PIKUACH NEFESH: ISRAEL’S TRIUMPH, AND AGONY— SHALIT’S RETURN MEANS BOTH JEWISH VINDICATION AND PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS’ REINFORCEMENT
Volume XI, No. 2,680 • October 18, 2011
GILAD SHALIT RELEASED IN PRISONER SWAP
Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2011
Israel and Hamas carried out an unprecedented prisoner swap on Tuesday, freeing Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit after five years in captivity in return for some 477 Palestinian prisoners that were released to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and to Egypt.… [Israel has agreed to release an additional 550 Palestinian prisoners in two months time as part of the deal—Ed.]
Looking weak and thin, and dressed in a black baseball cap and a plaid shirt, Sgt. Shalit emerged from imprisonment at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing.… “I’m happy,” he said in an interview with an Egyptian reporter before returning to Israel.…
After army doctors pronounced [Shalit] to be in good health, he flew by helicopter to the Tel Nof military base in central Israel where he was reunited with his family.… At a ceremony to welcome Sgt. Shalit back, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israeli negotiators succeeded in getting Hamas to compromise on their demands, but acknowledged that he paid a “heavy” price of the release of militants who had killed Israelis in terrorist attacks.…
ISRAELI PM BINYAMIN NETANYAHU’S REMARKS
FOLLOWING THE RELEASE OF GILAD SHALIT
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 18, 2011
“Citizens of Israel, today we are all united in joy and in pain.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I returned to the Prime Minister’s Office. One of the principal and most complicated missions that I found on my desk, and which I set my heart to, was to bring our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit back home, alive and well. Today, that mission has been completed.
It entailed a very difficult decision. I saw the need to return home someone whom the State of Israel had sent to the battlefield. As an IDF soldier and commander, I went out on dangerous missions many times. But I always knew that if I or one of my comrades fell captive, the Government of Israel would do its utmost to return us home, and as Prime Minister, I have now carried this out. As a leader who daily sends out soldiers to defend Israeli citizens, I believe that “mutual responsibility” is no mere slogan—it is a cornerstone of our existence here.
But I also see an additional need, that of minimizing the danger to the security of Israel’s citizens. To this end, I enunciated two clear demands. First, that senior Hamas leaders, including arch-murderers, remain in prison. Second, that the overwhelming majority of those designated for release either be expelled or remain outside Judea and Samaria, in order to impede their ability to attack our citizens.
For years, Hamas strongly opposed these demands. But several months ago, we received clear signs that it was prepared to back down from this opposition. Tough negotiations were carried out, night and day, in Cairo, with the mediation of the Egyptian government. We stood our ground, and when our main demands were met—I had to make a decision.
I know very well that the pain of the families of the victims of terrorism is too heavy to bear. It is difficult to see the miscreants who murdered their loved ones being released before serving out their full sentences. But I also knew that in the current diplomatic circumstances, this was the best agreement we could achieve, and there was no guarantee that the conditions which enabled it to be achieved would hold in the future. It could be that Gilad would disappear; to my regret, such things have already happened.
I thought of Gilad and the five years that he spent rotting away in a Hamas cell. I did not want his fate to be that of Ron Arad. Ron fell captive exactly 25 years ago and has yet to return. I remembered the noble Batya Arad. I remembered her concern for her son Ron, right up until her passing. At such moments, a leader finds himself alone and must make a decision. I considered—and I decided. Government ministers supported me by a large majority.
And today, now Gilad has returned home, to his family, his people and his country. This is a very moving moment. A short time ago, I embraced him as he came off the helicopter and escorted him to his parents, Aviva and Noam, and I said, ‘I have brought your son back home.’ But this is also a hard day; even if the price had been smaller, it would still have been heavy.
I would like to make it clear: We will continue to fight terrorism. Any released terrorist who returns to terrorism—his blood is upon his head. The State of Israel is different from its enemies: Here, we do not celebrate the release of murderers. Here, we do not applaud those who took life. On the contrary, we believe in the sanctity of life. We sanctify life. This is the ancient tradition of the Jewish people.
