Well-Meaning Folly

That the announcement of an impending deal to exchange the IDF soldier Gilad Shalit for more than 1000 hard-core Arab terrorists has unleashed raucous celebrations in the Arab territories and restrained relief in Israel demonstrates the winners and the losers in this awful ordeal. Israel – which once boasted that it never negotiates with terrorists, and mocked the Europeans for doing the same – now is the only country in the world that negotiates with terrorists, and does it quite poorly to boot.

Two questions that are not being asked are: first, how long will it be before another Israeli is taken captive by Hamas et al, in order to exchange for more prisoners ? My guess is months, although a few weeks is also a possibility.  Second, how many Israelis will be killed in the future by this latest batch of freed terrorists ? The organization Victims of Arab Terror reports that approximately 200 Israelis have been murdered in the last 20 years by freed
terrorists. Based on past results, and logic, Israelis should start preparing
both fresh graves, and new organizations to memorialize those future victims.

Certainly, I have no complaints at all against the Shalit family, and they acted as any family would and should – prioritizing the life of their child, an individual, over the lives of the public and the community. If I were in their predicament, G-d forbid, I would be doing the same thing. But it is at that moment – when emotion and sympathy provoke the desire to free the innocent captive at all costs – when the cooler heads who govern the nation are supposed to have the national interest at heart and do what is in the interest of the nation, and not the individual. And I would be told that the consequences of this transaction – politically, emotionally and militarily – are just too grave. But the Prime Minister, who has a smooth tongue but often seems to function without a spine, caved. It is a populist act, until, of course, the real price is paid.

Politically, it is a victory for Arab terror and can only provoke more terror. The bar has been lowered still further for those who want to kill Jews. Jewish blood – past and future – has become cheaper, and future terrorists will be even more emboldened that they can murder Jews with impunity. Those who will pat themselves on the back that the trade demonstrates how Jews value life are, in fact, misguided and short-sighted; it is further proof of how the will of many Jews has been broken by terror and they can no longer even think beyond the present. (It is not speculation that freed terrorists will murder Jews; it has been proved 200 times already.) It is not even a small comfort to recognize that, indeed, the life of a Jew is more valuable than the life of an Arab; about 1000 times more valuable according to the prevailing market rate.

Emotionally, it must be devastating for the families victimized by the Arab terrorists who will now be eyewitnesses to those murderers returning to their homes amid heroes’ welcomes and parades, and watching them walk the streets and plot more mayhem against Jews. When will the butchers who carved up the Fogel family be released? Not now – maybe next time, or the time after that. After all, we can’t bring back the dead, so why punish the living hostage and his/her family.

Militarily, it is a security catastrophe as one thousand hard core terrorists re-enter Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Israel proper (for the Israeli Arabs who will be released) to sow the seeds of the next rebellion. (Remember, the first civil war in Israel – in 1987 – erupted a little more than one year after the infamous Jibril exchange released more than 1000 poisonous terrorists into the Israeli bloodstream. Reportedly, this latest group includes about 1/3 currently serving life sentences. And many of these terrorists were captured in undercover operations in which soldiers and security personnel risked their lives, and in some cases were killed. But why risk one’s life to capture a terrorist today who will be freed tomorrow ?

Prisoner exchanges outside the context of an end to hostilities undermine any deterrence that might have existed. Every future terrorist can go about his ghastly business expecting to be released at some point, and be feted and handsomely rewarded when he is released.

Imagine, for a moment, the parents of a sick child whose life could be saved for ten billion dollars of medical care. They demonstrate, rally, petition and pressure the government – and even call the government immoral for rejecting their entreaties. Instead, the “callous” government responds that all life is precious, but the government does not have ten billion dollars to spend on one child, sad to say, and that money can instead be used to spare the lives of thousands of other children. Rational, yes, but small comfort to the parents of that child. But governments – and hospitals – makes such triage decisions all the time.

One might well argue that the Shalit case is different – it is not an individual illness but a soldier sent to do his duty on behalf of the nation for whom the nation than always has an obligation to redeem at any cost. After all, Israel boasts of its mantra that it will never abandon soldiers on the battlefield. But that tripe is obviously untrue. At least three Israeli governments have negotiated with Syria over the disposition of the Golan without first demanding the release of (or information about) the three captives from the Sultan Yaakob battle in June 1982 – Yehuda Katz, Zachary Baumol and Zvi Feldman). And even more Israeli governments abandoned Jonathan Pollard on his battlefield, with Ehud Barak even preferring the pardoning by Bill Clinton of Marc Rich over the pardoning of Pollard. So the cliché is inspiring but ultimately meaningless. It is the type of contention that is made and appreciated but subjected to rational cost-benefit analysis before actual implementation. (Israel also vows never to leave a body in the field, but they would be fools to have half a platoon killed in order to retrieve a body.)

