During the recent Pesach holiday I had the opportunity to reflect on the freedoms we take for granted each day.
In this country we are afforded a wide array of freedoms previously denied our ancestors, neighbors, and colleagues. While we may take it for granted, most of these freedoms were obtained through such measures as military action, widespread protest, substantial political maneuvering, legal action, and judicial intervention.
When a woman is denied a Get following the disintegration of her marriage, she is denied her freedom. She is denied the freedom to separate herself permanently from a spouse to whom she no longer wishes to be married. She is denied the freedom to move on in her life and forge a new relationship. She is denied the freedom to have (more) children.
Too often, unfortunately, woman are also asked to forgo their parental and economic rights as well in exchange for their freedom. I would like to pose a question that may be viewed as controversial: Should a woman, and her supporters, negotiate with a recalcitrant spouse in order to gain her freedom? In essence, should we negotiate with a terrorist?
Terrorists make demands because they believe the demands will be met. When those demands are met or negotiated over, the tactic proves effective. When people or governments negotiate with terrorists, at least two important consequences invariably follow. There is an immediate relinquishing of what was demanded and there is a future fallout that can almost always be directly connected to the initial exchange. (For example, future terrorist activity on the part of prisoners freed in a negotiation).
To simplify the rationale for terrorism for the purpose of this article, let us assume that terrorists act in pursuit of a specific quid pro quo or to attain an overall sense of power and acquisition. (All too often, men who withhold a Get do so simply to gain and maintain power and control over their spouse.) It would follow, then, that if a terrorist understood that no matter what the demand and no matter how dire the situation, there would be no negotiation, the terrorist would not continue to incite terror.
How is such a goal achieved? Through zero tolerance. By not negotiating with terrorists under any circumstances.
Get refusal exists because we allow it to exist. Without looking to change halacha, we certainly have the power to effectuate change through a communal climate shift. If public pressure were such that recalcitrance in granting a Get would – without exception – be abhorred rather than tolerated, there would be no place for Get refusal in our communities.
When the Get of even one terror victim is negotiated, the freedom of so many others is sacrificed. In the absence of an unadulterated zero-tolerance policy, there will always be room for acceptance. Negotiating with a man who refuses his wife a Get sends a message to the community that Get refusal is within the norm and that the granting of a Get carries a price.
I do not want to suggest that even one woman serve as the sacrificial lamb in her fight for freedom. However, change will only come if there is a systemic and unwavering movement toward a policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
May we soon experience freedom and redemption for all of Klal Yisrael.