Citizens of Israel, in recent days, we have all seen national unity such as we have not seen in a long time. Unity is the source of Israel’s strength, now and in the future. Today, we all rejoice in Gilad Shalit’s return home to our free country, the State of Israel. Tomorrow evening, we will celebrate Simchat Torah. This coming Sabbath, we will read in synagogues, as the weekly portion from the prophets, the words of the prophet Isaiah (42:7): ‘To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.’ Today, I can say, on behalf of all Israelis, in the spirit of the eternal values of the Jewish people: ‘Your children shall return to their own border [Jeremiah 31:17].’
Am Yisrael Chai! [The People of Israel live!].”
GILAD SCHALIT—THE BITTER AND THE SWEET
Jerusalem Post, October 16, 2011
The liberation of Gilad Schalit on the holiday of Succot after five cruel years of incarceration is the outcome of a major conflict between the heart and the mind in which turbulent emotions triumphed. That the nightmare was ending sent waves of euphoria and relief throughout the nation. Each of us, including those bitterly opposed to the agreement consummated with Hamas, identifies with Schalit, not so much as a hero but as though he were our own son.
The deal…reflects the humanity and concern for one another that has personified the Jewish people over years of persecution and isolation. No other country would conceivably act in this manner and it reveals the compassion Israelis share and the lengths they will go to not to forsake their sons on the battlefield.
The popularity of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu—in the short term—will undoubtedly rise dramatically. Despite vociferous critics, the deal was enthusiastically endorsed by the vast majority of Israelis, whose emotional frailties had been incessantly laid bare by our irresponsible media.
Netanyahu inherited the problem from Ehud Olmert, who at one stage had conceded most of the ground to Hamas but ultimately got cold feet and backed out. Thus the task fell to Netanyahu, who had to cross the very red lines he himself had drawn and vowed never to breach. Nobody can envy the agonizing ordeal Netanyahu must have undergone before making such a fateful judgment that ran diametrically counter to his basic principles.
Although we universally rejoice and celebrate the end of this long and painful national trauma, as with so many aspects of life in Israel there are bitter as well as sweet aspects to the outcome. Not the least of which is the unbearable agony inflicted on the families of those murdered as they witness the vile, unrepentant butchers of their loved ones being “liberated” and hailed as heroes.
If we are to undertake remedial steps to avert similar situations from arising in the future, which could inflict even more severe dilemmas of this nature, we must first be willing to face up to the consequences of this capitulation to Hamas.
The exchange of 1,027 terrorists, including the most cruel and barbaric mass-murderers and masterminds of major terrorist attacks plus six Israeli Arab terrorists, in return for one Israeli soldier, is not merely a stunning victory for Hamas and global terrorism. It also conveys a number of other disconcerting messages that will undoubtedly return to haunt us.
First, Hamas can now show conclusively that murder and terror are infinitely more effective than negotiation. The exchange will embolden terrorists throughout the world and encourage them to intensify their efforts. Indeed, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has repeatedly stated that past precedents demonstrate that the release of these killers will have deadly future consequences and undoubtedly facilitate the murder of many other Israelis. In fact, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal explicitly boasted that “those released will return to armed struggle. It is a great national achievement.…”
Second, by exposing the “soft” side or “Achilles’ heel” of an otherwise tough Israeli adversary, Hamas (and Fatah) share a clear incentive to exert every effort and make every sacrifice to kidnap additional Israeli hostages in order to impose new demands.
Third, it will be much easier to recruit terrorists who believe that no matter how many Israelis they kill, if apprehended there is every likelihood that they will be released.
Fourth, Hamas has undoubtedly displaced the PA and demonstrated that it was able to force Israel and other states to negotiate and thus provide itself with legitimacy. Indeed, Hamas, which remains adamantly committed to terrorism and the total destruction of Israel, has now emerged as the dominant face of a future Palestinian state.
Fifth, this is also a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organization, which is emerging as the principal power broker in Egypt. The new Egyptian government will therefore impose far greater pressure on Israel in relation to Hamas than was the case during the Mubarak era. Israel must also factor in Turkey, which in addition to Iran has now emerged as a vociferous supporter of Hamas.
Fortunately, the IDF has sufficient deterrent power to discourage direct hostilities. But there will be greater diplomatic pressure, and a rejuvenated Hamas as well as other terrorist groups can be expected to invest enormous efforts in intensifying their war against us at all levels.
