Freeing Gilad Shalit

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The Israeli security chiefs—Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Mossad head Tamir Pardo, and Shin Bet (internal security) head Yoram Cohen—all affirmed that there was no military option to free Shalit and came out in favor of the deal. Pardo’s and Cohen’s predecessors both opposed such a swap, though that was when Hamas was insisting that the masterminds be included.

Cohen, explaining his position, called it “the best deal possible” while allowing that “it is not simple to release 280 murderers” and “noting that [the deal] would likely increase Hamas’s motivation to attack Israel and try to abduct more soldiers.” He said further:

I think that we will be able to deal with the threat and potential dangers.… We cannot promise that they will not produce terror. Statistics show that 60 percent of those released in prisoner swaps return to activity in their terrorist organizations and that 15 to 20 percent return to Israeli prisons.

He also noted that the 110 to be released to the West Bank will be under strict surveillance. Optimists point to Israel’s currently strong security capabilities there, which have kept lethal terrorism to a minimum for years.

On one side, then, a further encouragement of kidnapping; a possible spike in terror; the pain of relatives of the victims of the released prisoners; a boost to Hamas; and a dire subversion of justice as murderers go free.

Understanding, then, why Israel’s top security officials as well as a large majority of its government and public nevertheless support the deal requires understanding certain underlying intangibles of Israeli society. Simple sympathy for Shalit and his family is, of course, one of them, but not the whole story. As Netanyahu put it in his speech Tuesday night:

I am happy that I succeeded in fulfilling the Jewish decree of redeeming captives…. The nation of Israel is a unique people. We are all mutually responsible for each other, as our sages said: “He who saves one soul, it is as though he saved an entire world.”

To which it can be objected—validly—that in this case, the statistical record suggests that saving one soul means condemning other souls. To which, in turn, it can be replied that danger is inherent in being a Jewish, non-Muslim state in the Middle East, and fundamental to coping with it is a solidarity that goes to the deepest level of Israel’s ethos of survival in a hostile environment.

For most of us, abandoning Gilad to his fate was simply not an option.

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  • Larry

    I hope the make bloody they have Shalit back in one piece before that set a single one of the genocidists free.

    Then, after getting him back and turning them loose, they should grab as many back as possible. Screw them thoroughly.

  • ze-ev ben jehudah

    One Jewish live is worth 1027 murderers even woman murderers.

  • bob maram

    i amvery uncomfortable with the shalit deal. every family grieves for their child who is held prisoner. but a thousand freed terrorists is just too much.and god forbid mr shalit being held prisoner for over 5 years may havebeen brainwashed. it is a horrible thought but his captors may be smarter than we jews are and pardon my craziness but i have a vision and i prayit is nota reality that this weet and beautfulyoung man doesnt become a poster boy for these eztremists in gaza. bob maram

    • Leah

      I have been thinking the very same thing. I hope we are wrong.

  • Ariely

    Guess who is the 7 century ideology fighting to impose its values worldwide by the power of sward?
    The difference between 2 moral values
    1; Life is precisions. Every effort should be done to preserve life:
    We desire death as you desire life.
    2: Prisoners including terrorists killing by ideology civilians while in prison get mail, TV, relative visits High education.
    Prisoners are kept isolated. Nobody knows either they are alive or death.
    3: Before been head jacket the prisoners were wearing army uniforms, placed in military areas.
    Terrorists hide and shoot from among civilians, wearing civilians closes.

    The free world highlighting 21 century human values is silent when the defending Israel is attacked by terrorists.
    Unfortunately some claiming to be human rights activists support the 7 century values when it comes to the defending Israel.

  • Bamaguje

    Can’t the Israelis administer some delay-acting poison that will later kill off the released murderous terrorists?
    Or are they so principled to think that would be acting in bad faith?

  • Sooke

    If just one of those thousand returns to terrorism and kills an Israeli, the deal was pointless. And how likely is it that just one returns to terrorism?

