There are few places that better encapsulate the city of Jerusalem than Mahane Yehuda. As the quintessential meeting place for locals of all colors and stripes, the “shuk,” as the site is universally known to locals, brims with activity at most hours of the business day.
But a day after Ziad Awad, one of the 1,027 terrorists released in exchange for IDF hostage Gilad Shalit, was re-arrested on suspicion that he murdered off-duty policeman Baruch Mizrahi in April, many Jerusalemites said they were “disappointed” that Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to take responsibility for the murder. However, most people stopped short of calling for the prime minister to resign because there is “no better alternative’” on the Likud Party horizon to Netanyahu.
“I thought the whole thing was outrageous,” said Peretz Levy (53), a fruit vendor a the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market in the capital. “I was born in Aleppo, Syria, and lived there until 1993. You know what the Arabs would do to people who kidnapped one of their soldiers? They wouldn’t even make it to jail. They’d be hanging from the nearest tree faster tun you could blink an eye.
“And then Netanyahu made it worse. It was bad enough they kidnapped Gilad Shalit, but what did he think was going to happen by releasing a thousand murderers in exchange”, Peretz asked rhetorically.
Levy’s son, Yitzhar (26), added that the “only way to deal with Arab terrorism is to teach them a lesson. They need a good education: We should shut off water and electricity to their cities. They’d figure out pretty quickly not to kidnap anybody.”
However, when asked whether Netanyahu should resign over the affair, both men said the prime minister is the “least worst” option out of the current crop of potential leaders.
“Nu, please. Really? You want people to take responsibility? There is no such thing in this country, and you are seeing it now again. But the problem with Netanyahu is that he’s the only person suitable to lead the country right now. Who would you rather replace him? Meretz?” added the elder Levy.
While Levy’s sentiments seemed to define at least one segment of Israeli society Tuesday, few people were prepared to criticise at least one other individual involved in the Shalit deal: The prisoner’s father, Noam Shalit. Out of the ten or so people interviewed for this article, not one said he could blame the elder Shalit for pushing the government to secure his son’t freedom.
“We can talk about the government all you want, but I can’t pass judgement on Noam Shalit. God forbid we are ever in that situation, I have no idea what I would do. We can’t judge him. God forbid,” said one woman customer who declined to give her name.
Other vendors at the market told The Jewish Press that they would “love” to see the end of Netanyahu’s reign in the Prime Minister’s office, but reiterated that they see no realistic replacement for the Likud chairman to head the Israeli polity at this time. Several stressed deep dislike and distrust of the prime minister and said they were not interested in Netanyahu’s “tough talk” that they said is not backed up by action.
“It’s a tough, tough dilemma,” said Shimon Ozeri, a 41-year-old butcher. “Bibi praised the security and intelligence forces for capturing the terrorist, but he conveniently forgot to mention the fact that Bibi Netanyahu was the person who signed his release [note: President Shimon Peres was the one to sign the pardons that brought freedom to the killers]. Everybody knew it was only a matter of time until something like this happened – how come Shalit’s life was worth more than Baruch Mizarahi’s?
“Instead of praising the Shin Bet, Bibi shouldn’t have set the killers free,” Ozeri said.
Meir Halevi Siegel