By way of contrast, there are currently American soldiers captive in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US is not exchanging Arab terrorists for those captives. Those who conclude that is evidence that the US does not value life should at least consider the alternative; perhaps that is proof sufficient that the US does value life, and perhaps even more than Israelis do. They value not only the life of their captive soldier, but more broadly the lives of the soldiers who captured those terrorists and the lives of the citizens that will be snuffed out by those released terrorists.

What does Jewish law say about such grisly ransoms? Unfortunately, we have too much experience in this field. The Talmud in Masechet Gittin (45a) states that we “do not ransom captives for more than their value…because of tikkun olam” (the betterment of society), and the Sages offered two reasons, both of which resonate now: either because it will impoverish the community (i.e., endanger their future well-being) or because it will just encourage more hostage-taking by the wicked. Both are true in this context, and Jews have traditionally heeded such guidance. The Torah values life, but life is not our highest value, and the life of an individual does not supersede the welfare of the community. If that were the case, one should never go into battle, in which individual lives will be sacrificed for the good of the community and nation.

Why now? Why wait five years when a similar deal could have been done – at lower cost – five years ago ? Chalk that up to another blundered negotiation by the Israelis, and a persistent inability on the part of much of the populace to recognize – and to retain the reality – that they are in a war that has no end in sight. Certainly, there are political benefits that will accrue to Hamas, which will emerge from this looking like a reasonable interlocutor with whom the world can – and should – do business. (After all, the Israelis shopped in their marketplace.) The real change seems to be a harshening of the conditions of imprisonment for those Arab terrorists now in Israeli prisons. Until this past summer, terrorists were entitled to family visits, cell phones, library and educational privileges, and probably Cable TV and spa treatments. PM Netanyahu ended that when he suddenly realized – just this past July – that Arab murderers were living well on the Israeli shekel and Gilad Shalit had not even been afforded a visit from the Red Cross. That country club lifestyle ended; perhaps that amped up the pressure on Hamas to deal. And deal they did, and they must be enjoying their triumph.

It is certainly possible that the deal will yet fall through. Hamas in the past has raised expectations and upped the ante by asking for more prisoners at crunch time. But it seems as if they have made a reasoned decision to quit while they are ahead.

The feeling here is joy commingled with sadness, sort of like the reaction of a family whose relative survives a  terrorist attack that kills ten people. One grieves for the victims but is quietly happy that one’s relative survived.

It is a gruesome image we dare not forget in the weeks and months ahead.

19 responses to “Well-Meaning Folly

  1. Even if you firmly believe, as you write here, that “the life of a Jew is more valuable than the life of an Arab”, do you really think it benefits anyone — particularly the Jewish community who you in some way represent with the “Rabbi” title and through your pulpit — for you to make this statement on the internet for the world to read? Would you take a bullhorn in midtown Manhattan and proclaim that “the life of a Jew is more valuable than the life of an Arab”? If you agree that doing so would be pointless and irresponsible, I submit that making that statement here is equally as pointless and irresponsible.

  2. Obviously you misunderstand, in your haste to find something amiss in my writings. I may or may not believe that a Jewish life is worth more than an Arab life, but it is patently clear that the Arabs and their Israeli negotiators believe that. Please read more carefully.-

  3. Thank you for expressing my pain and worry about this deal and saying it so very, very well as you always seem to do with all topics you address.

  4. The halachic issues aren’t so clear, as Rabbi Gil Student pointed out several years ago in this essay:


    The poskim are clearly all over the map.

  5. Not exactly, if the Gemara that discusses not ransoming prisoners for more than their value “mipnei tikun haolam” – for the betterment of society – is to mean anything. Both descriptions of “tikun haolam” the Gemara employs are relevant here – the impoverishment (demoralization) of society and the encouragement of further kidnappings.
    Otherwise, when the Arabs next kidnap a Jewish soldier, they might as well demand for his release the surrender of Yerushalayim, Judea, Samaria and Tel Aviv. After all, who would favor land over a life ?

  6. Rabbi Pruzansky: If the Wachsman family, whose captive soldier son was murdered and whose murderer is being released to beget the Shalit deal, is contented about the deal effected to bring Shalit home, how can we, who lack the ability to comprehend both, the Wachsmans’ and the Shalits’ torment, counter the deal?

  7. Rabbi,
    You make a good point. However, consider this:
    Assuming Israel makes a clear-cut reversal of its prisoner-swap policies effective after the Schalit swap takes place (i.e., explicitly stating that Israel will not give up prisoners with blood on their hands for captive soldiers), the next kidnapping will not necessitate further concessions along the lines of the current swap. Additionally, if Israel makes this policy reversal public, it will diminish at least partly any added incentive Hamas has to kidnap soldiers in light of the Schalit deal (that is, of course, assuming that it’s possible for Hamas to have additional incentive to harm Israelis).
    So now that the additional incentive to kidnap is at least partly taken off the table, and the prospect of further Israeli concessions is also disposed of, the only remaining drawback to this deal is the potential reversion of the released prisoners to terror. I agree that this is a serious issue, but Israel presumably is also taking steps to diminish this danger (for example, expelling some of the more dangerous prisoners abroad or to Gaza). On the whole, then, assuming Israel makes a public reversal of its prisoner-swap policy after the Schalit deal goes through, I don’t think the balance of the Schalit deal is so obviously tilted against the State’s interest.

