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It is not often that I disagree with my good friend David Hornik, but – alas – this is one such time. I have a very different take on the “prisoner exchange” deal just carried out between Israel and the Hamas terrorists, indeed one quite the opposite of what Hornik writes in his Frontpage Magazine piece “Freeing Gilad Shalit,” followed, by “Defending the Gilad Shalit Deal.”
Hornik essentially claims that the deal was justified because only small numbers of Palestinian murderers released by Israel in the past reverted to terrorism and murdered Jews. He claims, much like the Israeli Prime Minister, that there was simply no viable alternative and leaving Shalit to his fate was just not an option. Hornik does not believe the release of the terrorists creates an unreasonable security threat to Israel. In part, this is because some of the worst terrorists will be deported to areas outside Israeli territorial control. Steven M. Goldberg, writing in FPM, among others, disagrees.
So do I.
The issue is not simply the security risks from setting more than a thousand mass murderers back on the street. I do not buy the “statistical trend” argument that since terrorist murders in Israel have been relatively low in recent years, the trend can just be extrapolated. I think this smacks of “September 10, 2011” thinking. In other words, looking at recent numbers as indicative of trends does not save us from the possibility of imminent quantum leaps of danger. But even if Hornik is correct and the released murderers do not revert to terrorism, the “exchange” that released them was still insane. It was a cynical slap in the face to the victims of those terrorists. And it was a symbolic acquiescence by Israel to the terrorist point of view that has always insisted, much like the German Nazis, that murdering Jews is legitimate because Jewish life just “does not count,” because Jews are sub-human. Those terrorists should have remained in prison (or been executed) and not traded for Shalit.
Khaled Mashal, chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau in Damascus, Syria, also seems to disagree with Hornik. He proclaimed, “Those released will return to armed struggle. It is a great national achievement.”
I think that the best definition of leadership is where a political leader is willing to resist populist pressure to do “popular” things whenever those “popular” things are harmful. A real leader is someone capable of resisting the temptation to act as demagogue and play to the crowd.
In the massive release of mass murderers for Shalit, Bibi Netanyahu has revealed himself to be the very opposite of a leader. The release of the Palestinian mass murderers is popular in Israel at the moment, according to public opinion surveys. Netanyahu has a long track record of doing whatever the caprices of the public happen to favor at the moment. So I suppose in some ways it was not surprising that he agreed to this atrocity. A man who does not have the backbone to stare down and dismiss summer Woodstock-on-the-Yarkon “social justice” protesters (the cousins of the Wall Street Occupiers) cannot be expected to resist the passionate Israeli public’s desire to see Gilad Shalit released.
The release of the murderers is fleetingly popular in Israel this week. Negotiating with Palestinians is also generally popular in Israel. So are price controls on housing and raising the minimum wage. So is (depending on wording of question) creating a Palestinian state. Being a leader means refusing to create disasters just because the public this week happens to feel that it is a nice idea to create them.
There was a general and deeply-felt desire for Shalit’s release among all Israelis. The media have kept the plight of his family in the headlines for five years. Shalit was in captivity for longer than the U.S. soldiers who survived the Bataan death march in the Philippines or the British troops captured in Hong Kong and Singapore.
But it is now clear that the main effect of the organizations in Israel drumming up support for “Let’s Get Shalit Released,” and “We Demand Shalit’s Freedom,” was to increase the number of murderers released in the exchange, from a couple of hundred to over a thousand. It was obvious all along that the protests “on behalf of Gilad” had no effect whatsoever on Hamas other than persuading it to hold out longer for greater levels of appeasement. The protests simply weakened the resolve of the already weak Israeli political leadership to resist the extortion.
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