On October 18, 2011, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was finally delivered into the waiting arms of his relieved and long-suffering family after years of terrifying imprisonment. Shalit was captured over five years earlier on June 25, 2006 by notorious Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas and held in conditions we cannot even begin to fathom – utterly isolated for nearly two thousand days without a glimpse of sunlight and living in perpetual fear of execution. His return represents an enormous victory for Shalit’s family and friends, the state of Israel, the Jewish people, and other supporters all over the world. Jews have long prided themselves on the infinite value they place on human life, willing to go to extreme lengths to preserve its sanctity. The day of Shalit’s release will invariably go down in Israel’s history as a day of triumph and elation.
However, now that everyone has had some time to ruminate, it is prudent to address the firestorm of controversy accompanying the circumstances of Shalit’s return, namely the conditions of his freedom and the question of how the exchange of 1,027 convicted Palestinian prisoners for Shalit will affect Israel’s long-term security.
There is no doubt that Gilad’s freedom was worth the release of over 1,000 convicted criminals for his family, for Israel, and for the general principle of morality. As far as ethics go, nobody on earth has the authority to dictate the cost of a life. However, it is necessary to discuss whether the exchange could potentially harm more than one person.
Some argue that not all of the freed prisoners were terrorists – some were simply political prisoners, while others were in for more conventional crimes. Even so, many of the individuals in question murdered innocent Israelis with mothers, fathers, siblings, and children of their own. Victims of these people even include Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel by their neighbors.
While Shalit’s return relieves one family’s pain, it reopens the wounds of countless others—allowing a cold-blooded killer to roam the streets after incontrovertible evidence led to his or her conviction is simply a barefaced violation of the established justice system. Others claim that even the most hardened terrorists involved in this prisoner swap would never repeat their monstrous acts and have been essentially rendered harmless. To this end, I cite an interview with recently-freed Jordanian terrorist Ahlam Tamimi featured in news website The Blaze. Here is a particularly insightful quote from this woman, who is responsible for planning and helping to execute the deadly bombing of a Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria in 2001:
“Of course. I do not regret what happened. Absolutely not. This is the path. I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success. You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 attack on the Sbarro pizzeria]. This was made possible by Allah. Do you want me to denounce what I did? That’s out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner.”
After reading something so despicable (a truly vile degradation of life), it would take quite a bit of naiveté to assume that Tamimi is an isolated case. In a Tel Aviv conference, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan said “I oppose the deal which was implemented…many of [the prisoners] will resume their terrorist activity. We bolstered Hamas and weakened the PA.” The chilling reality of the situation is that these terrorists have not and will not stop at anything to threaten the lives of Jews and Israelis. They have murdered daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, relatives, and friends before, and they will do it again.
It is important to understand that while the vast majority of the world sees the emphasis Israel places on life as a great strength, terrorist organizations view this as a crippling weakness to be mercilessly exploited. Indeed, multiple media sources report that an enormous crowd of over 250,000 Palestinians in Gaza met the release of the convicted prisoners with vehement, synchronized chants of “We want a new Gilad!” In fact, the message encouraging the imprisonment of Israeli soldiers has been shockingly pervasive, finding its way into television programs and news outlets. Furthermore, there is now a substantial bounty on the head of every Israeli soldier – a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family is currently offering a $1 million reward for the capture of Israeli military personnel, for the singular (and obvious) purpose of forcing Israel’s government into releasing more prisoners.
Yes, this is sickening and ghastly, but it is also a heartrending reality that could (and should) have been anticipated. There is no reasoning with terrorists – they do not subscribe to the same moral principles as the majority of civilization. The Israeli government has made it blatantly clear that it is willing to negotiate with Hamas; even worse, it is willing to make massive concessions in the face of preposterous demands. My question is this: what will stop Hamas or any other similarly-minded organizations from setting up an encore? As far as the militants are concerned, it is now open season on Israeli soldiers, because Israel’s government has set a fatal precedent which is virtually impossible to retract.