    • Yaakov,
      Please tell me that you’re just being cynical… in that case it’s an excelent post.

      • 1. A substantive response would be appreciated.
        2. I am, in fact, not being cynical. The above post was an attempt to rationally assess the potential negative consequences of the Schalit deal for Israel. Of course I’m not saying that there are no such consequences – I’m just saying that their significance is being exaggerated. That being said, I balance said negative consequences against the obviously positive consequences of the deal. Among these positive consequences are: (1) the fulfillment of a mitzva to free our prisoners; (2) family reunification; (3) national pride; (4) the years of life fulfillment that Gilad has now been granted; (5) whatever positive contributions he will bring to Israeli society in the future; and (6) the tens – and ultimately thousands – of Jewish descendants he will produce (b’ezrat Hashem).

        So again, on balance, I think the deal arguably comes out on the positive side.

  8. Rabbi,

    While I appreciate that this is a complicated issue, I a few questions about your post:

    1. You start off citing “two questions that are not being asked” as if you honestly believe that the government and the public has not considered the potential risks involved. Indeed, in a poll by Israel 10, 62% of respondents believed that the deal would worsen Israel’s security situation, yet 69% still supported the deal (or 79% according to a Yediot Ahronot poll. You seem to be painting a picture of a public and government that is being naive, when in fact, it is clear that those involved understands the risks, yet still overwhelmingly support the deal (70-80% of the public and 90% of the Cabinet.)

    2. Does releasing the prisoners really give Hamas greater incentive to kidnap soldiers? Do we actually believe that Hamas has been resting on their laurels for the past 5 years waiting for Israel to make its move before deciding whether kidnapping soldiers was worth the trouble? Haven’t Hamas’s ideology and tactics made clear that they are already trying to kidnap, torture, and murder as many Israelis as they possibly can? The decline in terror attacks in the last 5+ year is not a result of the fact that Hamas stopped trying. Their incentive to murder Israelis has always been absolute.

    3. If 1,027 prisoners is an unfair price (and it seems you believe that to be the case), what would a fair price be? The release of even 1 prisoner could lead to the murder of tens or even hundreds of Israelis if that ex-prisoner blows up a bus or a night club. The same could be said of paying a monetary ransom, when such funds can be used to recruit for and plan future terrorist attacks. Any consideration given to secure Shalit’s release could end up yielding a net loss of lives in a cost/benefit analysis. The same can be said of the rescue missions and the 2006 military campaign, which placed a multitude of lives at risk to save one. Were you opposed to those operations, as well?

    Obviously this is a difficult situation. I’m glad I’m not the one that had to make the decision here. But there doesn’t seem to be any alternative other than allowing Gilad Shalit to continue to be held in captivity in perpetuity, where he will likely be tortured and ultimately murdered. Does this create security concerns? Of course. But those are concerns that the Israeli government is in a much better position to assess the risks than we are. More importantly, since it is the Israelis who ultimately will bear the brunt of those risks, their wisdom and their will should be respected, not belittled or maligned. At this crucial juncture, they need our love and support as we join them tomorrow, with smiles and tears, in saying “Welcome Home, Gilad.”

  9. Rabbi thanks for being so bold in your beliefs and for sharing your insights that many of us gain perspective from. I also appreciate how you stand up to others and your work here in the comment area. Good to see a blog with honesty and integrity.

  10. Unfortunately, the best support for Rav Pruzansky’s position is history. We’ve done this before, always with the same disastrous results he fears in this post. The fact that many or most Israelis support the exchange does not make it the correct thing to do. The ‘people’ can be wrong.

    Yaakov’s suggestion that we send the more dangerous terrorists further away is silly, naive, and ignores history. That has been done previously, and they came back to haunt and kill us.

    As for Av’s question, Hamas have themselves already said that this just proves the effectiveness of their kidnapping strategy and makes it a more likely future prospect.

    The halacha in this matter takes a very realistic view. Most of the comments here are overly theoretical and analytical. We have not only the justified cynicism of the halacha; we have the real results of previous such dealings. Is it really Einstein who said that insanity is repeating the same actions expecting a different result? This whole thing is insane.

    Israel had the right perspective as a society before the 80s. No dealings with terrorists, for any reason. Somewhere along the way we have lost our national will. We allowed Arafat and his cronies to leave Beirut safely. We implemented the murderous (to Israeli victims) Oslo accords.

    I was a young IDF reserve soldier when the first exchange with terrorists was made in the mid 80s. We were spending a lot of time over the borders back then, and we well knew the risks included death or capture. We all feared capture more. But when that deal was announced, I and many of my friends instructed our families that under no circumstances were they to agitate for such a thing if we were to be taken prisoner. All such deals have ended in further and greater death and destruction; and there is no way around this.

