Shalits must fight for Gilad, but Netanyahu must resist

By Uri Dromi, July 1, 2010
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Thousands of Israelis have joined Aviva and Noam Shalit in a march meant to pressure the Israeli government into concluding a prisoner swap deal, and bring their son Gilad back home, after four years in captivity.

Isn't the government interested in freeing Gilad Shalit? Of course it is and, through the good services of the German mediator, it came as close as possible to striking a deal with Hamas last year. However, the government refused to yield to Hamas's demand to release some of the worst terrorists, responsible for the killing of hundreds of innocent Israelis.

When the marchers entered the city of Akko on Tuesday, the city's Chief Rabbi Yosef Yashar addressed them.

"We call on the prime minister to show responsibility and heed the nation's call," he said. "Gilad's life is more valuable than all of the despicable Hamas prisoners, including those with blood on their hands."

I don't disagree with the rabbi. The prime minister should indeed show responsibility. Yet showing responsibility is also considering whether giving in to terrorist extortion now will not lead us to worse situations in the future.

The rabbi called upon Mr Netanyahu to "heed to the nation's call", and I agree again. This is precisely the essence of democracy. But is this truly the nation's call? And is this the only call the nation has on this controversial issue? What about the call of the undecided, like myself? And that of those who oppose, but out of respect for the Shalit family, keep their voices down?

Finally, I also find myself subscribing to the last statement of the rabbi, that "Gilad's life is more valuable than all of the despicable Hamas prisoners, including those with blood on their hands". Who would argue with that? However, according to all the security experts, most of the hardcore terrorists, once released, will undoubtedly return to their deadly business.

This is not just a hypothesis: this is exactly what happened when more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were released in 1985 in the Jibril deal. In two years they set the West Bank aflame in the first intifada.

So it is not Gilad's life against those despicable villains; it is his life against the lives of many Israelis who will certainly die at the hands of those terrorists, once they are released.

This is a terrible dilemma, with no clear-cut answers. It was Geula Cohen, who was a fighter in the pre-state, anti-British underground Lehi (the Stern Gang), who summed it up.

"If my son Tzachi [Member of Knesset Tzachi Hanegbi] were taken POW," she said in one of the controversies over prisoner exchanges, "I would have fought like a lioness that the government should pay any price for his release.''

Then, with the same breath, she added: "And at the same time, I would have expected the government to firmly reject my demands."

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in
Jerusalem

    Last updated: 2:24pm, August 13 2010

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