It is understandable that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the decision to release the army of potential terrorists as a response to the enormous support rallying behind Shalit. However, his predecessor Ehud Olmert issued a firm statement saying, “There will be no negotiations to release prisoners…the government of Israel will not give in to extortion by the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government, which are headed by murderous terror organizations.” Clearly, the decision has a little more political nuance than most admit – it is not purely based on the value of life. Had Netanyahu backed out of the deal, the immediate response would have been crushingly negative and possibly devastating to his political standing, even if a resolute repudiation of Hamas’s demands would have resulted in greater future security.
In conclusion, while millions of people (myself included) are overjoyed to hear of Shalit’s safe return and reunion with his family, I cannot help but worry deeply about the consequences of the concessions made by the Israeli government to appease a terrorist organization. It is very likely that such a move will incite additional violence against Israelis, encourage future acts of terrorism, and prove deadly to many more innocent people. No matter how much it hurts to admit, Israel is placing herself in an even more precarious situation by agreeing to the increasingly brazen and coercive demands of those who wish to see her destroyed.
The lack of Tamimi’s fanatacism as an isolated event does not mean that it is popular either. Even if hundreds of the released prisoners feel the same way, they are hundreds among hundreds of thousands of total Palestinians. The world has changed drastically around the Palestinians who are in prison. Tamimi has only been in prison for a few years, but some prisoners haven’t been home in decades. Do they feel the same way? I would sincerely like to know. And even if they do feel the same, do any of their old friends feel the same? Their networks have been gutted. Many of the organizers of terror who worked with the released prisoners have been killed. You don’t mention Abbas once in your article even though many of the prisoners were released to the West Bank. Abbas is certainly outspoken against the murder of innocent Israelis. His PA security forces work closely with Israeli security forces and are in alignment regarding the importance of maintaining calm.
Regarding the posted bounty for Israeli prisoners, yes, this is vile and disgusting, but you lack of detail makes it seem as if the Saudi King, himself may as well be fronting the money. A radical cleric offered $100,000 and a Saudi Prince filled it out to a million. This prince is one of dozens, he is not part of the government, and as best I can tell, he is no where in line for the thrown. In fact, his father is explicitly removed from the line of the crown.
In my conclusion, yes, there are grotesque people in the world with perverse intentions and loud voice, but that doesn’t mean that everything will crumble before our eyes. If we harp on every one of these crazy people, we’ll go crazy. Imagine being Palestinian and hearing Avigdor Lieberman spew his crazy nonesense all the time. You and I (I’m positing here) agree that he’s totally insane, but he’s a party of Netanyahu’s messed up cabinet. He’s the damn foreign minister. Palestinian’s who focus on everything he says and who recognize his role of power in Israel must be horrified. Well, just as there are Jews and Israelis who know that Lieberman is out of his mind and therefore discount his words, so too are the Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims who know that Tammi and her cohort and the Saudi Prince are bonkers. The difference is that where Lieberman is a publicly elected official, Tamimi is just a released prisoner and the Saudi Prince is so obscure that you didn’t even name him (Khaled bin Talal).
All fair points, Mike.
However, I think that one purpose of this article is not to make people go crazy, but to inform people that there may be an imminent threat to Israeli security. It’s not about changing mainstream perspectives on the Palestinian people. It’s simply reporting the fact these loonies do in fact walk our streets. It’s scary.
And it’s even more scary than Lieberman’s position in the cabinet. Lieberman has to answer to a [relatively] healthy democratic system; none of his more crazy ideas have been carried out. Terrorists don’t encounter such lines of defense, nor do those seeking a $1 million bounty. I agree that the IDF and PA security forces do good work. But they can’t stop everything. Sure, these terrorists and the prince are obscure and crazy. That doesn’t negate the potential danger they pose.
You know what I mean?
Thank you for your comments – I welcome any and all criticism!