    I am glad for the Schalits. Not so much for the Jewish people, or the rest of civil society. Rav Pruzansky is right to admonish us to try and see this dispassionately and in a straightforward manner.

  11. Too often, Israelis have been blessed with very short memories. When the terror begins anew, few will link it to this Hamas victory and the re-implantation into Israel of hundreds of hard-core terrorists. Just like no one has recalled the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif that itself was a causative factor in the Shalit tragedy. Consider: had the Israeli not expelled its citizens and surrendered that territory, this fiasco could never have occurred. If Israel still had boots on the ground in Gaza, and intelligence assets willing to assist Israel, then…Hamas could not have come to power, nor, even if they had, could they have hidden an Israeli soldier for five years in that small territory. So, literally, “one sin begets another,” but of course it goes unmentioned because Israelis are not generally self-reflective about mistakes (they prefer to blame outsiders, or change the subject by asking you why you don’t live there), nor is there any personal accountability for disastrous policies that cost lives. To wit: Shimon Peres, architect of Oslo, now President; Ehud Barak, architect of Lebanon retreat in dead of night that abandoned the South Lebaneses Christians to Hezbollah, now Defense Minister. And there are others.
    There is no national pride in having the murderers of Jews equated with an innocent soldier, nor is there any national pride in having those murderers feted, celebrated, honored and rewarded for their crimes. It so obviously just whets the appetite for more.
    Hamas is boasting that Israel has no red lines, and that they have worn down the Israeli spirit. There is a reason why no other country (think US, among others) makes such deals. They are irrational and short-sighted. Israelis in the 1970s and 1980s mocked the Europeans who routinely negotiated with terrorists and freed convicted ones. Fecklessness is not limited to Europe. The psychological and political boost to Hamas is itself devastating to Israel, as pressure on Israel will now increase to deal with this newly responsible and shrewd negotiators. Hamas’ international isolation will end.
    But one major problem is that when the true price is paid, none of the politicians will suffer as a result, nor will the devastation be attributed to this folly by any of the supporters of this exchange. The celebrations and the grief cancel each other out.

    PS: And if this exchange is such a great idea, why is the IDF now instructing its soldiers not to be taken alive, and will even attack in order to kill that soldier and his kidnappers, if necessary ? But, of course, even if that soldier is kidnapped and killed, Israel would still ransom the body for hundreds of terrorists. And the beat goes on…

  12. Dave Schwartz


    You articulate well your reasons for opposing this deal. Could you please share with us how you would have free’d Gilad Shalit if you were Prime Minister.

    Thanks very much.

    • I am not certain there was a way to free him, like there was not a way to free Ron Arad, Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman and Zachary Baumol, and like the dozen American POWs today. (But see below.) One hopes there would be a rescue attempt after intelligence reveals the location, but the Gush Katif expulsion and retreat was a shot in the Israeli foot that deprived it of all its intelligence assets in Gaza. I am not of the opinion that the PM’s responsibility is to free every or any captive; the PM’s responsibility is to protect the nation. The life of any one individual is obviously not as valuable as the well being and security of the nation, for if it were, no person would ever be ordered into battle to risk their life. At the slightest sign of any danger to any person’s life, surrender would be in order so that individual lives are saved. So, your question is a good one, but not one properly directed either at me or even the prime minister.

      Think of it this way: should (would?) an American President empty out Guantanamo in an exchange for American POWs ? And why not ? One might argue that there is a greater obligation to an all-volunteer army than to a conscripted one, and yet, the foolishness of negotiating with and rewarding terrorists – a policy that Israel embraced until the 1980s – is clear to any American. (Don’t even bother with Iran-Contra.) It is inconceivable that the US would free hardened terrorists for its own captives.

      And, as some inevitably ask, if I was the father ? So, here’s the answer: if my child is hospitalized, I would want the hospital to divert all its resources – doctors, nurses, etc. – to his healing, regardless of the needs of other patients. If my child is struggling in school, I would want the teacher to spend all his/her time with my child, and ignore the needs of the rest of the class. Fortunately, and usually in those circumstances, mature thinkers step in and remind everyone that life does not operate that way.

      That being said, I would have cut off the electricity, power, food, water, etc. to Gaza years ago to induce his release – and then stood firm when the “world” protested this outrage. I would have ensured that their entire society suffered inordinately so that a young Jewish soldier can return safely to his home, and that internal pressure forced Hamas to capitulate. I would seal off Gaza so no one comes to Israel for medical care or employment. Yes, I would have engaged in such collective punishment to free Gilad Shalit. Alas, it was not done (not “moral”), and now Israeli society will be the recipients of collective punishment. Sadly, for what is ahead, here’s today’s Jerusalem Post:

      Freed would-be suicide bomber tells kids to be like her
      By REUTERS
      10/19/2011 17:05

      Gaza woman defies warnings not to return to terrorism, says “we will pursue our struggle and Netanyahu knows that.”
      GAZA – A would-be Palestinian suicide bomber freed by Israel in the prisoner swap for soldier Gilad Schalit told cheering schoolchildren in the Gaza Strip the day after her release on Wednesday she hoped they would follow her example.

