The price was too high

There it was, on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the story about the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit:

Anger, joy in prisoner swap

By Ethan Bronner, New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM — Just off the bus in Gaza after six years in an Israeli prison, one of hundreds traded to Hamas for an Israeli soldier, Wafa al-Bass declared her next goal: abduct more Israeli soldiers. Others who returned said they could not feel satisfaction until the thousands of remaining Palestinian prisoners were freed.

And Israelis, at first thrilled at the sight of their liberated soldier, were angered by how he looked — frail, wan and underfed.

It was a day when many things went right. Promises were kept, an agreement between sworn enemies was carried out, people wept with joy. The military chief of Hamas, Ahmed al-Jabari, one of the most wanted and despised men in Israel, was seen on television leading the freed Israeli, Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, from Gaza to liberty.

Much more at the link. But the lovely Miss al-Bass’ comment that Hamas needs to now abduct more Israeli soldiers wasn’t an isolated one. The article continued:

Hamas quickly called for its members to capture more Israeli soldiers in order to free the remaining 5,000 or so Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Translation: when Israel agreed to trade 477 Palestinian prisoners for Sgt Shalit, “many serving life terms for attacks that killed Israelis,”, Israel established a price: for one innocent Israeli soldier, kidnapped while patrolling the border, the release of nearly 500 Palestinian terrorists, many guilty of murder, can be reasonably anticipated.

Nor would the Hamas threats be unprecedented. Remember the idiotic arms-for-hostages covert policy of President Ronald Reagan? Somehow, against all reason and common sense, the President and his top advisors were persuaded that there were some moderate Iranian leaders with whom they could deal, to get the dozens of Western hostages kidnapped in the early to mid 1980s released, in exchange for weapons Iran could use in its war against Iraq. Yeah, it worked: several of the hostages were released, but the Iranians’ stooges promptly kidnapped new hostages. After all, the United States had, in effect, set a value on those hostages, and made the kidnapping of Westerners a logical thing to do.

Daniel Gordis wrote:

No one in Israel is calling the agreement signed for Gilad Shalit’s freedom a good deal. On many levels it is terrible. Israel is releasing more than 1000 prisoners, several hundred of them hardened terrorists, for one soldier. For the first time, the Jewish state essentially acquiesced as a terrorist organization dictated the list of prisoners to be released, including several responsible for mass deaths of Israeli citizens, a notion that would once have been unthinkable. Israel may well have given its enemies incentive to kidnap more soldiers. And the terrorists now being released are likely to attack and kill Israelis in the future.

Despite these facts, the deal for Shalit passed a cabinet vote by an overwhelming margin (26 in favor and only three opposed), and the vast majority of Israeli citizens support it. In agreeing to this prisoner swap, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli public chose to return to their roots, to revive a central tenet of old-time Israeli ideology: we do not leave our sons in the field.

The tenet is as old as the country itself. It stems from the fact that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is a citizens’ army, in which conscription is universal and every family knows that it could face the same tragedy as the Shalits. And in the army itself, the “stretcher march,” in which soldiers in training are ordered to carry one of their heaviest comrades on a stretcher up hills and down valleys for miles, is a formative ritual meant to instill one message: there is never a case in which soldiers cannot bring their wounded home

Part of the Soldiers’ Creed in the United States Army is “I will never leave a fallen comrade,” and it makes good sense for an army. But does it make sense as national policy?

Well, it certainly didn’t for President Reagan, did it? His policies got back a few hostages, but encouraged the kidnapping of others. Why should it be any different in 2011 than it was in the 1980s? From every rational aspect, Hamas should attempt to capture other Israeli soldiers and hold them hostage, to try and get more of their own terrorists released. Unless Hamas are stupid — and I don’t believe them to be stupid, not for a single moment — they will use this new weapon that the Israelis have handed them.

So, who were the freed Palestinians?

Somehow, it doesn’t seem as though these were all peace-loving people. Mus’ab al-Hashlimun had been freed in a previous exchange deal, and used his new freedom to organize a suicide bomb attack which killed 16 civilians. Israeli Prime Minister sternly warned that any of the released prisoners who returned to attacking Israel would be “taking his life into his hands,” but such didn’t seem to deter Mr al-Hashlimun before.

Well, Sgt Shalit is now a free man; the public campaign his parents waged to get him released finally worked.

But, what happens if one of the freed terrorists organizes an attack which kills a dozen Israelis at a bust stop or shopping mall? The odds absolutely favor one of them trying again. What if the newly emboldened Palestinian militants plan and try and succeed in another cross-border raid, and capture another Israeli soldier, killing his comrades in the attack. (Two other IDF soldiers were killed in the attack which captured Sgt Shalit.) Won’t such a kidnapping, and the deaths of other soldiers, be a direct result of the policy Prime Minister Netanyahu has just put in place?

Matthew Yglesias wrote:

The contrast between Mahmoud Abbas getting nothing from Israel through international law and advocacy for two states, and Hamas getting a lopsided deal through kidnapping, violence, and unreasonable demands must be palpable.



  1. This is why, in all my hypotheticals regarding kidnappers and my kinfolk or regarding hostage-holders holding a gun to the head of my kin while I hold a gun aimed at them, I have never acquiesced to the terroristic law-breakers. Never negotiate with terrorists. Never. Because the moment you start negotiating with terrorists, you already lost (but the cowardly Liberals think they won).

    My own hypothetical scenario has played out with some blame fool holding a gun to the head of my most prized kin and threatening her life if I don’t cower in fear of his demands. My kin being Christian and the blame fool obviously not, I know where my kin is going should she die and I know where the blame fool is going should he die. And I basically explain straight-up: The blame fool puts a bullet in my kin’s head and the blame fool has nothing left to prevent me from putting a bullet in his head. And I’m not letting the blame fool escape. Period.

    There are values and principles worth dying over. And there are values and principles worth losing family over. And while terroristic murderers have desires worth murdering over, if they die in the process and prevent their desires from happening because they’re dead and in Sheol, awww, poor things. Time to be “singin’ and dancin’ and havin’ a party.”

  2. Remember how Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA) got totally tripped up over a presidential debate question about whether he’d support the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife? It was an unfair question, because it’s unanswerable: he was trying to appear measured and rational and presidential, and he was asked a question in which raw emotion would decide the answer.

    Naturally, we don’t let the husbands of rape and murder victims sit on the juries trying the accused, nor set their punishments if convicted. Such would result in unjust convictions and barbaric punishments, because impartiality and rationality would be replaced with emotion in taking decisions.

    Unfortunately, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and really his entire country, were taking an emotional decision, a decision to get Sgt Shalit back, almost regardless of the costs. President Reagan let the compassion of his heart dictate an idiotic policy concerning the hostages taken in Lebanon, and President Carter sacrificed our national honor and integrity, and weakened our country to save the hostages taken from our embassy by Iran. It may be heartless to say, but in such situations, the leader of a country must be ready to accept such hostages as casualties of war, and lead his country’s actions in response based upon the good of the country, rather than the well-being of a few individuals.

    I will be extremely surprised if the decision to free these Palestinian terrorists does not come back to haunt the Israelis.

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