I completely agree that Tamimi and other like-minded terrorists are a minority among many more Palestinians who do not feel the same way or subscribe to the same fanaticism. That said, the purpose of my article was not to incriminate Palestinians as a group, it was to show that as a direct result of Israel’s compromise here, it has become exponentially easier for ANY terrorist organization or even individual to capture an Israeli soldier and make more outrageous demands. Such a huge concession is an invitation for a repeat Yes, many channels and terrorist infrastructures have been crippled, but one terrorist is enough to take hundreds of innocent lives.
I realize that the prince offering the reward is obscure and I failed to mention his name precisely for this reason. I felt that his name was irrelevant. He may well be a non-important political figure, but a million dollars is a million dollars no matter who is offering it – the money does not become obscure just because the prince is. It is a substantial sum of money anywhere in the world and it is a huge incentive. Even beyond the money, the fact that such sentiment exists is extremely alarming to me. These are not isolated cases by any means; like the article (and several media sources) mention, crowds of hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the release of murderers and chanted for the capture of another Israeli soldier. If that isn’t terrifying then I don’t know what is!
Even if Tamimi and other terrorists are not in government positions (like Lieberman is), the government is clearly powerless (even Abbas) to stop these terrorist acts from occurring left and right. Being outspoken is simply not enough – there are just too many people who want to see Israel destroyed and the government can’t always control them. I am worried that this prisoner exchange has opened up another weakness that is easily exploitable and may backfire in the future, despite the controversial nature of this argument today.
My best friend, Tessa Nath, shared your article with me, and I wanted to comment stating that I could not have better expressed the complexities and unfortunate, but potentially grave consequences of Gilad Shalit’s return to Israel after being held in captivity for five years. In addition, it is rather comforting to know that another conservative exists in this land of liberals.
As an avid traveler to Israel and Hebrew speaker with tremendous Zionistic pride, I also question and contemplate the consequences of Gilad Shalit’s return. After the initial joy, bliss, and sheer excitement, what will this action reveal to global powers, and does it expose a tremendous weakness on the part of the Israeli government?
Thank you for sharing – your article was a pleasure to read.
Thank you so much for reading the article and for your comments – I really appreciate it! I have encountered lots of criticism (mostly from people our age as opposed to adults) regarding the article, and it is refreshing to hear a voice of approval.
One of the most important goals of this article (for me) was to voice my concerns while maintaining a level of highest respect for Gilad Shalit and his family. His return does and should bring jubilation to many, but I still strongly believe that the decision to compromise sends the wrong message – giving in to militant demands is a recipe for disaster.
My friend Jacob Goldberg sent me the article, and it was a pleasure to read! I was fervently nodding my head in agreement after reading nearly every sentence. This is precisely how I felt after the exchange took place, and it was articulated so well.
I believe that this topic is so controversial because there are two ligitimate yet opposing ways of approaching it. One way, being the emotional route, leaves one feeling rightfully happy for Gilad’s return, both for him and his family. The other way, being the practical route, leaves one feeling frustrated and scared. Again, both are ligitimate reactions, and I think you explained this well in your article.
I especially agree with the following statement you made, and it scares me so much that people don’t seem to understand this (but it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who does): “It is important to understand that while the vast majority of the world sees the emphasis Israel places on life as a great strength, terrorist organizations view this as a crippling weakness to be mercilessly exploited.” I have always believed that Israel should stop caring about what the media says, mostly because it is an uphill battle and a waste of time, and instead they should put all their energy and strategy towards physically protecting themsleves. It frustrates me so much that people don’t seem to learn from the past. Negotiating with terrorists is an awful idea, and it astounds me that governements still do it.
I was wondering if you think that Israel could or will ever change their policy of negotiating for a captive, or do you think that they have already dug themselves in a hole that is too deep to dig themselves out of by setting a precedent like in the case of Gilad Shalit?
Thanks so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts!