    To Israel's enemies, this deal tells them that kidnapping pays. It also tells them that the Israelis are racist – 1000% racist. One Israeli life equals 1000 Arabs.

  • mrbean

    Look for more kidnappings by Muslim terrorists against Israelis as the tactic yields significant results.

  • Ben

    I see this exchange as the act of populism.

  • WildJew

    In his book "Fighting Terrorism," Mr. Netanayhu makes NOT releasing jailed terrorists – "a mistake Israel has made over and over again" – a fundamental principle in his chapter "What is to be done."

    Though PM Netanyahu stands head and shoulders above his predecessor, Ehud Olmert and his potential successor, Tzipi Livni, he has not displayed the kind strength of leadership many had hoped we would see from him.

    Netanyahu's appointment of Ehud Barak as defense minister has been a disaster. The prime minister gives his defense minister a free hand, destroying Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria – something Barak has done with relative abandon. Netanyahu's repeated praising of Barack Hussein Obama – America's and Israel's worst nightmare – has been disappointing to many. At a time when Americans are fighting to remove this dangerous Muslim-born president from office, November 2012, we don't need Israel's prime minister lauding him for his non-existent friendship.

  • RobGinChicago

    It's not like Hamas needs any motivation to kidnap or kill more Israelis, and they have no shortage of delusional willing cannon fodder. The fact that this deal, at least temporarily, boosts the stock of Hamas, while taking the sheen off of the PA and Abbas is a real "bonus", in that the jihadis will let their "freak flags fly", and the manufactured mirage of moderate Abbas and the PA will need to be dropped if Abbas wants to have any hope of remaining relevant with his subjects. The more extreme Abbas is forced to appear, the more the Israeli's will be able to maintain that they should not be expected to commit national suicide by granting concessions to those who want them destroyed. Israel's security apparatus had best be on their toes, as it will be a rocky ride, but forcing the PA into the open and exposing their true unwillingness to ever make peace actually works to Israel's benefit.

  • xlent

    I love it! 1 Israeli is equivelant to 1000 a rabid dogs. In TRUTH 1 citizen of Israel is probably worth a million of any one of their near neighbors.

  • ziontruth

    This question has been floating around ever since the announcement of the deal: Is it a debacle or not? I'll add one more opinion to the mix:

    The answer is conditional. For years, Israeli government officials have said the long-due merciless pounding of Gaza in response to the barrage of rockets on pre-1967 Israeli Jewish town has been postponed in fear for Shalit's life. Therefore if, after the freeing of Gilad Shalit, the IDF is not given permission to mercilessly pound Gaza in response to the Kassams, this deal will have been a debacle; if the IDF is given free rein, it will have been worth it.

  • Amused

    It was the right move . Shalit is an Israeli , a fellow human being and countryman . Yes 1000 of Israel's enemies will be exchanged , where they will join the other of Israel's enemies . Those out of jail are no different than those in . Israel has saved the life of one of it's own …the many take the risk for the one .
    Long live Israel .

  • Shalom Freedman

    These words of David Hornik summarize the negatives. "On one side, then, a further encouragement of kidnapping; a possible spike in terror; the pain of relatives of the victims of the released prisoners; a boost to Hamas; and a dire subversion of justice as murderers go free."
    There is also an element of violating the long- time ethos of Israel in regard to terror, not freeing those with 'blood on their hands'.
    But I think Hornik rightly sees the major element as restoring and underlining the solidarity of Israeli society. I only wonder if in 'saving one life' and perhaps 'endangering many' the right thing has truly been done.

  • Ben Cohen

    In this particular case I agree with the more conservative line; Israel is making a mistake by trading one prisoner for 1000. It is an incredibly lopsided trade, and imo it sets a bad precedent (for obvious reasons).

  • cubnkira

    However, common sense must apply, and there was none here.

    Hamas, just yesterday said that this would not be the last Israeli soldier that they kidnapped. So what is the point. The released terrorists will kill many more than the one life they may have saved.