      “I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs,” Wafa al-Biss told dozens of children who came to her home in the northern Gaza Strip.

      Biss was traveling to Beersheba’s Soroka hospital for medical treatment in 2005 when Israeli soldiers at the Erez border crossing noticed she was walking strangely. They found 10 kilograms (22 lbs) of explosives had been sewn into her underwear.
      A member of al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, Biss was sentenced to a 12-year term for planning to blow herself up.

      After she spoke, the children cheered and waved Palestinian flags and chanted: “We will give souls and blood to redeem the prisoners. We will give souls and blood for you, Palestine.”

      Biss said she had planned to blow herself up at the checkpoint but her detonator malfunctioned.

      “Unfortunately, the button did not work at the last minute before I was to be martyred,” Biss told Reuters.

      She said she had not yet adjusted to her freedom and arose early on Wednesday for prison roll call.

      “This morning I woke up in my room, wore my scarf and stood up awaiting the line-up time before I realized I was home and not in jail,” she said.

      Once she settles back to her routine, Biss said she plans to complete university psychology studies but added that she remained defiant in the face of Israeli warnings to act against those who return to militancy.

      “We will pursue our struggle and (Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu) knows that. Arrests will not deter us from our strong battles and confrontation in the face of Zionist arrogance in the land of Palestine,” she said.

      Biss was one of 477 Palestinians freed Tuesday in the first stage of an exchange with Hamas that ended Schalit’s five years of captivity. Another 550 Palestinians will be freed in the second stage later this year.

      And, nor is it the PM’s responsibility to get each individual a home, a car, a job, etc. It is called prioritizing the needs of the many over th eneeds of the few. Will the future victims of terror be treated with such consideration by the government, the media and the public ? I doubt it – short memories and a need to forget.

  13. Addendum:

    The release of terrorists is “a mistake the Israeli government repeats time and time again.”

    “From the beginning, I saw the Jibril deal (1985) a fatal blow to Israel’s efforts to form an international front against terrorism. How can Israel preach to the United States and the West they must adopt a policy of non-surrender to terror, when Israel surrendered herself so shamefully?

    “I was convinced the release of a thousand terrorists would necessarily lead to a terrible escalation of violence, because these terrorists will be accepted as heroes, as an example to be imitated by young Palestinians. … [that violence] was not long in coming.

    “It is clear now that the release of a thousand terrorists was one of the factors that provided a pool of fermenting violence and leaders ignited the fire of the intifada,”

    – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his 1995 book “A Place in the Sun.”


  14. A Mother’s Pain
    by Sherri Mandell
    The price of allowing murderers to go free.

    Why is it that terror victims are seemingly the only ones against the prisoner exchange? While other Israelis are rejoicing, we are in despair.

    Arnold and Frimet Roth circulated a petition against the release of Ahlam Tamimi, an accomplice in their daughter Malki’s murder at the Sbarro pizza shop.

    Tamimi says she is happy that many children were killed in the attack. Meir Schijveschuurder, whose family was massacred in the same attack, filed a petition with the high court and says he is going to leave Israel because of his feelings of betrayal. The parents of Yasmin Karisi feel that the state is dancing in their blood because Khalil Muhammad Abu Ulbah, who murdered their daughter and seven others by running them down with a bus at the Azor junction in 2001, is also on the list to be released. Twenty-six others were wounded in that attack.

    Why are so many of us against the exchange that allows murderers and their accomplices to go free? Because we know the suffering that these murderers leave in their wake.

    Yes, I want Gilad Schalit released. But not at any price. Not at the price we have experienced.

    My son Koby Mandell and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered by terrorists 10 years ago when they were 13 and 14 years old. They had been hiking in the wadi near our home when they were set upon by a Palestinian mob and stoned to death. It was a brutal, vicious murder.

    We now run the Koby Mandell Foundation for terror victims’ families. We direct Camp Koby, a 10-day therapeutic sleep away camp for 400 children who have lost loved ones, mostly to terror. We also run mothers’ healing retreats and support groups.

    Most people don’t understand the continuing devastation of grief: fathers who die of heart attacks, mothers who get sick with cancer, children who leave school, families whose only child was murdered. We see depression, suicide, symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. You wouldn’t believe how many victims’ families are still on sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication. We see the pain that doesn’t diminish with time. We literally see people die of grief.

    Bereaved families face acute psychological isolation.

    Nobody understands us, they often complain.

    They mean that nobody understands the duration or the severity of their pain and longing. In the aftermath of a prisoner exchange, this isolation will only be exacerbated.

    So will the feeling that our children’s deaths don’t matter.

