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.
The first of the atrocious massive releases of terrorists by Israel took place in 1985, when the National Unity Government of the Labor Party and Likud released terrorists in the “Ahmed Jibril Deal” to the PFLP terrorist leader Jibril. Shimon Peres was the prime minister at the time. 1150 prisoners were released in exchange for three Israeli POWs, who had been captured during the first Lebanese War. Many of the terrorists released resumed their careers in terrorism and led the “First Intifada.”
That moronic “deal” served as precedent. Thereafter Israel paid in the currency of murderers in every “deal” in which captive Israelis were taken, and even in exchange for the release of the corpses of Israeli soldiers murdered by the terrorists. The massive release of murderers naturally always served as incentive for the terrorists to kidnap more Israelis. There is some serious doubt as to whether Shalit would have been kidnapped in the first place had it not been for those precedents.
In those repeated wholesale releases of terrorists, Israel always attempted to maintain a fig-leaf of self-respect, setting some limits on who could be released. Israel was reluctant to release murderers of children, or those who had actually pulled the triggers in killing civilians, or those involved in suicide bombings.
The Netanyahu capitulation has at long last put an end to all pretense. The very worst mass murderers of children and civilians have been released. The litany of their crimes is too long and horrendous to be reproduced here. You can see more details here. But they involve those who murdered multiple members of the same families, those who placed bombs in the Jerusalem Sbarro pizza restaurant murdering children, those who lured a 15-year-old boy into the West Bank with Internet flirting and murdered him, and too many other murders. Some of the atrocities sound more like events that took place in Nazi-conquered Europe than in the independent Jewish State. A surviving member of the family destroyed in the Sbarro attack is in the news this week for having vandalized the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, whom he blames for the murders of his family and the release of the murderers. (See this.)
As in all cases of mind-numbing stupidity perpetrated by Israel’s government, Netanyahu came in right on cue and defended the capitulation on grounds of “what choice was there?” Whenever Israeli politicians choose the stupidest choice possible, they always insist there is no other choice.
What choice was there? The choice was not to agree to the capitulation. Just say no.
The released terrorists are already being celebrated by the Palestinian barbarians as heroes and role models. It should not take long before the cost of saving the life of one Jew will turn out to be the deaths of many Jews. The deal is popular because the Israeli public is familiar with the faces of Gilad Shalit and his family. The people who will now be murdered or kidnapped by the terrorists newly inspired by the capitulation do not have faces. Nor do their families. Yet.
It was clear all along that there were other ways in which Israel and its government could have dealt with the Shalit kidnapping and captivity. Israel could have assassinated 30 terrorists a day and announce that the targeting would continue every day until Shalit was released. Or Israel could have kidnapped the family members of Hamas leaders and held them in captivity until Shalit was free. Or Israel could have executed 30 imprisoned terrorists inside Israeli prison each day.
Better yet, Israel could have eliminated the terrorist “bait” that drives kidnapping in the first place – by executing terrorists. No one has ever been murdered by a terrorist who has already been executed. Every time anyone brings up the idea of capital punishment for terrorism, Israel’s politicians wring their hands and whine about how “unethical” it is, how it violates Jewish ethics. All this coming from politicians who do not have the slightest idea of what Jewish ethics has to say about anything. Suffice it to say that capital punishment is as fundamentally grounded in Torah and Jewish ethics as are bans against incest and adultery. Jewish ethics explicitly prohibit abandoning other randomly chosen Jews to be killed in order to obtain the release of one Jew being threatened.
Netanyahu and his team may soon be learning how ephemeral “popularity” is and how capricious the throng can be. It may not take long for the Netanyahu cowardice to reap what it has sown, in the form of buses exploding on Israeli streets or suicide bombing attacks on Israeli restaurants. And those victims of Netanyahu’s capitulation will have faces and families.