The painful history of soldiers who have fallen into the hands of terror organizations did not begin with Gilad Shalit. The list of soldiers kidnapped by terrorists is long and merciless: Ron Arad; Givati fighters Rachamim Alshich and Yosef Fink; the soldiers kidnapped from Har Dov – Omar Suweid, Benny Avraham and Adi Avitan; Nissim Toledano; Ilan Sa’adon; Avi Sassportas; Yaron Chai; Nachshon Wachsman; Aryeh Frankental; Ehud Goldwasser; and Eldad Regev. With the exception of Wachsman, Israel entered into extended negotiations to bring these soldiers home. But not one of them came back alive. Israel is currently employing the same method on behalf of Gilad Shalit.
Until the reprehensible Jibril deal of 1985, the last time that soldiers returned alive from terrorist captivity, Israel’s policy regarding captives had been completely different. The first option was military action. Sometimes that action failed – as was the case with the hostage children of Avivim. Sometimes military action succeeded – as in Entebbe. Generally, no negotiations were conducted. And if there were negotiations, the price paid for the release of prisoners was reasonable – as prescribed by Jewish law. Israel paid for dead bodies with dead bodies.
We can certainly claim that the Jibril deal and the wholesale release of terrorists that ensued was the main catalyst for the first Arab intifada that began a short time afterward. The number of Israeli citizens either directly killed by the newly released murderers or indirectly killed by the murderous momentum created by that release is frighteningly disproportionate to the number of soldiers that came home as a result of the deal.
Paradoxically, in the 24 years that have passed since Israel decided to pay “any price” to save its captive soldiers, it has not brought one soldier home alive. But it has brought about the cruel deaths of almost 2,000 Israeli citizens – men, women and children.
“Any price” means all the terrorists imprisoned in Israel. It does not mean military action because, after all, war is negative. So “any price” is not any price at all. I am not sure that the protesters for Gilad Shalit would be willing to bomb Gaza and deal with all the international condemnations and boycotts that we would have to face until Hamas would release him. Israel isn’t even willing to cut off the electricity in Gaza to bring Shalit home. “Any price” is really a euphemism for any pacifist-type action that will appease the extreme left while affording media-star status to the politicians who pay it.
If we take the facts of the past 24 years into account, we can safely say that whoever demands to free Shalit “at any price” is actually sentencing him to death. I hope that I am wrong, but the real meaning of “any price” is that there is no price. The terrorists understand that time is on their side. The crueler they are, the more they conceal information. And even if they, God forbid, murder their captive and bargain for his body – the price that they will exact from Israel will only rise.
Furthermore, due to the fact that the price Israel is willing to pay for Shalit does not include war and the fact that the continued incarceration of terrorists (in luxury conditions in Israeli prisons) does not bother the enemy very much, the optimal choice as far as they are concerned is to perpetuate the current status quo. After all, the situation whereby Israel is daily humiliated and demeaned will end when Shalit is released. So why release him?
Since the first Lebanon war, the Left has fitted Israel with rose-colored glasses that see war as illegitimate and shameful – no matter what. From then on, preserving the lives of Israel’s soldiers has become the supreme value. It was the Jibril deal that caused the enemy to realize that they don’t have to return captive soldiers alive. From the time that Israel declared that its main goal is to “return its soldiers home alive and well,” no captive has returned.
Something else happened 24 years ago. Israel betrayed and abandoned its agent, Jonathan Pollard, to American captivity. There is an intrinsic symmetry between Israel’s full cooperation with Pollard’s captors and our inability to bring other captives home. Israel is one body, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora. When the betrayal virus attacks one organ, it quickly spreads throughout the body.
Jonathan Pollard saved us from a nuclear Iraq because we are Jews. But we have abandoned him because we prefer to see ourselves as Israelis and to see him as an American traitor. As soon as we turned our backs on our Jewish identity, we lost the ability to remain loyal to our Israeli identity as well.