abroad?

    More importantly, the fact that Israel is forced into negotiations with Hamas for the release of a captive soldier and the subsequent outrageous demands by Hamas, really highlight the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization more than anything. That is significant. Driving home that point when so many in the media and abroad are inclined to empathize with Hamas and the plight of Palestinians, is very important. Hamas is a terrorist organization. Hamas makes that clear by making demands for Schalit’s release, by returning two dead soldiers in a prior hostage release, and by continuing to fire Kassams at Israel.

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    ME makes an important point here. The negotiations do in a sense highlight the character of ‘Hamas’. This morning there was released two lists, one of murderers who would be released in any possible exchange, and another who would not. Reading down those lists and seeing the kinds of acts committed one would get more understanding of the Israel situation vis- a- vis Terror and the Palestinians than one got from hundreds of articles written on the Gaza operation.
    By the way many on the list of those who would be freed have been involved in horrendous acts of Terror. I did not really understand at times what distinguished the murderers on one list from the murderers on the other.

  4. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Danny Gordis explained the support for releasing Schalit at any cost as follows: most people would agree to anything to free their own child, and in Israel a soldier is everyone’s child.

    I understand this, but of course it doesn’t change the fact that the swap will be a disaster in many ways.

    Yes, the demands make it clear that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and meeting the demands give it yet another victory.