Like Jews the world over, this week pro-Israel opinion writers had their eyes fixed – and their pens poised – on the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Here are excerpts from what some had to say.
Daniel Gordis, Foreign Affairs
In agreeing to this prisoner swap, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli public chose to return to their roots, to revive a central tenet of old-time Israeli ideology: we do not leave our sons in the field.
The tenet is as old as the country itself. It stems from the fact that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is a citizens’ army, in which conscription is universal and every family knows that it could face the same tragedy as the Shalits. And in the army itself, the “stretcher march,” in which soldiers in training are ordered to carry one of their heaviest comrades on a stretcher up hills and down valleys for miles, is a formative ritual meant to instill one message: there is never a case in which soldiers cannot bring their wounded home.
This ethic is taught in other armies, too, but it resonates differently in Israel. From the moment of his capture, Gilad Shalit has been a household name. Compare this to the silence in the United States regarding Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held hostage by the Taliban since June 2009. Ever since Shalit’s kidnapping, Israeli society has been wracked by a sense that it failed in its obligation to him.
Jeff Dunetz, YidwithLidblogspot.com
Shalit was released in exchange for over a thousand Palestinian terrorists, many guilty of mass murder. But in what must have been a gut-wrenching decision, the Israeli government decided the risk of more terror was mitigated by bringing one soldier home. Some will say that this shows that one Israeli life is equal to that of one thousand Palestinian lives. This is not true. What the deal to bring Shalit home does prove is the incredible value Israel places on one life, both Israeli and Palestinian. That will always be Israel’s “Achilles heel,” as it is the Achilles heel of most of the West. And personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a society that thought differently.
YidwithLidblogspot.comElliott Abrams (“Israel’s Difficult Decision”), Weekly Standard (www.weeklystandard.com)
Yes, Israel’s decision to free over 1,000 prisoners in order to liberate Gilad Shalit is a victory for Hamas, in that it demonstrates to Palestinians that Hamas is able to free their prisoners when Fatah and the PLO are not. Yes, this gives Hamas an incentive to kidnap another soldier and get back more terrorists. Yes, this is a danger to all Israelis because past recidivism rates among freed terrorists have been very high.
So why do the vast majority of Israelis support the decision? Because Israelis believed there was an unbreakable obligation to bring Shalit home.
Israel is simply different from the U.S. Its Jewish population is but 5 million. It has a conscript army consisting of young people like Gilad Shalit, and military service is nearly universal. For the great majority of Israelis, then, the soldiers are their children – or at least their neighbors’ or cousins’ children – and they must be brought home.
Miki Goldwasser (“The Palestinians Envy Israelis”), YNET News
On Tuesday we shall see flags and joyous masses in Gaza. We shall see many arms raised and many fingers making the victory sign. However, they did not win, and they know it. They were humiliated precisely because so many terrorists were released for only one soldier. They realize that they are not worth much if they are willing to exchange 1,000 of their own for one Israeli soldier. With the exception of the celebrating families, I don’t think most other Gaza residents are happy to see the release of hooligans who took the liberty to rob and kill even their own people.
The writer is the mother of IDF reserve soldier Ehud Goldwasser, abducted and killed by Hezbollah terrorists.
Melanie Phillips, on her blog melaniephillips.com
…by making this deal with Hamas, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has effectively buried Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, already weakened by the failure of his UN ‘Palestine statehood’ stunt. For Israel, that stunt marked the end of the illusion that Abbas was a genuine partner in any peace process. Now Hamas has been strengthened by this deal. That is, to put it mildly, unfortunate; but now at least the illusion of a moderate Palestinian leadership is over. Israel has brought its hostage home; and now, with Hamas poised to relocate to an Egypt which is itself on the brink of descending into Islamic radicalism, Israel faces squarely the true face of genocidal Arab rejectionism.
Daniel Greenfield on his Sultan Knish blog
Why then did Netanyahu make the deal? Because the Left had drastically limited his options. Even while the international Left and portions of the Israeli Left were campaigning against any isolation of Gaza, his domestic left-wing opposition was running an aggressive Free Gilad Shalit campaign that accused Netanyahu, rather than Hamas, of keeping Shalit locked up.
Gilad Shalit became the unwitting symbol of a movement that had demanded a withdrawal from Gaza to save the lives of soldiers, and was now campaigning to release terrorists to save the life of a soldier who was only in captivity because of their withdrawal. After five years another installment of their policies is being paid for in blood…
The Israel of Entebbe and Osirak would have gone for it, but that era has given way to nuanced politicians concerned with the country’s public image. And so five years later, the deal was finally made. The Left has pointed out that the deal could have been years ago, and they are correct. But they are the only reason that the deal had to be made at all.
The Left had strengthened Hamas and undermined Israel. The terrorist release is Hamas’ reward, but the Left’s victory
Statement from Zionist Organization of America
Freeing terrorists causes additional murders of Israeli civilians. The Almagor Terrorist Victims Association (ATVA) disclosed in April 2007 that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the previous five years had been killed by terrorists who had been previously freed from Israeli jails. An earlier ATVA report showed that 123 Israelis had been murdered by terrorists freed during the period 1993-99. Also, in September 2009, IDF Colonel Herzl Halevy told the Maariv newspaper that terrorists freed in the 2004 swap with Hezbollah comprised “the entire infrastructure of Islamic Jihad” in subsequent years, during which Islamic Jihad bombings killed at least 37 Israelis. Also, journalist Yitzhak Tessler has noted that, “former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan admitted that the terrorists released in the Elhanan Tenenbaum [prisoner exchange] deal caused the death of 231 Israelis” (Yitzhak Tessler, ‘Shalit deal wrong move,’ Yediot Ahronot, October 10, 2011).
Caroline Glick, The Jerusalem Post
Untold numbers of Israelis who are now sitting in their succas and celebrating Jewish freedom, who are driving in their cars, who are standing on line at the bank, who are sitting in their nursery school classrooms painting pictures of Torah scrolls for Simhat Torah will be killed for being Jewish while in Israel because Netanyahu has made this deal. The unrelenting pain of their families, left to cope with their absence, will be unimaginable.
pdavidhornik.typepad.com, on Front Page
In 2008 Defense Minister Ehud Barak, after one of the least defensible prisoner deals, set up the Shamgar Committee to formulate a new approach. If the “old approach” was still applied to Shalit, who was kidnapped in 2006, it’s apparently because Israel’s top echelon concluded that other possibilities had been exhausted; getting off the treadmill at the expense of his life and freedom was unacceptable.