    When people tell me that my son Koby died for nothing, I always used to say: No, it is our job to make his death mean something.

    But now I am not sure. It seems that the government is conspiring to ensure that our loved ones’ deaths were for nothing.

    Cheapening our loved ones’ deaths only enhances the pain. If Israel is willing to free our loved ones’ murderers, then the rest of the world can look on and assume that the terrorists are really freedom fighters or militants. If Palestinians were murdering Jews in cold blood without justification, surely the Israeli government wouldn’t release them.

    No sane government would.

    When we were sitting shiva for Koby, a general in the army told us: “We will bring the killers to justice.” I believed him. I took his words to heart. Today I am thankful my son’s killers have not been found. So are my children. Of course, I don’t want the terrorists to kill again. But if they were to be released in this prisoner exchange, I don’t think I could bear it.

    We don’t want other families to be put in our situation.

    We don’t want terrorists to be free when our loved ones are six feet underground. Ten years after my son was beaten to death, the pain often feels like a prison. In many ways, I am not free.

    We don’t want other terrorists to be emboldened because they know that even if they murder, they may not have to stay in prison. President Shimon Peres says he will pardon but he will not forgive. Terrorist victims’ families will not pardon or forgive the government for this release.

    We have been betrayed. To pardon terrorists mocks our love and our pain.

    Furthermore, terrorism aims to strike fear in an entire society, to bring a whole populace to its knees. During the intifada, the terrorists did not succeed in defeating Israeli society. But to release prisoners now signals to Hamas that their strategy of terror was correct, effective.

    They will celebrate wholeheartedly because they have won.

    And as a result of prisoner exchanges, the Israeli justice system can only be seen as a joke, a mockery, even a travesty of justice.

    It provides no deterrent and no retribution. It’s as if our government says to the killers: Come hurt us again. We’ll be happy to release you one day. We’ll let you go when you demand it.

    I want Gilad Schalit home.

    We need to protect our own soldiers. But not with a wholesale prisoner exchange. I wish that I could rejoice with the Schalit family. But I can’t. The price is too high.

  15. Elite IDF Unit Officer: Shalit Deal is Frustrating for Us
    By Elad Benari
    Posted on 10/24/11 | News Source Arutz Sheva | Comments (0)

    Elite IDF Officer: Our unit’s members endangered themselves to capture terrorists who were later released. What’s the point?
    An officer in an elite IDF unit told Arutz Sheva on Sunday that he and other members of his unit are upset over deal to release Gilad Shalit.

    Last week, Israel released 477 terrorists in exchange for Shalit, who was held hostage for more than five years by the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza. Another 550 terrorists will soon be released in the second phase of the deal.

    “We feel frustrated,” the soldier, who can only be identified as D for security reasons, told Arutz Sheva. “We endangered ourselves almost every night to catch these terrorists and they are being let go.”

    D’s unit operates in Judea and Samaria and is tasked with monitoring and capturing wanted terrorists. The vast majority of the unit’s work is not publicized, though recently that same unit apprehended a major terrorist cell, an act which resulted in the media publicizing some of the unit’s methods of operation.

    D said that the members of his unit are now reviewing the names of the terrorists released, murderers whom they captured, and remembering the deadly attacks those terrorists carried out.

    He added that the soldiers also recall the risks they took to trap these terrorists, some of whom were caught in their homes in the middle of the night and others who were caught following long battles with them.

    “It may not be so nice to say it, but we are asking what the point was in taking all those risks?” he said. “These aren’t some amateur Molotov cocktail throwers or stone throwers. These are real killers. We know them and their release is frustrating.”

    He also referred to some claims being made that the Shalit deal proves the heavy price that Israel is willing to pay for its soldiers and the fact that it stands behind its soldiers.

    “That’s nonsense,” D said, adding: “They shouldn’t release terrorists for me.” He added that his friends in the unit think the same way and said he believes soldiers in other units feel this way as well.

    “Everyone here is saying that if we are captured, Israel shouldn’t release terrorists to get us back,” he said. “Everybody thinks that.”

    D’s words are strengthened by those of a grassroots group called “My Israel” which is calling on soldiers to sign a petition saying they do not want to participate in future terrorist swaps that would free murderers with “blood on their hands”.

    The petition, which can be found on the group’s website, urges the government not to ever agree to a prisoner swap that frees terrorists who shed Israeli blood.

    Signatories on the petition agree not to be part of such a swap if they are ever, G-d forbid, captured or kidnapped in future

    Read More: Arutz Sheva

  16. http://www.aish.com/jw/me/This_Was_No_Prisoner_Exchange.html

    This Was No Prisoner Exchange
    by Melanie Phillips
    No decent person can fail to be moved by the return of Gilad Shalit. Yet this deal ultimately represents a triumph of heart over head.

    I have been watching on TV the drama unfold in Israel and Gaza as the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released after five years in Hamas captivity in exchange for the release from Israeli prisons of more than 1000 Arab terrorists.

