I was at choir practice last night when the news broke that the deal to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit had finally been signed. Towards the end of the tea-break, several choir members received the announcement via SMS or Twitter. From them, the tidings passed from one to another until, just before the end of the rehearsal, Oded – the new chief conductor of the full Jerusalem Oratorio Choir – proclaimed the news publicly (and only then , he said, because if he had said anything earlier, there wouldn’t have been any more rehearsal that evening).
I think we all have mixed feelings about the deal. (I refuse to call it a “prisoner exchange”, because Gilad was abducted from Israeli soil, and held incommunicado for over five years, whereas the more than a thousand terrorists who will be released as the price for his freedom, were all convicted – after a fair trial and due process – of heinous crimes including some of the most brutal murders ever recorded. They are not prisoners-of-war, they are convicted killers.)
Those who oppose the deal claim that the price is excessive. It is claimed that releasing hundreds of dangerous killers, who have not ceased to proclaim that, if released, they will not hesitate to kill again, endangers Israel’s security. Others claim that, if the Government doesn’t do all in its power to redeem Israeli prisoners from captivity, we cannot expect young Israelis to serve in military units where there is a high chance of them falling into captivity and that this, in itself, would endanger Israel’s security. On the other hand, how can we expect young Israeli soldiers to risk their lives in order to capture dangerous terrorists, knowing that there is a good chance that, within a few years, the human excrement whom they have risked their lives to capture, will be walking around free as the result of another such deal? Yet others claim that, by agreeing to release these terrorists in exhange for a single soldier, we show weakness and encourage Hamas and its ilk to carry out more such abductions – as, indeed, they have said they will do. I can well understand my sister’s feelings, as the mother of a soldier. If it were my nephew in Gilad’s place, I would expect the government to agree to almost any price to save him. And yet, as Naomi said, is not her son – as a soldier – in greater danger of finding himself in exactly this situation, now that Hamas has learned that such abductions pay off, and in dividends?
Opponents of the deal claim that Israel has been humiliated. I don’t think of it this way – and we must not think of it this way! We can only be humiliated if we feel humiliated. But we have proved – not for the first time, either – that whereas the Arabs celebrate Death, we Israelis cherish Life. That is a reason for Pride, not for humiliation.
I worry, too, about Gilad himself. In what state will he return? He has been held incommunicado for over five years. Can a young man remain sane under such circumstances? Will he be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe he will have been brainwashed, like in The Manchurian Candidate.
Yes, truly one feels torn apart. My heart is telling me one thing, my head is saying something else.
I know one thing. I thank God it wasn’t me who had to make the decision. I can well imagine how Netanyahu and his ministers must have agonised over this deal. I do not know how I would have borne up under such a weight of responsibility. Can any one of Bibi’s critics say they know? Can you?
One final word as to the price that we shall have to pay – over one thousand Palestinian terrorists for one Israeli soldier. It would be well to remember these figures the next time someone dares to accuse Israel of “disproportionality” in relation to Operation Cast Lead. It was the Palestinians who fixed the price. It was the Palestinians who proclaimed, in effect, that the life of ONE Israeli is worth the lives of over a thousand Palestinians.