Thank you for taking the time to read the article! As I wrote in a reply to a previous comment, I greatly appreciate your thoughts and your approval. 🙂
I completely agree that Israel should stop trying to please everyone and focus on self-defense. Can you imagine the United States releasing over 1,000 convicted prisoners in exchange for a single soldier? I cannot. People say that this is because Jews/Israel value life on a much higher level, but I don’t necessarily buy that. The family of a captured American soldier would grieve with the same bitterness as Gilad Shalit’s family, but the US government could not afford exposing itself to terrorists in such a dangerous way. This does not mean that the U.S. is willing to sacrifice the life of a soldier while Israel is not – it just means that countless potential killers will again roam free and have an opportunity to take many more innocent lives than were saved by this deal.
In response to your question, I do think that Israel will try to reverse this precedent (although it’s extremely difficult), but this is a tricky issue, because the only way for Israel to prove their commitment to a non-negotiation policy would be for the situation to repeat itself, which would be awful. Until then, Israel has to be extra-vigilant and understand that such a grave error simply cannot be repeated in the future.
Thank you again for reading and for your great comments!
“Abbas is certainly outspoken against the murder of innocent Israelis. His PA security forces work closely with Israeli security forces and are in alignment regarding the importance of maintaining calm.”
Mike it would be really helpful if you came with reliable sources for these claims.
I don’t believe that naming town squares after terrorists who murders over 10’s of Israelis, including women and children, and praising these terrorists as being heroes of their people is being “outspoken against the murder of innocent Israelis”. And this is coming from your man Abbas. And as for the PA security forces, don’t romanticize about their “success”. Any time time the IDF has real information on terrorist activity that is a high level threat the PA security force is left out of the picture in fear of them tipping off the terrorists and preventing the IDF from doing its job which is to protect Israeli citizens. Not only that there are countless of incidents of terror attacks being conducted in Judea and Samaria in which the PA security forces has a large role in their success of killing or harming Israeli citizens.
The only thing the PA security force has been useful in has been reducing Hamas terrorist links in that area which is mainly do to the fact that it is a rival faction and undermines the Fatah’s control. Nothing to do with “keeping the calm” or helping to “protect” Israeli citizens.
Now if you don’t believe that many Palestine have radical views about Israel, then go read the Hamas charter and explain to me how they won the elections in 2006…
Interesting that you ask me for sources, Tomer, but the only source you sight is the Hamas charter. More interesting is that you were responding to comments about Fatah leadership and that somehow relates to Hamas in your mind.
Through personal communication with many non-Palestinian officials with insider information, I have heard about the cooperation between the PA security forces and Israel. I’ll mention 3 of them. The first is Yossi Beilin. You’ve probably already stopped reading because Yossi is “a crazy radical.” Well, that’s your prerogative, but he’s not a stupid man and he certainly doesn’t want Israelis to be killed. The second is American ambassador Dennis Ross. Maybe you’ll discount Ross’s statement as an outsider, but he told me that the largest agreement among Israeli and Palestinian officials is between security forces. The third is Netanyahu’s spokesperson, Mark Regev. I’m not really sure how you might try and discount a Likud loyalist on security concerns, but he told me that Abbas is sincere about wanting non-violence from his people. Regev told me this sitting in Knesset as an official representative. Also, FYI, when I heard from Dennis Ross, it was from the White House complex, also in his official capacities.
You are free to believe what ever you want, גבר, but this is the truth. High ranking Israeli and American (and Palestinian, though something tells me you don’t care) officials agree that PA cooperation with IDF has maintained calm in the West Bank.
When you present half truths you do a disservice to your credibility and to your cause. There aren’t “countless” terror attacks from Palestinians in the West Bank, certainly not since Abbas has been in charge.
In terms of your only moderately tenable argument about squares being named after murderers, I have two comments. First, did Abbas himself name squares after murderers and have any squares been named after murders while he has been in office? And second, how is that different than every Israeli city having a street named after the Lechi and another street named after the Etzel? A double standard won’t lead to the end of anyone’s suffering.