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July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
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Releasing Terrorists: Some Underlying Issues


Once again an Israeli prime minister has released large numbers of Palestinian terrorists in exchange for a single Jew. And yet again some of the key terrorists set free have Israeli blood on their hands. Lots of blood.
To be sure, Benjamin Netanyahu’s primary intent was to secure the safe release of kidnapped IDF Sergeant Gilad Shalit. This goal was, of course, solidly commendable and utterly uncontroversial. Everyone wanted Gilad home. But at what cost?
The documented evidence concerning similar terrorist releases is ominous. In the past, such “trades” sometimes brought Israel more terrorism, and hence more terrorist murders of Israeli civilians. This should hardly come as a surprise. What is difficult to understand is this: Why has there been no learning from the unambiguous lessons of the past? What, exactly, was Netanyahu thinking?
Here is a plausible response. Mirroring the irremediable mistakes of his several predecessors, this prime minister’s justification was based, in large part, upon a plainly erroneous assumption. For whatever reason, Netanyahu is still willing to gamble that the Palestinian Authority and even Hamas will ultimately agree to some sort of durable peace with Israel. So, with nothing more in hand than this wholly unsupportable conviction, he is now willing to gamble with the lives of Israelis who might soon become the newest victims of his diplomatic largesse.
Oddly, unhidden and undisguised, the “moderate” Fatah/PA now offers young Arab viewers substantially less “peaceful” television programming. Today, in distinctly contrapuntal opposition to Netanyahu’s generosity of spirit, Palestinian children can observe endless hours of celebration of Palestinian “martyrdom.” Here, persistently defamatory images of Jews (not “Israelis”) are benignly presented to eager viewers by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck characters.
Netanyahu has the best of intentions. He is an honorable man. Still, despite his plainly noble objectives, there remains a flat-out indecency to the recent exchange. Whatever obvious and deserved happiness it has produced for Gilad Shalit and his family, this grievously asymmetrical deal will always exude an irrepressible scent of blood and impurity.
How, we must inquire, could any Israeli leader reasonably defend the release of unrepentant and still-dedicated Palestinian terrorists? How could any thoughtful Jewish leader ever countenance such a palpable and unreciprocated surrender?
Mr. Prime Minister, the ongoing Palestinian war against Israel has never been about peace or justice or “confidence building.” It has always been entirely about Jewish annihilation. For some reason that is still unfathomable, you and many others don’t understand the only acceptable “confidence-building” measure that Israel could ever extend to the Palestinians would be an Israeli pledge to disappear.
A genuinely significant irony has escaped Netanyahu, as it has many other well-meaning Israeli scholars, jurists and politicians. Soon, following this latest round of terrorist prisoner surrenders, Israel will appear to all of its enemies (Hamas, Fatah, it makes no difference) as mortally weak. Predictably, these relentless Palestinian foes, even while embroiled in their own endless internecine strife, will cheerfully conclude that Israel has finally begun to fawn upon its own “inevitable” doom.
The irony worsens. Sensing Israel’s newest prisoner surrenders as expressions of a divine will, Israel’s Palestinian enemies will continue to oblige the Jewish state’s presumed inclination to die in increments. They will, therefore, “allow” Israel to disappear slowly: first, by demanding more terrorist releases (why not?); second, by expanding preparations for both unconventional terrorism and conventional war. Practically, both forms of such a lethal expansion would assuredly be made more plausible by a planned declaration of Palestinian statehood, through the always kind and keenly impartial offices of the United Nations.
Incontestably, a carefully orchestrated Palestinian/Islamist jihad is already being initiated in conspicuously measured phases. There are few real secrets here. Ultimately, when the IDF is staring helplessly and absurdly at its own irreversible disintegration, the self-weakening Jewish state will merge seamlessly into “Palestine.”
Despair, we learn from the Danish philosopher Sören Kierkegaard, “is the sickness unto death.” Now that Netanyahu has had his way with this latest terrorist exchange, it will be Israel’s likely fate to despair for a long while. If the PA and Hamas interpret the prime minister’s persistent
capitulations as an obvious fulfillment of Islamic religious promise, which is altogether probable, the paradoxical torment of Israel’s despair may be that it will not be able to die.
To be sick in such a uniquely hideous fashion, to be sick unto death, and not to be able to die, could be, for Israel, the cruelest blow of all.
The despairing state, like the despairing individual, cannot die. For Israel, the agonizing hopelessness of an unavailable death would entail literally “dying the death.” This sentence of living to experience death, before becoming insensate, would be infinitely worse than being permitted to expire normally.
To die, and yet not to die, to physiologically and psychologically “die the death,” would be, for Israel, unequivocally, a fate worse than death.
Despair, Mr. Prime Minister, a dreadfully immobilizing pathology for both individuals and nations, is the Jewish state’s approaching sickness unto death.
This sickness, hastened by recent and irrational terrorist releases, is potentially even more dangerous to Israel than are Palestinian rockets or enemy armies. Although a dramatic synergy already exists between enemy military might and Israel’s reappearing sickness of surrender, only the latter will breed a virulent and insurmountable sickness unto death.
Not long ago, the “moderate” Palestinian Authority’s appointed clergy, preaching on the Temple Mount, shrieked the following sermon: “Palestinians, spearhead Allah’s war against the Jews. The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews…. All agreements with Israel are provisional.”
Is there anything ambiguous or unclear here about Israel’s recalcitrant Palestinian foes? I don’t think so.

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