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The remaining two Israeli soldiers had the misfortune of falling into the hands of Ahmed Jibril. He already held a third soldier named Hezi Shai who had been captured after fighting with great valor in an unrelated battle. Jibril knew from his previous experience that Israel would pay dearly to win the release of three soldiers so he held out for more.
Miriam Groop, the mother of one of the soldiers held by Jibril, let it be known that she would “drive the government crazy” until they brought her son home. She was as good as her word, berating officials, leading protests and fighting as only a mother could. In the end, the government not only gave in, it opened the floodgates.
For the freedom of just three soldiers, Ahmed Jibril received 1,150 convicted terroristsincluding some 400 murderers, many of whom were among the most notorious in Israeli history. One of those freed was Kozo Akimoto, who together with two others carried out the 1972 Lod Airport massacre in which 26 people were killed. The victims in that attack included Aharon Katzir, one of Israel’s most prominent scientists and brother of Israeli President Ephraim Katzir.
Professor Merari later asked one of the negotiators how they could have agreed to such an irresponsible exchange. The negotiator was Shmuel Tamir, one of the toughest and most famous lawyers in Israeli history. He responded angrily, “Let’s see what you would have done with Miriam Groop fainting on the table in front of you.”
Merari responded that this was why he’d always insisted that parents not be permitted to meet with negotiators or politicians. Yitzhak Rabin later admitted in characteristic candor that he knew it was wrong to do the deal but he couldn’t withstand the pressure of the mothers.
Even after factoring for a mother’s agony the policy is not easy to understand, particularly for a nation that has built its entire strategy on deterrence. There is certainly nothing in Jewish tradition to support it.
The Gemara states in Gittin [45A] that “it is forbidden to redeem hostages for more than their value because of the common good.” After Rabbi Meir from Rottenberg was kidnapped by a medieval king, he commanded the local Jewish community not to pay any ransom on his behalf. Instead, he spent the last seven years of his life in captivity, dying in prison in 1293.
Professor Merari summed it up as well as anyone in a newspaper interview. “The moral obligation of the government,” he said, “is to act so that the fewest possible number of Israelis get attacked. The defense minister is charged with protecting the entire country, not any particular family. If you free 500 terrorists, you do so knowing that you are sentencing dozens of Israelis to death.”
His was a voice in the wilderness. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert once tried to explain Israel’s policy by noting that “the Jewish people have experienced things that other nations have not.” As a speech, it made for good political theater. As a policy statement it rated as little more than cheap demagoguery.
The Israelis of an earlier generation that had actually experienced the Holocaust never caved in to similar pressure. Ben-Gurion, Dayan and Eshkol had plenty of opportunities to engage in similar arrangements, but they never did. They only traded soldiers for soldiers and they always kept the price within reason.
* * * * *
That Israel invariably pays a terrible price in blood when it lets terrorists go is a fact acknowledged by all. SHABAK, the Israeli equivalent of the FBI, performed a study and found that fully two thirds of those freed go right back to terrorism. Some 6,912 terrorists were freed between the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993 and the outbreak of the al-Aksa Intifada in September 2000 – mostly as good will gestures to the Palestinian Authority, though some had served out their term. A victims group called Almagor released a study that found that in the first five years of the al-Aksa Intifada the freed terrorists killed at least 177 Israelis.
In January 2004, Israel turned 435 terrorists over to Hizbullah to win the freedom of a kidnapped drug dealer named Elchanan Tenenbaum. So far, those freed terrorists have killed 27 Israelis.
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Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.
I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”
His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.
At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel
“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”
Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning
Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.
He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.
Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.
Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.
Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed
Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.
What I cannot concede is the honesty of a reporter who cites a study in support of a proposition without telling his readers that the study actually concluded the opposite.
In March 1978, at the conclusion of the Litani Operation in South Lebanon, five Israeli soldiers and a civilian jumped into a car and decided to go on an outing. The group took to the road in defiance of army regulations and somehow got waived through a forward checkpoint. Moments later they found themselves surrounded by heavily armed Palestinians. Four of the five soldiers were killed instantly, while the civilian miraculously made it back to Israeli lines the next day.
For Jewish-Americans, the December date that lives in infamy is December 17. For on that day in 1862, Major-General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order 11.
“It’s been a long time since American Jewry has been [so] shaken,” declared the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in its July 9 Magazine cover story. Judging from the volume of chatter thundering across the upper firmament of the media heavens, this is no exaggeration.
A week from Friday will mark the third anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Second Lebanon War. And while the fortunes of war run to infinite varieties of the unexpected, there is one thing of which we can all be certain. Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will appear, if he hasn’t already by the time this article is published, on a video screen from the secret bunker he is afraid to leave, and in between chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” he and his supporters will again proclaim glorious victory over the infidel Jews.
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