As everyone knows by now, Israel signed a deal with Hamas, and the Cabinet signed on, to trade 1000 prisoners in Israeli jails for Gilad Shalit.
All the details, particularly whether some of the worst terrorists are on the list, are not clear. There are conflicting reports about whether Marwan Barghouti (5 life sentences) or his cousin, Hamas bomb-maker Abdallah Barghouti (67 life sentences) are included. There are also reports (and denials) that Shalit is now in Cairo.
At this point, all that can be reported for certain is that there is a deal for 1000 prisoners. Many of them are murderers.
As the father of three children who served in the IDF, I know what it is to worry about a soldier. I cannot know what the Shalit family has suffered. I’m sure my nightmares, vivid as they were, did not compare to their reality. I understand this. I know that if my son were in their Gilad’s place I would do absolutely anything, no matter how irrational, to bring him home. I admit it, even if I thought it would bring down the state, I would do it. That’s the way parents are.
But the Prime Minister of the State of Israel can’t act irrationally. He has the responsibility to protect all Israelis. Like a military commander who sometimes gives orders that he knows will result in the death of some of his soldiers, he must make choices — even when there is no acceptable choice.
But the choice the PM and his government have made is the wrong one. The deal will:
1. Encourage more kidnappings.
2. Eliminate fear of imprisonment as a deterrent to terrorism.
3. Give Hamas a huge political victory (they are already claiming it).
4. Boost Hamas morale and recruitment.
5. Wreck the morale of our security people, who risked their lives to capture these terrorists.
6. Free vicious terrorists who will kill again.*
Some say there is a Jewish moral imperative to rescue captives. But like most moral problems, this is one of conflicting imperatives. The deal is a trade: one young man’s life today for the lives of future terror victims — and we may not have to wait long for that future.
Others argue that terror organizations are always trying to kidnap soldiers (and other Israelis) and this won’t change. But it’s reasonable to think that the striking success of this kidnapping — one of the major Palestinian goals enunciated by Mahmoud Abbas in his recent speech to the UN was to free prisoners — will result in more resources being devoted to this tactic.
A prospective terrorist can contemplate murder, even multiple murders, knowing that if he escapes from the scene of the crime, he can expect at most a few years imprisonment (under relatively good conditions), until the next ‘swap’. Then he will be a hero of the Palestinian people.
I spoke to a person who was a member of the security forces that stopped hundreds of potential terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada, intercepting terrorists on their way to their targets. He personally arrested some of those who may be freed, including one of those responsible for the Hebrew University bombing. He said “you work for years to accomplish something, and then it all disappears.”
Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who drove the Sbarro restaurant bomber to his target, is one who will be released (all women prisoners are included). She received 16 life sentences. She said “I’m not sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse to recognize Israel’s existence.” Another female prisoner is Amna Muna, who lured an Israeli teenager to his death by computer chat. She isn’t sorry either.
Nevertheless, it is important that we keep our perspective about who is responsible for the enormous evil that has transpired here: the evils of past and future terrorism, and the evil done against Gilad Shalit, his family and all of Israel and the Jewish people. The Palestinian terror movements (not just Hamas) are responsible, and should be made to pay in the strongest possible way.
I’ve often called for a death penalty for terrorist murders. There is a downside: every execution will become an international crisis. But there may be no other way to deter it (not all terrorists are suicidal, after all, especially the ones who plan and order the attacks).
There has been criticism of the Shalit family for the pressure that led to this deal, even talk of demonstrating outside of their home when the inevitable consequences of it come to pass. The criticism is misdirected and the idea of demonstrating reprehensible. They have suffered far more than enough.
I have had a banner hanging above my front door for some time with a picture of Gilad Shalit, calling for his freedom. We also have placed his picture at our Passover seder table for several years. We will remove the banner with great happiness, along with trepidation.
Update [0945 PDT]: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Strategic Affairs Minister and former IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon, and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau are the only cabinet members who voted against the deal. Pick the next Prime Minister from that list.
* I posted this list of reasons on an email list, and I see that some other bloggers have used it. That’s fine, but I want to make clear that I didn’t copy it from anyone.