Sunday, June 21, 2009
Golda Meir said a lot of quotable things. Among them is the gem: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill theirs.”
In reading today’s news, I think there’s a corollary of that idea: We can forgive the Arabs for forcing us to fight them, but how much harder is it to forgive them for making us fight each other.
What happened today? Yet another accusation from Noam Shalit, pictured above. It's getting to be a pattern.
Noam Shalit is, of course, the father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who on June 25 will complete his third year of incommunicado imprisonment at the hands of Hamas.
This morning Noam took a broadside against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Despite [Olmert's] repeated declarations that the government of Israel was doing everything for the release of Gilad Shalit, and that his picture sits right opposite him in his office, I know that he didn't make every effort and I know that from sources who were involved in the matter," Shalit said in a television interview.
He also complained about Olmert’s criticism of him. "Olmert made sure to rebuke us and to make all sorts of ridiculous claims," Shalit said. "[Olmert] claimed that our activities do not help and are even damaging. He made sure to tell us that we're lucky that Gilad is alive."
In this case Olmert – for whom I have no love, as you all know – probably did the right thing. (Interestingly enough, Olmert denies saying any of those things to Shalit – so when, for once, he does the right thing, he then denies having done it. Go figure.)
But what an impossible situation. A grieving father wants the government to move heaven and earth, to agree to anything, just to get his son back. Who can blame him?
And yet entering into dangerous and seriously unbalanced “prisoner exchanges” is something no Israeli Prime Minister should do, no matter how much the public pressure the parents of the missing soldier apply.
The problem is, a risky and self-destructive pattern of turning over live and seriously dangerous Arab terrorists in return for the bodies of fallen soldiers has developed. That makes life more dangerous for all of us living here.
Worse, it encourages terrorists to do more kidnapping. If they can get dozens or even hundreds of their fellow terrorists freed by turning over the bodies of a couple of Israeli soldiers, that’s a good deal – for them. It inspires more kidnapping.
We spent last summer listening Micky Goldwasser, mother of fallen soldier “Udi” Goldwasser, as she turned into an Israeli Candy Lightener, becoming a media star herself. The news was full of her demonstrations, pleas and accusations, all directed toward forcing the government to bring back her son, who had been taken – dead or alive, no one knew at that point – by Hezbollah.
This summer we’re watching Noam Shalit do the same thing. Shalit is constantly in the news, demanding action – “whatever it takes” to get Gilad returned.
What he’s doing is totally understandable. It’s impossible to even imagine the pain the parents of missing or captured soldiers must feel.
And yet, what can a government do? A soldier is missing. Our enemies refuse to say whether he is dead or alive, let alone provide information about his physical or mental state. They refuse to let the Red Cross see him – as international law, not to mention humanitarian concerns – requires. They refuse to cooperate with any level of political pressure from Israel.
What else does Shalit want the government to do? Get his son back, of course. But at what cost?
Micky Goldwasser eventually got what she wanted: On July 16, 2008, the bodies of her son and that of another fallen soldier, Eldad Regev, were returned to Israel in plain wooden coffins.
What did that cost Israel? We gave them 199 dead bodies plus five truly evil men, major terrorists who ranked among the most cold-blooded killers in Israel’s prisons. Those five terrorists were not only alive and healthy, but announced, on their release, that they would continue inflicting terror every chance they could get.
That was a terrible deal, one that guaranteed only one thing: that more Israeli mothers and fathers will suffer heartbreak, just as the Goldwasser and Regev families did.
These uneven ‘prisoner swaps’ have become a dangerous pattern.
In 1983, following the 1982 Lebanon war, Israel returned 4,600 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in exchange for six abducted Israeli soldiers.
In 1985, 1,150 terrorists were exchanged for three Israeli soldiers.
In 2003, 400 terrorists and criminals and 60 Lebanese bodies were exchanged for three Israeli bodies and one live drug dealer.
Why do we do it? We have this tradition of recognizing no limits in bringing home captured soldiers or their remains. But at what point do decide that the risk to the rest of the population is too great?
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, has written an article showing how deadly these ‘prisoner exchange’ deals are for Israelis. (www.isranet.org)
“According to Israel's Almagor Terror Victims’ Association reports, as summarized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, of the 6,912 Palestinian terrorists released in "confidence-building" measures between 1993 and 1999, 854 were - up to 2003 - subsequently re-arrested for murder and terrorism.
“Since 2000, 180 Israelis have been murdered by released terrorists. That includes the 30 killed and 155 wounded in the attack on Netanya’s Park Hotel in Passover, 2002. The 17 killed and 42 wounded in the June, 2002 Megiddo bus bombing. And the 7 dead and over 50 wounded in the September, 2003 Café Hillel bombing in Jerusalem.”
Get that? 180 Israelis are dead because they were killed by released terrorists.
Prof. Krantz writes, “No democracy, let alone a sovereign Jewish state like Israel, subject to the unending viciousness of its neighbors, can afford to allow murderous enemies to play on its humanity. Individual suffering must be weighed against society's security and well-being. Allowing genocidal enemies to count on the certainty that blackmail will outweigh proportional reciprocity, and enable apprehended murderers to go free, is neither noble nor humane - it is suicidal.”
And remember, it’s not just Noam’s son Gilad who’s missing. There are at least six more.
Staff Sgt. Zecharya Baumel, Staff Sgt. Zvi Feldman and Staff Sgt. Yehuda Katz. The three have been missing since June 11, 1982, when five Israeli soldiers disappeared during a battle with Syrian and Palestinian forces near the Lebanese village of Sultan Yaqub. Several years later, two were returned. The remaining three may still be alive and held under Syrian control.
Major Ron Arad, captured on October 16, 1986, after his aircraft was shot down near Sidon, Lebanon. Arad was initially held by Amal (a Shi'ite terrorist organization), but today his fate is unknown. Many authorities believe he’s still alive.
Guy Hever was last seen at his army base on the southern Golan Heights on August 17, 1997. Hever was dressed in army fatigues and carrying his weapon, but simply disappeared. It’s suspected he was kidnapped while hitchhiking.
Majdy Halabi, a Druze soldier, last seen at a hitchhiking stop in Dalyat El Karmel on May 24, 2005, trying to return to an ordnance corps camp near Haifa. No trace of him has ever been found.
What do I wish?
I wish that the grieving families of the lost and missing soldiers would cooperate in every way possible with the authorities in seeking the return of their loved ones. I wish they would not try to become international celebrities or media stars, demanding that the government enter into foolish and life-threatening ‘prisoner exchanges’ that endanger the lives of everyone else in the country.
More than that, I wish Arab terrorists wouldn’t put twits like me in the position of criticizing the parents of soldiers lost in action. Tragic enough that they lost their child in service to the country. Worse than that is that they become subject to disparagement in their grieving.
Except….. When what the bereaved parents are demanding means that more Israelis will be captured or killed. Then we must speak out.
No more prisoner exchanges, no matter what.