Why Isn’t Gilad Shalit Home Yet?
By Moshe Feiglin
The painful history of soldiers who have fallen into the hands of terror organizations did not begin with Gilad Shalit. First we must remove businessman Elchanan Tannenbaum from the list of captives. Tannenbaum was an unusual case. PM Sharon, for his own corrupt reasons, pressured his ministers into paying an exorbitant price for Tannenbaums’ release. But barring that aberration, the last time that soldiers returned alive from terrorist captivity was in the Jibril deal in 1985.
The list of soldiers kidnapped by terrorists is long and merciless. Ron Arad; Givati fighters Rachamim Alshich and Yosef Fink; the soldiers kidnapped from Har Dov – Omar Suweid, Benny Avraham and Adi Avitan; Nissim Toledano; Ilan Sa’adon; Avi Sassportas; Yaron Chai; Nachshon Wachsman; Aryeh Frankental; Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. With the exception of Nachshon Wachsman, Israel employed the same method of extended negotiations to bring its soldiers home. Not one of them came back alive. Israeli is currently employing the same method in Gildad Shalit’s case.
Until the reprehensible Jibril deal, Israel’s captive policy was completely different. The main option was military action. Sometimes that action failed – as was the case with the hostage children of Avivim. Sometimes military action succeeded – as in Entebbe. Generally, no negotiations were conducted. And if there were negotiations, the price paid for the release of prisoners was reasonable – as prescribed by Jewish law. Israel paid for dead bodies with dead bodies.
We can certainly claim that the Jibril deal and the wholesale release of terrorists that ensued was the main catalyst for the first Arab intifada that began a short time afterwards. The number of Israeli citizens either directly killed by the newly released murderers or indirectly killed by the murderous momentum created by that release is frighteningly disproportionate to the number of soldiers that came home as a result of the deal.
Paradoxically, in the 24 years that have passed since Israel decided to pay “any price” to save its captive soldiers, it has not brought one soldier home alive. But it has brought about the cruel deaths of almost two thousand Israeli citizens – men, women and children.
“Any price” means all the terrorists imprisoned in Israel. It does not mean military action, because, after all, war is negative. So “any price” is not any price at all. I am not sure that the protesters for Gilad Shalit would be willing to bomb Gaza and deal with all the international condemnations and boycotts that we would have to face until the Hamas would release him. Israel isn’t even willing to cut off the electricity in Gaza to bring Gilad home. “Any price” is really a euphemism for any pacifistic action that will appease the extreme left while affording media star status to the politicians who pay it.
If we take the facts of the past 24 years into account we can safely say that whoever demands to free Gilad “at any price” is actually sentencing him to death. I hope that I am wrong, but the real meaning of “any price” is that there is no price. The terrorists understand that time is on their side. The more cruel that they are, the more that they conceal information and even if they G-d forbid murder their captive and bargain for his body – the price that they will exact from Israel will only rise.
Furthermore, due to the fact that the price that Israel is willing to pay for Gilad does not include war and the fact that the continued incarceration of terrorists (in luxury conditions) does not bother the enemy very much, the optimal choice as far as they are concerned is to perpetuate the current status quo. After all, the situation in which Israel is daily humiliated and demeaned will end when Gilad is released. So why release him?
“Nothing to kill or die for” sang John Lennon. This approach has developed deep roots in Israel since the first Lebanon war. The infamous demonstration of 400,000 (that number is extremely inflated) leftists and the entire leftist movement that reared its head during that war heralded the dubious post modern pretense that war is absolute evil and meaningless and that all we have to do is to imagine a different reality and then everything will work out.
The highly acclaimed film, “Waltz with Bashir” that portrays the first Lebanon war projects this pretense. It describes a war with no rhyme or reason. I was an officer in the first Lebanon war and I can say that this was not the feeling of the soldiers that I encountered. Just like any other facet of life, one sees war through the lenses that he brings with him from home.
Since the first Lebanon war, the Left has fitted the Nation of Israel with glasses that see war as illegitimate and shameful – no matter what. From that time on, preserving the lives of Israel’s soldiers has become the supreme value. When the enemy realized this after the Jibril deal, the odds for returning captive soldiers home alive plunged. As soon as Israel declared that its main goal is to “return its soldiers home alive and well” no captive has returned.
Something else happened exactly 24 years ago. Israel betrayed and abandoned its agent, Jonathan Pollard, to American captivity. There is an intrinsic symmetry between Israel’s full cooperation with Pollard’s captors and our inability to bring other captives home. The Nation of Israel is one body, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora. When the betrayal virus attacks one organ, it quickly spreads throughout the body.
Jonathan Pollard saved us from regional threats because we are Jews. But we have abandoned him because we prefer to see ourselves as Israelis and to see him as a spy. As soon as we turned our backs on our Jewish identity, we lost the ability to remain loyal to our Israeli identity, as well.