In such an environment the government must gird itself for the future. We must never again permit the deliverance of one Israeli—either soldier or citizen—to jeopardize our national security. We must revisit the judicial committee initiated by former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar in mid-2009, which called for regulations designed to ensure that future hostage deals do not become prey to the passions and media frenzy that drove this deal. The findings had been shelved because of the emotions surrounding Schalit. Now would be an appropriate time to try to formulate these principles in a more objective and rational environment and if possible have them written into law by the Knesset.
We must recognize that the concept that “we must pay any price” is unsustainable. A state under siege must not allow itself to be subjected to blackmail and extortion by terrorists. There is simply no end to such behavior. These barbarians’ lust for blood is insatiable. Continuing to capitulate to their excessively disproportionate demands will inevitably culminate in greater disasters.
THE GILAD SHALIT DILEMMA
Jerold S. Auerbach
American Thinker, October 16, 2011
In Haifa eight years ago, Asaf Zur was returning home from school. Along the way, his fellow bus passenger, a Hamas suicide bomber, blew himself up and killed seventeen Israelis, mostly school children like 17-year-old Asaf.
The bomb belt worn by the terrorist was made by Mawaz Abu Sharach and Majdi Amro. They trained him, planned his deadly assault, and drove him to his target. For their heinous cruelty they received seventeen life sentences. Interviewed from an Israeli prison on British television for a program called “Inside the Mind of a Suicide Bomber,” they said: “We will be released before our sentences’ time; we will go back to terror because we must kill more Jews.”
Sharach and Amro are among the 1,027 terrorists who will be released by Israel in return for Sgt. Gilad Shalit, 19 years old when he was abducted during a cross-border raid from Gaza more than five years ago. Held captive and incommunicado by Hamas ever since, his outside contacts have been limited to three letters, a DVD, and an audio tape—granted only in return for the release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners.
Shalit’s cruel confinement mobilized his family and their many supporters. Gilad’s father Noam worked relentlessly to secure his son’s release. Mass prayers have been held at the Western Wall. Ten thousand Israelis joined in a protest march, organized by Shalit’s parents, to the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem. A tent was erected nearby for family and friends to maintain vigil and to press for Gilad’s return—at any price.
Few issues galvanize Israelis, and evoke their sense of themselves as a national family, like the capture of soldiers. Gilad became “a son to all of us,” whose return home would heal the deep family wound. News of his imminent release, in exchange for the Palestinian terrorists (nearly 300 of whom are convicted murderers serving life sentences), electrified the country. A substantial majority of Israelis, who have supported such disproportionate prisoner exchanges in the past, enthusiastically approve.…
But not Yossi Zur, father of Asaf. He knows the history and consequences of vastly disproportionate prisoner exchanges. During the past thirty years, 7,000 Palestinian prisoners incarcerated for brutal terrorist actions have been released in exchanges for 19 Israelis (and 8 bodies). Since 2002, 182 Israelis have been killed by the released terrorists. Based on these numbers, dozens of Israelis are likely to die at the hands of prisoners who will be exchanged for Gilad Shalit.…
A decade ago fifteen-year-old Malka Chana Roth was one of fifteen Israelis murdered in a horrific Palestinian terrorist bombing in the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem. The suicide bomber was escorted to the restaurant by Ahlam Tamimi, a 20-year-old university student who was disguised as a Jewish tourist. Sentenced to 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.” Ahlam Tamimi was prescient: she is on the list of prisoners to be exchanged for Shalit.
When Frimet Roth, Malka’s mother, heard the news she responded: Tamimi has been “handed a life to live—the life of a hero, an inspiration. And the government that prosecuted this monstrous woman has agreed to the satanic transaction.”
It is difficult to imagine that Israeli solidarity can be forged from Noam Shalit’s joy and the bitter sorrow of Yossi Zur, Frimet Roth, and the families of hundreds of other innocent victims whose Palestinian murderers will be free to murder again.
According to President Shimon Peres, the Shalit exchange demonstrates that the Jewish state has fulfilled its “top moral value—to save one soul in Israel.” But to save one soul by virtually assuring the deaths of others is, at least, morally questionable. The imprisoned 13th century Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg refused the huge ransom of 23,000 silver marks raised by his loyal followers lest it encourage the incarceration of other rabbis. He died in prison seven years later.