    The first pictures of him in a brief interview on Egyptian TV were unsettling, even if not surprising: painfully thin, pale and with deeply sunken eyes, he looked very different from the smiling 19 year-old that became the iconic image of the campaign to secure his release.

    Relief that he appears to be physically unharmed – he says he was treated well – must be tempered by concern for the psychological damage he may have suffered.

    One can only hope (doubtless fruitlessly) that he will now be shielded from intrusive media attention to afford him the privacy he undoubtedly needs in which to start the long process of adjustment and recovery.

    Shalit told his Egyptian TV interviewer that he hoped his release would further the peace efforts and help end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

    What a burden this poor boy now carries from this deal with the devil that has been done to secure his release. But it will not bring about peace; indeed, one might even say that it marks the collapse of the ‘peace process’ and makes war even more likely.

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    For by making this deal with Hamas, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has effectively buried Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, already weakened by the failure of his UN ‘Palestine statehood’ stunt.

    For Israel, that stunt marked the end of the illusion that Abbas was a genuine partner in any peace process. Now Hamas has been strengthened by this deal.

    That is, to put it mildly, unfortunate; but now at least the illusion of a moderate Palestinian leadership is over. Israel has brought its hostage home; and now, with Hamas poised to relocate to an Egypt which is itself on the brink of descending into Islamic radicalism, Israel faces squarely the true face of genocidal Arab rejectionism.

    Nothing illustrates this better than the obscene joy which has erupted in both Gaza and the West Bank, where jubilant Arabs are celebrating their released killers as returning heroes.

    This was how the so-called ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas addressed the murderers of Jewish innocents at a mass welcoming ceremony for the released prisoners:

    ‘Your sacrifice and hard work were not in vain… We thank God for your return and your safety…You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland.’

    Hamas is also presenting as heroes to cheering Gazan crowds the terrorists in charge of guarding Shalit during his time in captivity:

    ‘Shalit’s captors will take the stage alongside the freed prisoners during the Gaza celebrations to be held upon their return to the Strip.

    The released prisoners will be first received by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, government ministers, Legislative Council members and other figures. Next, the detainees would meet with relatives.

    One of the freed prisoners is Muhammad Zufi, who assisted Shalit’s abductors in videotaping the abduction operation.’

    According to Israeli opinion polls, the deal has overwhelming Israeli public support.

    But away from the mainstream media which has been gloating over its role in creating the public pressure for such a deal to be done, an anguished debate has nevertheless been under way for days now about the terrible price Israel has paid for the release of this one soldier and the incalculable consequences of such a deal.

    It is not merely the grossly disproportionate numbers involved, which no other country in the world would even contemplate for one moment. It is the fact that the deal declares in effect that terrorism works.

    It is the fact that trading one innocent life for more than 1000 guilty lives hands a sickening victory to terrorists, making it much more likely that they will kidnap more soldiers to trade for yet more jailed murderers.

    It is the fact that this deal makes it almost inevitable that yet more Israeli families will end up mourning the loss of loved ones who will be murdered as a result by Palestinian terrorism.

    It is the fact that it underscores the shattering weakness of the Israel Defence Force in having failed to rescue Shalit during the five years he was held.

    What has happened, many Israelis are asking themselves, to the country that produced the daring and heroic raiders of Entebbe who managed to defy all odds in rescuing Israeli hostages from a hijacked plane?

    And at a deeper level still, it is the fact that an obscene moral equivalence has been established by this deal between the innocent and the guilty.

    This equivalence is being played out in the coverage which describes the deal as a ‘prisoner swap’ or ‘prisoner exchange’ – more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails for one Israeli prisoner held by Hamas.

    But Shalit was a hostage, kidnapped in an act of illegal aggression by an organization whose aim is the destruction of Israel and which allowed him not one visit by the Red Cross during his five year incarceration.

    By contrast, the released Palestinians have not just been tried and punished according to due process of law, but include among their number not just those who have committed some of the worst terrorist atrocities in Israel’s history – such as the blowing up of Sbarro’s pizza restaurant in Jerusalem, where 16 people were murdered including five members of the Schijveschuurder family – but even worse, some of the masterminds behind such atrocities.

    Some families who have lost loved ones in these terror attacks have welcomed the deal; they say they did not want the Shalit family to suffer as they themselves have suffered. But for other families bereaved by these murders, the anguish is unbearable.

    Watching the murderers of their loved ones walk free to a rapturous reception in Gaza and the West Bank and listening to their gloating satisfaction at having taken the lives of Israeli innocents, these families feel as if they have been brutally abandoned by a society for which justice cannot be allowed to get in the way of emotion.

    For these suffering relatives, it is almost as if today they are being forced to endure yet another bereavement.

    But then, the equivalence being drawn in the coverage of this deal reflects in turn the morally bankrupt ‘tit-for-tat’ analysis of the Arab war against Israel employed by so many in Britain and the west.