As Yossi Zur realized, “since the names and faces of the future victims are not known, it is permissible to ignore all signs and past experience, and fantasize that nothing will happen.” For Israelis, sadly, history suggests otherwise.
SHOULD ISRAEL EXCHANGE TERRORISTS
FOR A KIDNAPPED SOLDIER?
Alan M. Dershowitz
Jerusalem Magazine, October 16, 2011
The Israeli government has agreed to release hundreds of properly convicted Palestinian terrorists in exchange for one illegally kidnapped Israeli soldier. This decision, understandable as it is emotionally, dramatically illustrates why terrorism works. By agreeing to this exchange, Israel has once again shown its commitment to saving the life of even one kidnapped soldier, regardless of the cost. And the cost here is extremely high, because some of the released terrorists will almost certainly try to kill again.
Leaders of terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, fully understand this cruel arithmetic of death. As Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, put it: “We are going to win because they love life and we love death.” Democratic societies that value the life of each citizen are more vulnerable to emotional blackmail than societies that are steeped in the culture of death. Terrorists understand what history has shown: that democratic societies, regardless of what they say about not negotiating with terrorists, will, in the end, submit to emotional blackmail. They will release their terrorist prisoners in order to obtain the release of their own kidnapped or hijacked citizens. Accordingly, the threat of deterrence against terrorists is weak, because every terrorist knows that regardless of the prison sentence he receives, there is a high likelihood that he will be released well before he has served it. This not only encourages more terrorism, but it also incentivizes kidnappings and hijackings that provide the terrorist with hostages to exchange for captured terrorists.
Accordingly, from a pure cost-benefit perspective, it may well be wrong to agree to such disproportionate exchanges. But democracies do not operate solely on a cost-benefit basis because the families of kidnapped or hijacked citizens have a right to present their emotional case in the court of public opinion, as Gilad Schalit’s family, especially his mother, so effectively did. They can influence policy against a simple cost-benefit calculation and in favor of a more humanistic approach. Israeli’s know Gilad Schalit. He is everyone’s son. They do not know those who may someday be killed by the released terrorists. They are faceless and nameless statistics—at least for now. The pleas of the Schalit family resonate with every Israeli who loves their children.
Contrast the pleas of the Schalit family with the plea of Zahra Maladan. Maladan is an educated woman who edits a women’s magazine in Lebanon. She is also a mother, who undoubtedly loves her son. She has ambitions for him, but they are different from those of most mothers in the West. She wants her son to become a suicide bomber. At the funeral for the assassinated Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mugniyah—the mass murderer responsible for killing 241 [US] marines in 1983 and more than 100 women, children, and men in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994—Ms. Maladan was quoted in the New York Times offering the following admonition to her son: “If you’re not going to follow the steps of the Islamic resistance martyrs, then I don’t want you.”
Nor is Ms. Maladan alone in urging her children to become suicide murderers. Umm Nidal, who ran for the Palestinian Legislative Council, “prepared all of her sons” for martyrdom. She has ten sons, one of whom already engaged in a suicide operation, which she considered “a blessing, not a tragedy.” She is now preparing to “sacrifice them all.”
It is impossible, of course, to generalize about cultures. There was genuine joy among many in Gaza when the deal was announced and when it became evident that their loved ones, despite their terrorist activities, would be returned. All decent people love their children and want them to live good lives. It is their leaders who prefer death (though not their own) over life and who make their followers feel guilty for not acting on that perverse preference. Democratic leaders, on the other hand, urge their citizens to act in the interests of life and who see death as a necessary evil in fighting against even greater evils.
While the preference for life over death may appear to be a weakness in the ability of democracies to fight against terrorism, in the end it is a strength. It is a strength because it signals a democracy’s commitment to value the life of every single one of its citizens. Israeli and American soldiers go into battle knowing that their countries will do everything in their power to rescue them, even if it means taking extraordinary risks. Nations that are committed to such humanistic values tend to have superior armies, as the United States and Israel do.
An important goal of terrorists is to force democracies to surrender their humanistic values. Israel’s values include never leaving a soldier behind, whether he is alive, as Schalit is, or dead, as have been other soldiers whose bodies have been exchanged for prisoners. Israel, by agreeing to exchange hundreds of terrorists for one soldier, has shown the world that it will not compromise on its value system which proclaims that “he who saves one human being, it is as if he has saved the world.”
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)