    For whenever Israel points out that any military action against the Palestinians is only in response to Palestinian attacks, many in Britain claim that those Palestinian attacks were only in response to previous Israeli attacks. Thus Israel is always painted as the ultimate aggressor.

    This is entirely false. From the moment Israel was re-established in 1948, it has only ever launched military operations against the Arabs in response to actual or imminent Arab attacks. Yet many in Britain refuse to acknowledge the difference between murderous aggression and the defense against it.

    They refuse to acknowledge that Hamas sets out to murder as many young Israelis as possible, whereas Israel goes to great lengths (not always successfully) to avoid civilian casualties.

    They refuse to acknowledge that the aim of every single military operation by Israel in Gaza is to defend and protect itself against attack by a fanatically Jew-hating enemy pledged not only to destroy Israel but to wipe out every single Jew on earth.

    The refusal to acknowledge this crucial moral difference has meant that many in Britain and the west view Israel as the aggressor in the conflict, and the victimization of Israelis is largely glossed over.

    So just as the anguish of Israeli terror victims’ families over the Shalit deal has been minimized by the media coverage – particularly in Israel itself, which reflects the malign nature of its own left-wing media class — so the anguish of Israel itself as a state under permanent existential siege is routinely ignored, and Israel instead grotesquely portrayed as the aggressor in the region.

    What too many in Britain and west still don’t understand is that what Israel is up against is what Britain and the west are now up against – not a violent campaign by people fighting for a state of their own but an Islamist cult of death, in which the murder of innocents is a cause for exultation and mass killers are lionized as heroes and religious martyrs, not just by Hamas but by the Fatah leadership in the West Bank too.

    The five-year Shalit drama and its disturbing resolution have therefore come to symbolize the toxic cocktail of ignorance, misunderstanding, naivety, malice, cowardice, cynicism, incompetence and moral muddle by the so-called civilized world – including Israel itself – that has actually served to perpetuate the Middle East impasse.

    No decent person can fail to be moved by the return of Gilad Shalit to Israel. Few eyes will have been dry at his reunion with his family. Yet it has to be said that ultimately, this deal represents a triumph of heart over head and sentimentality over realism.

    The Shalit family did what many of us hope we would have done in similar circumstances – fought a tenacious and brilliant campaign to sustain public pressure on the government to secure their son’s release.

    It was, however, emotional blackmail – and the Israel government should have resisted it. Shalit came to be regarded as every Israeli’s son.

    Tragically, however, in the years to come Israel may come to realize that it paid for the life of Gilad Shalit with the blood of further murdered Israelis and the lifelong torment of their families.

    Yet no-one should underestimate the extreme difficulty of the decision Netanyahu was forced to take in this case.

    As so often in Israel, he was between a rock and a very hard place. However he resolved the Shalit dilemma, it would have been a terrible decision.

    For Jews, the diabolical nature of this kind of choice – weighing up the sacrifice of one of your own against the sacrifice of others of your own– has a terrible historical resonance.

    For during the Holocaust, a particularly sadistic torment inflicted by the Nazis upon their Jewish victims was to force them to choose which of their children or loved ones to sacrifice in order to save others from gas or bullet.

    The Holocaust happened because the world looked the other way until it was too late. It abandoned the Jews to meet their fate and be forced to make these infernal choices alone. And now the world is abandoning Israel to meet its fate and be forced to make these infernal choices alone.

    Sure, America helps arm Israel in order that it may defend itself against otherwise insuperable odds. But at the same time, the west forces Israel to remain trapped in a permanent war that the west ensures Israel cannot win.

    For Israel’s fate is to live cheek by jowl with people pledged to destroy it. Armed to the teeth, Israel will however never unleash its full military power against those people because it is constrained by Jewish ethics.

    The result is that it deals more scrupulously and humanely with its mortal enemies – and takes more punishment as a result – than any other nation on earth.

    The Arabs know this and take full advantage of it, launching attacks in order to present Israel with the choice between abandoning its own victims – as has effectively largely happened in the rocket-bombarded south of Israel – and taking military action, which will inevitably result in some civilian casualties and thus not only earn the opprobrium of the double-standard applying world but, more lethally, destroy Israel’s own belief in itself.

    To their eternal shame, Britain and the west have allowed themselves to be manipulated by this cynical strategy in the cause of genocide.

    These false friends leap to defame, demonize and delegitimize Israel by denouncing its military actions as illegal, aggressive or disproportionate – thus in effect trying to paralyze its attempts to defend itself against attack, while simultaneously forcing it to surrender to its enemies through the appeasement process.

    The outcome is that Israel is now trapped between Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea – and yet is blamed for preventing peace by building apartments in the suburbs of Jerusalem.

    The infernal choice it was forced to make over Gilad Shalit was thus but the latest and most dramatic example of how the west has abandoned Israel to swing in the wind.

    This article originally appeared in Melanie Phillips’ blog at dailymail.co.uk